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Home Tech It's time to pay attention to the fireballs of spring Fundamentals of...

It's time to pay attention to the fireballs of spring Fundamentals of astronomy

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The green glow of the northern lights on the horizon with a bright meteor above it.

Show larger | 2016 was a good year for fireballs in spring. Mike Taylor in Maine captured this on March 6 of this year against the backdrop of an aurora.

We are now in what some astronomers call that Meteor drought Time of the year. The next big meteor shower will come in April with the Lyrids. But – if you watch and especially if you are under a dark sky – from now until April you can see a fireball or a very bright meteor. These are the legendary ones Spring fireballs, Robert Lunsford of the American Meteor Society (AMS) wrote in his Meteor Activity Outlook for February 2-8, 2019:

… A bright fireball can brighten the sky. In February, the fireball season begins in the evening with a plethora of fireballs. From the northern hemisphere this lasts until April. The sporadic rates are close to the maximum for the viewers from the southern hemisphere. There are no heavy showers this month, but sporadic rates are well over 10 per hour, as seen from the mid-southern latitudes.

NASA's meteor expert Bill Cooke got us used to spring fireballs in spring 2011 when he reported:

Spring is the fireball season. For reasons we do not quite understand, the speed of light meteorites increases in the weeks around the spring equinox.

NASA said in 2011 that the fireball release rate may increase 10 to 30 percent in the weeks around March midnight. 2016 was a good year for fireballs in spring, according to an article by Vincent Perlerin of the American Meteor Society on March 9, 2016. Perlerin reported six major fireball events in the US between March 2 and March 8, 2016.

In 2017, Robert Lunsford of AMS told EarthSky that the time to look out for spring balls is about one month before the vernal equinox (about 20-21 March per year). He wrote:

[Spring fireballs] can be easily selected from the list of events in our fireball table. I believe that there is no doubt about the existence of these fireballs. They are the result of Antapex radiation, which is at the highest point of the year in the evening sky. I am sure that the same occurs in the Southern Hemisphere from August to October. Unfortunately, there are far fewer people reporting from below. Overall results of the AMS fireball sums since 2005 show a peak in February, a month usually known for low meteor rates.

Springballs – from February to April in the northern hemisphere and perhaps also from August to October in the southern hemisphere – can be caused by the fact that the Antapex radiation At this time, this time of year is highest in the evenings. What is the Antapex radiation? You may have heard the term "apex of the sun" to describe the direction in which our sun moves through space, with respect to the stars. Our Sun and our planet family are more or less moving toward the star Vega in the constellation Lyra; and that is the vertex of the sun. The Antapex is the direction in space opposite the vertex of the sun. it is the direction our sun moves through space.

Diagram of the earth in orbit around the sun with marked orbit section.

Fireball season … via NASA

A NASA website suggested:

The reason [for spring fireballs] is still unknown, but one hypothesis is that there is more space debris in this section of Earth's orbit.

Meteors are debris from space. Their size usually ranges from a few meters (about one meter) to less than a grain of sand. When these objects enter the Earth's atmosphere, they evaporate due to friction with the air.

NASA scientists built a network of ground cameras at one time to track and record videos of meteorites blazing overhead. The material could be used to determine the orbit and origin of a meteor. The video from 2011 explains more:

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Speaking of meteorites in spring could The best time to see fireballs. Large meteor showers – sometimes with one meteor or more per minute – take place most of the year, with a break between the Quadrantids in early January and the Lyrid meteor shower in April.

The next regular big meteor shower will be the Lyrids in April. The expected climax for 2019 is the morning of April 23, unfortunately under the light of a brightly diminishing moon.

Conclusion: In recent years has been the possibility of a Spring fireball season, It has apparently been observed in a few years that the fireballs – or light meteorites – in the northern hemisphere increase by as much as 30 percent from February to April.

Click here to see the dates of the big meteor showers.

EarthSky lunar calendars are cool! They make great gifts. Order now.

Deborah Byrd

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