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Wed, 26 Feb 2020
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Stars seen slinging comets at Earth for the first time

Night Sky
© VISITBRITAIN/VISITSCOTLAND
Stars and comets make unlikely dance partners. Their gravitational partnership is one that astronomers have long suspected but have never seen — until now. For the first time, a Polish group has identified two nearby stars that seem to have plucked up their icy partners, swinging them into orbits around our sun.

The astronomers found the stellar duo after studying the movements of over 600 stars that came within 13 light-years of the sun. The new findings validate a theory born more than a half-century ago, and in doing so have also shown just how rare these stellar dances can be.

Out on the far edge of the solar system, hanging like wallflowers around the planetary dance floor, is the Oort Cloud. This icy group of objects were left over after the formation of the solar system, creating a giant shell enveloping our home system that extends from 66 times the distance to Neptune to 9.23 trillion miles (14.9 trillion kilometers) away from the sun. Astronomers think the Oort Cloud is a reservoir for long-period comets — those that take more than 200 years to orbit the sun. Comet Hale-Bopp, which has a 2,500-year orbit, is one of the most famous of these long-period comets.

Since the cloud's existence was first proposed by Jan Oort in the 1950s, astronomers have suspected that every so often, a passing star might be able to pick up an object and send it swinging on a wild ride through our solar system; that ride would bring some of those comets streaming through the night sky for us to marvel at. Astronomers have spent years trying to find proof of these stellar dances, but none had been conclusively shown until now.

Fireball 4

Night sky lit up by apparent meteor over Camarillo, California

Fireball over Camarillo, CA
© KTLA
A bright light lit up the sky over Camarillo late Monday night.

The unexpected sighting was witnessed by drivers on the 101 Freeway about 11:30 p.m.

The video shows what appears to be a meteor briefly streaking above the freeway traffic.

The activity comes less than a week after the alpha Monocertoid -- aka Unicorn -- meteor shower dazzled skygazers.


Question

Marlboro, New Jersey's late-night mysterious booms remain unexplained

Mystery boom (stock)
© KY3
Monday night's mysterious "booms" that could be heard throughout the area remained a mystery Tuesday.

Township Trustee Wayne Schillig surmised the noise might have come from someone illegally target-shooting at night.

Police Chief Ron Devies was in the police station when both booms rang out — the first at 8 p.m. and the second at 8:45 p.m.

"I was indoors and our building's pretty tight. It's a brick structure," he said, adding, "I heard it clearly."

Devies initially thought the sound was the result on someone dropping a heavy item into the recycling bin outside. When he heard the second boom, he knew it wasn't that.

Hourglass

100 years ago, a gigantic meteor shook Michigan on Thanksgiving eve

Chelyabinsk Meteor
© Associated Press
In this frame grab made from a dashboard video camera, a meteor streaks through the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.
A century ago, on Thanksgiving eve, people across Michigan saw something that would mark Nov. 26 in their memories for years to come. Fog and rain rolled across the Great Lakes region, when just before 8 p.m. something unusual cut through the dark.

"The road, trees, houses and even ourselves were bathed in a blinding phosphorescent-like glow which had its center in a bright streak in the sky above us," highway construction superintendent Leroy Milhan of Centerville, Michigan, would recall in a paper published the following year. "It passed over us toward the west. Immediately came a muffled report or jar that shook houses and the very earth like an earthquake."

The following day, the Washington Times reported that "telegraph and telephone communications and electric lighting plants in several cities in southern Michigan and northern Indiana are out of commission" as a result of "a remarkable phenomenon believed by several scientists to have been a gigantic meteor."

Comment: You can read more about the hazards to humanity from cometary bombardment in SOTT's Comets and Catastrophe Series by Laura Knight-Jadczyk.


Fireball 5

Flash of light, window-shaking boom heard in Peru, Illinois

Mystery boom in Peru, IL
© WGLC
After a loud, deep kaboom shook windows in Peru on Sunday night, neighbors began pointing fingers at possible fireworks enthusiasts.

Could it have been a fireball? Mike Hankey from American Meteor Society said www.amsmeteors.org received 13 notifications Sunday about fireball sightings over Iowa and Illinois. However, most of those were logged at 5:30 p.m. So, not likely.


Comment: Meteors can explode in the atmosphere without being seen which may explain why it wasn't reported to the American Meteor Society in that time frame.


However, Peru police chief Douglas Bernabei said police could not pinpoint the source of a 9 p.m. boom that resulted in many calls from various neighborhoods to the dispatchers.

"Widespread reports in multiple locations," he acknowledged.

Fireball 3

Mysterious 'fireball' streaks across Oregon sky, leaves cops scratching their heads

mystery fireball oregon
© Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Possible fireball over the Oregon Coast Mountains
Photos of what looks like a fireball falling in Polk County, Oregon, has sparked a frantic search amid reports of a plane crash. Nothing was found, however and police now believe it was a meteor. Netizens have their own ideas.

It all started on Thursday evening, when the Polk County Sheriff's Office received a 911 call alerting them about a possible plane crash in the area southwest of Polk County. The caller then sent a couple of photos that show what resembles a white streak an airplane might leave behind when going down.

Police rushed to locate the site of the reported crash, sending a helicopter to scan the wooded area in the hope of recovering some wreckage. However, the extensive search has turned up nothing, leaving police dumbfounded over what actually just whizzed above the rural area.

Comment: See the local news interview with Richard Romano here.

The American Meteor Society received two reports of fireballs over Portland, Oregon and Friday Harbor, Washington on the same day.


Meteor

'Boom!' Sonoma Valley, California residents look to skies for answer following nocturnal noises

Mystery boom in Sonoma Valley, CA
© Press Democrat (file photo)
An amateur astronomer sets up his home-made 18" Newton Reflector during the monthly public viewing night at the Ferguson Observatory in Sugarloaf Park. Though there were few reported meteors on the night of Nov. 21, many people heard distant sonic booms with no known source.
People all over Sonoma County looked up at about 7:40 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, when a brief series of "booms" rolled across the valleys. But there was no glow in the sky, the stars were visible in the cloudless sky. Was it thunder?

Or was it a meteor?

It may be no coincidence that the sound corresponded to a large but infrequent meteor shower, known as the Unicorn (or Monocerotids, from the constellation of its visible origin), seen only every 25 years or so - and last reported in 1995. But meteors are usually silent apparitions, fleeting and ghostly.

In social media groups, many people dialoged about the Thursday night noises. Descriptions of the noises ranged from "rumbles like thunder" to "like a limb fell on the house."

And it didn't seem to be particularly localized, but strong throughout the Sonoma Valley, in Nextdoor neighborhoods from Temelec to Denmark Street. Similar social media networks reported the noises at about the same time in Healdsburg, 25 miles away. Others on Facebook said it was heard in Sebastopol, Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Petaluma, Napa and Marin.

Fireball 4

Meteor fireball videoed over Lake Mendota, Wisconsin

Fireball over Lake Mendota
© Madison
Did you see it?

A Sunday morning tweet from NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the UW-Madison showing a meteor flashing over Lake Mendota drew a host of "oohs" and "ahhhs".

Fireball 3

Meteor fireball lights up night sky over northern New England

Fireball Streaks Across New England Sky

Fireball streaks across New England sky
People around Greater Boston, down to Connecticut, and up into Northern New England spotted a streak of light cross the sky during the Friday evening commute.

It's what's called a "fireball."

When objects enter Earth's atmosphere, they encounter intense heat and burn up. That process creates the streak of light seen in the sky, as seen in the photo above.

While unusual, these are spotted around New England from time to time.


Info

Impact crater in Australia happened far more recently

Wolfe Creek Crater Australia
© Stephan Ridgway/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
In the state of Western Australia sits the famous Wolfe Creek crater, the aftermath of a 14,000-tonne meteorite crashing into Earth thousands of years ago. A new study now claims the impact happened far more recently than we suspected, prompting a rethink on how often giant space rocks actually strike our planet.

A team of researchers from universities in Australia and the US took a close look at several features of the crater's underlying rock to get a precise measurement on the age of Wolfe Creek's most famous landmark.

Previous estimates have stated the crater could be 300,000 years old, but the new result places it much closer to our time, perhaps as little as 120,000 years ago. And knowing this is not just a geological curiosity, either.

As far as neat-looking craters go, they don't tend to be much bigger. With little rain to wear away the walls of the impact site, Wolfe Creek crater has been remarkably well preserved throughout the ages. But the site also stands out for the fact it is the second largest crater on Earth to still have fragments of the offending space rock.

There's no doubt the shrapnel of far bigger blasts exist out there somewhere, but with ocean and ice covering so much of our planet's surface, and wind and rain eating away at the geology, evidence is hard to come by.