Watch out for nature’s own fireworks

Astronomers yesterday warned night owls to watch out for some extra brilliant fireworks in the sky as the Earth collides with a swarm of space rocks.
Scientists are already getting calls from people who have spotted the dazzling fireballs – some as bright as the full moon – streaking into the atmosphere.
But they say nature’s own firework show is about to get even better.
It is happening because the Earth is passing through a stream of comet debris called the Taurids.
We run into the meteor swarm every November – but experts say that we are hitting an extra-dense pocket of them this year. They predict the best display will run from tonight (Nov 5th) until next weekend with several brilliant meteors visible an hour. (12th)
The fireballs are brighter than ordinary shooting stars because the rocks are the size of pebbles rather than grains of sand, hitting out atmosphere at 65,000mph.
Meteor expert David Asher, of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, said: “They’re about the size of pebbles or small stones. It may seem unbelievable that a pebble can produce a fireball as bright as the Moon, but remember, these things hit the atmosphere at very high speed.”
The fireballs, which can appear in any part of the sky, present no danger to spectators because they burn up before reaching the ground.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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