Fireworks from space
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS A glowing greenish-blue streak of light was seen in the skies over our area last night. Pictured is a thinner, yet similar, streak of green light photographed last month by Tom Wildoner of Weatherly.
Around midnight last night, a glowing greenish-blue streak of light was seen in the skies over our area igniting intense interest on the Internet with the posting of video footage and eyewitness accounts.
This sighting appears to match similar sightings over the past few months and even years, most centered around winter months.
Other reports around the world describe a similar "shooting star" accompanied by a loud boom. A posting online shows a photo taken in the skies above Tokigawa, Saitama Prefecture. Fumiaki Goto, 28, an office worker captured the photo of the fireball by chance just after 2:40 a.m. JST.
"The plume was enhanced suddenly after its color turned to bluish white from light green and fell toward Ibaraki Prefecture, finally with a reddish hue," said Goto in the post.
Many unofficial online experts stated the fireball was likely a meteorite. Video footage taken from a car had more than 200,000 hits online. The post added that Chikara Shimoda of the Japan Fireball Network, a group of amateur astronomers, said the fireball disappeared at an altitude of about 30 kilometers.
An article on the National Geographic website on Dec. 2 describes these sightings as part of the annual Quadrantid meteor shower, named for "missing constellation."
During a meteor shower, Earth passes through a cloud of sand-grain-size particles left behind by a passing comet. These particles get ionized in the upper atmosphere in a bright flash of light some of which are brighter than others.
"During the peak period between 3 a.m. and dawn local time, as many as a hundred shooting stars per hour will be visible from dark locations in the Northern Hemisphere," the article states.
While the glare of the waning moon will mute the display somewhat, "don't let that stop you from stepping outside, as intense activity is limited to only six hours," said Jim Todd, planetarium manager at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
There's also no need for binoculars or telescopes to catch this sky show, according to Geza Gyuk, astronomer with the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.
Tiny fragments from the comet slam into the Earth's atmosphere at 90,000 miles per hour and burn up 50 miles above Earth, "creating the spectacular display we know as a meteor shower," Todd explained.
Like other meteor showers, the Quadrantids get their name from the constellation from which the meteors appear to radiate.
The Quadrantids are also "well known for producing fireballs exceptionally bright meteors which can also at times generate persistent trails," Todd said in the article.
Other online posts state the meteor shower's parent object appears to represent a recently discovered asteroid dubbed 2003 EH1.
And observational evidence is mounting that this object is most likely an extinct comet nucleus, said Todd, which appears to be the remnant of a larger object that broke apart about 500 years ago.
"Other meteor showers, such as the Perseids and perhaps Leonids, seem to be fairly old, with historical documentation suggesting that they have been observed for thousands of years," said Gyuk.
Many posts online point out that 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. is the best time to view the showers, 2 a.m. being the absolute best time.
One Facebook user, with username Johhny Dangerously, replied to a comment this morning, stating, "Again? About two weeks ago, a bunch of people and myself were outside the Lehighton McDonalds when we happened to hear this loud whizzing noise (like fireworks). We looked over toward the mountains behind Lowe's and saw what I can describe as a meteor. The noise it made. It was like fireworks from space, seriously!"