Fireballs obfuscate two continents in a single night



A fireball illuminating the east coast of the USA.

AMS; video screenshot by Eric Mack / CNET

The last Tuesday until the beginning of Wednesday was a great night for cosmic collisions, while several meteors exploded over some of the largest cities in the United States and Europe.

We can have Lyrid meteor shower to thank for this show. The annual spring star bonanza of the Northern Hemisphere has become officially active on Tuesday night and is known for producing fireballs.

A fireball was seen in the skies of Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen shortly before midnight, local time. Later, as midnight was approaching on the east coast of the United States, another meteor was seen burning when it fell into our atmosphere. This fireball was seen at 10:57 p.m. EDT and could be seen all the way from New England to the Carolinas.

The American Meteor Society has received dozens of reports on the European fireball estimated to have struck Germany, and hundreds of reports of the eastern United States meteor that passed through Delaware at its brightest moment of disintegration.

Fireballs are a very common occurrence that can happen thousands of times every day, but the vast majority is not very bright, or is masked by daylight or occurs over the ocean and other unpopulated areas and is not seen by the eyes humans. For two exceptionally bright fireballs to burn in the main population centers the same night is rarer.

Most fireballs are actually much higher in the sky than they look, usually well over 30 miles, which is why the same fireball was seen from a dozen different states in the United States on Tuesday night.

There could be more to come this week. Lyrid meteor shower is currently approaching its peak on Sunday night when 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour may be visible, although some can be washed away by a nearly full moon.

At times there may be an explosion of hyperactive meteor activity producing hundreds of visible trails an hour during a bath, such as the Lyrids. Although no explosion is expected for this year, there is always a chance, and this initial fireball activity is reason to be optimistic.


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