Have you seen anything unusual streaking through the sky lately?
Lots of Australian residents have and the descriptions have been vivid.
All this week people have reported seeing something incredibly bright flash across the night sky. Shaken by the event, they wanted to know what it was.
“One excited man asked if we were in the middle of a meteor shower,” astronomer David Reneke said.
“He’d just witnessed several similar flashes from his backyard and called up to report it. Like most, he was puzzled by the brightness.
“Well, what both men saw were what we call ‘fireballs’ or rare slow moving meteors that are actually on fire,” David said.
“Fireballs and meteors are common events and there are bound to be more as the month progresses.”
Meteorites vary in size, the smallest can weigh just a few grams while largest of meteorites can weigh several tonnes.
An object about one metre in diameter or larger strikes Earth’s atmosphere about 40 times per year
“Contrary to what you may think, meteorites are not hot when they hit the ground, in fact they cool down very quickly after landing because they are still cold on the inside,” David said.
“Most meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere travelling 40 times faster than the speed of sound.”
There have been no recorded deaths due to a meteorite fall. A dog was, however, reputedly killed by a large meteorite in Egypt in 1911 and a boy was hit but not seriously injured by the fall of a similar size one in Uganda in 1992. The chances of witnessing a meteorite fall, let alone being hit by one, are negligible.
On November 30, 1954, Alabama housewife Ann Hodges was taking a nap on her couch when she was awakened by a 1.4 kilogram meteorite that crashed through the roof of her house, bounced off a piece of furniture and struck her in the hip, causing a large bruise. Hey, don’t worry, these are isolated cases.
Now for an after dinner treat. Go look in the western sky after sunset and take in one of the best sights in astronomy. The dance of the two planets, Venus and Jupiter, as they begin to part company after a very close conjunction last week.
Got a telescope that isn’t working properly? “I’ll bet it’s the poor quality of your eyepiece,” David said.
“Just by changing a junky one with a quality lens will improve the average cheap department store telescope ‘out of sight,’ pardon the pun.”
Go see you camera or telescope store for advice and tell them you read about it here.
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