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Fireball 4

Remembering the Great Meteor Procession of 1860

"Year of meteors! Brooding year!" - Walt Whitman
The Meteor of 1860
© Frederic Church, courtesy of Judith Filenbaum Hernstadt
Painting of The Meteor of 1860 by Hudson River School artist Frederic Church.
July 20th is a red letter date in space history. Apollo 11, the first crewed landing on the Moon, took place on this day in 1969. Viking 1 also made the first successful landing on Mars, seven years later to the day in 1976.

A remarkable astronomical event also occurred over the northeastern United States 153 years ago today on the night of July 20th, known as the Great Meteor Procession of 1860. And with it came a mystery of poetry, art and astronomy that was only recently solved in 2010.

A meteor procession occurs when an incoming meteor breaks up upon reentry into our atmosphere at an oblique angle. The result can be a spectacular display, leaving a brilliant glowing train in its wake. Unlike early morning meteors that are more frequent and run into the Earth head-on as it plows along in its orbit, evening meteors are rarer and have to approach the Earth from behind. In contrast, these often leave slow and stately trains as they move across the evening sky, struggling to keep up with the Earth.


Russian military stages biggest war games since Soviet times

160,000 servicemen, 1000 tanks, 130 planes and 70 ships are taking part in Russia's biggest military drill since Soviet times. The war games will continue in the country's Far East until July 20.

The maneuvers are the latest in series of surprise military checks which performed by Russia, in an effort to reveal and oust flaws in the country's defense program.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu received an order to test the battle readiness of the Eastern command, which unites military forces in the Far East and Trans-Baikal. The request was received from President Vladimir Putin at 01:00 local time (21:00 GMT) on Saturday, July 13.

Following the order, 160,000 servicemen were put on high alert and began advancing toward the training sites.

According to the Defense Ministry, around 1,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 130 planes and helicopters, and 70 ships are taking part in the war games.

Military commanders in the Far East and Trans-Baikal learned of the drill's details only after it had begun, receiving a secret parcel from Defense Minister Shoygu.

"The main purpose of the activities is to check the readiness of the military units to perform assigned tasks and evaluate of the level of personnel's training and technical preparation as well as the level of equipment of units with arms and military equipment," the defense ministry said in statement.
© RIA Novosti / Andrei Aleksandrov
Su-27 fighter
The statement noted that the drill would require some units to travel more than 3,000 kilometers from their usual deployment sites. Seven hundred flat wagons and 50 railway cars were assigned to perform the transfer.

The ground forces have been given two days to reach their destination. They have been tasked with pitching field camps, masking their positions, and organizing defense strategies upon arrival.

Fireball 2

Massive fireball with long tail blazes over New Zealand

Shooting Star
© Reuters
A shooting star photographed by an astronaut in space.
The sight of a giant shooting star left a North Taranaki man shaking after his early morning run.

Lance Howarth, a mobile mechanic, was out running around the back roads of Lepperton this morning when he saw the star around 5:45am.

''It was that bloody spectacular I had to stop and watch it.''

He said the star had completely lit up the dark moonless sky and surrounding countryside.

''It was early and still dark and the only reason I noticed it was because all of a sudden I could see where I was going and I thought, 'hang on, it's just got light really quickly' and looked up and there it was.''

He described the shooting star as a massive 'fireball' with a long tail and said it seemed to travel from the north east to south west before disappearing into cloud over the ranges.

''It was just frickin' huge. For a while I thought it might crash into the ranges.''

The star almost passed right above his head, and was completely silent, he said.

''It was the best thing I've ever seen, and the most frightening.''

Stunned, his mind ran to the possibilities of what it could mean.

''I did think for a second, ''are we about to be invaded by aliens?'''

The star also left a vapour trail which hung in the sky for at least half an hour, he said.

''I had to keep looking back.''

Fireball 4

Meteor spotted over North Carolina

© Associated Press
Charlotte -- Some folks in North Carolina were lucky enough to have partially clear skies last night to see a large fireball or meteorite.

More than 200 people from Indiana to Ohio southward toward North Carolina reported seeing the large fireball. Most of the sightings came in just before midnight and folks reported the it was traveling from south to north across the sky. The meteorite was described as bright white with some red. There were no reports of sounds as it passed by the area.

If you saw the meteorite or fireball last night, you can make a report to the American Meteor Society.

First Warn Storm Spotter Stuart McDaniel has a All Sky Camera and caught the flash around 12:15am. Clouds did obscure a better view at his location in Lawndale, NC in Cleveland County.

Fireball 5

A bird? A plane? No, a meteor over Exeter, UK

People were stunned to see bright, flashing lights in the sky above Exeter. Several residents reported seeing what appeared to be a meteor on Monday evening. They described a "white ball" moving quickly above the city.

Trevor Sharp, from Exwick, said he saw the meteor just after dusk. He said: "We were putting our chickens away. It was low down near the horizon, pretty much east of Exwick, travelling south towards the north.

"It suddenly appeared a classic comet shape, a white ball with perhaps yellow eges and a bright white cone tail out the back. The person I was with saw it too. It was only there for a second. I never expected to see such a sight from my garden."

The object was spotted right across Devon.

Billy Dymond saw it from North Devon. He said: "We watched if for around three to four seconds, a large white ball turning green, not just going across but falling downwards towards earth at an incredible speed."


San Francisco plane crash: Asiana pilot says he was blinded by bright light

© Benjamin Levy, AP
Passengers from Asiana Airlines flight 214, many with their luggage, on the tarmac just moments after the plane crashed at the San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco on July 6.
Federal crash investigators revealed Wednesday that the pilot flying Asiana Airlines Flight 214 told them that he was temporarily blinded by a bright light when 500 feet above the ground.

Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said it wasn't clear what could have caused the problem. Asked specifically whether it could have been a laser pointed from the ground, Hersman said she couldn't say what caused it.

"We need to understand exactly what that is," Hersman said. "It was a temporary issue."

Her comments came during a daily press briefing on the Saturday crash of Asiana Flight 214 that left two dead and 168 others injured.

Federal crash investigators previously said that pilots recognized they were too low and not lined up precisely with the runway while still 500 feet from the ground. At 500 feet, pilots recognized that they were low as the Boeing 777 was going 134 knots and was 34 seconds from impact. They continued to make adjustments until hitting the seawall at the end of the runway at San Francisco International Airport.

Evacuation of the plane didn't begin immediately. Airlines must certify that they can evacuate fully loaded planes within 90 seconds. But in this case, a pilot told flight attendants not to begin the evacuation immediately when the plane came to rest.

But after about 90 seconds, a flight attendant near the second door reported seeing fire outside a window in the middle of the plane. He relayed that information to the cockpit and the evacuation began.

Fireball 5

Iowa impact crater confirmed

Iowa Crater
© Adam Kiel, U.S. Geological Survey
An airborne geophysical survey has confirmed the discovery of an impact crater under the town of Decorah in northeastern Iowa.
An airborne geophysical survey mapping mineral resources in the Midwest has confirmed that a 470-million-year-old impact crater nearly five times the size of Barringer (Meteor) Crater in Arizona lies buried several hundred meters beneath the town of Decorah, Iowa.

The crater's existence was first hypothesized in 2008 when geologists examining cuttings from water wells drilled near the town were surprised to find evidence of a previously unknown shale deposit. When geologist Robert McKay from the Iowa Geological Survey investigated further, he found something even more surprising: The shale deposit was nearly a perfect circle, roughly 5.5 kilometers across. Further analysis of sub-shale breccias by Bevan French, a geologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, revealed shocked quartz - a telltale sign of an impact. Together, the evidence added up to an exciting possibility: the existence of a previously unknown impact crater in the Midwest.

Earlier this year, more evidence accumulated when scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Iowa and Minnesota Geological Surveys conducted a high-resolution geophysical survey of the region to assess water resources and mineral resources. They were specifically mapping the Northeast Iowa Igneous Intrusive complex, which lies in the Midcontinent Rift System that formed about 1.1 billion years ago, and may contain valuable copper, nickel and platinum group metal resources.

Fireball 2

Covering up the celestial threat yet again: Boom! goes the mystery?

Little-known military flight area might be cause of noise reports

The Lake Andes Military Operations Area is shown in the lower right portion of this map taken from a report on the website of the Department of Defense’s Environment, Safety and Occupational Health Network and Information Exchange.

Some Mitchell-area residents were in a state of bewilderment last Saturday night after hearing a loud boom.

Though definitive information is scant, the boom could have been from a jet flying at supersonic speeds through a little-known military operations area.

The boom was heard around 11 p.m. and spawned calls to law enforcement officials in Mitchell and Mount Vernon, who did not determine a cause for the noise.

The National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls reported rain that night, but not much thunder. A lightning strike would be heard as a boom nearby where it hit, but would sound like a rumble from farther away.

Davison County Chief Deputy Steve Harr heard dispatchers discuss calls they received about a big boom. He heard reports of people who heard it in Mitchell, Mount Vernon and five miles northwest of Mount Vernon.

"This was a first for me," Harr said.

The noise may have been a sonic boom created by a jet flying faster than the speed of sound. The speed of sound varies with altitude and temperature, but is about 770 mph. The sonic boom would travel with the aircraft. Because the speed of sound can constantly change, it is possible to unintentionally break it.

The jet may have been flying through the Lake Andes Military Operations Area, an airspace used by the military for simulated air combat and complex missions, and practice maneuvers. It is the only such military operations area in the state, other than a small portion of the Powder River military air space in Montana and Wyoming that juts into South Dakota's northwest corner.

Fireball 3

More cosmic fireworks with mass demonstrations, this time in Cairo

meteor egypt
© Screenshot YouTube
Is it just a coincidence that fireballs were filmed over Cairo and Sao Paulo/Rio de Janeiro as mass demonstrations peaked in Egypt on July 2nd, and Brazil on June 18th, 2013?

Check it out at 11 seconds... sure looks like a meteor/fireball to us.


Covering up the celestial threat again: "Sonic boom" shakes homes in Nantucket, Massachusetts

A powerful noise believed to be a sonic boom from a passing aircraft swept over Nantucket Wednesday night, shaking houses and rattling the nerves of island residents in mid-island neighborhoods and areas of the south shore.

The incident was reported around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday night by many island residents who took to social-media sites to describe the loud noise that shook their homes and ask if others had experienced the same thing.

While the suspected culprit is a military aircraft that broke the sound barrier over the island, there was no definitive confirmation of the specific source of the noise.

Nantucket Memorial Airport tower manager Patrick Topham stated in a message "we have no confirmation as to what caused it at this point. We have to assume that it was a sonic boom caused by a military aircraft."

Nantucket police lieutenant Jerry Adams stated the source of the noise was a "sonic jet."

A similar incident occurred several months ago on the evening of Wednesday, March 21, when Nantucket residents reported a loud noise that shook houses.

Comment: A sonic boom from a military jet does not cause houses to shake...