October 18, 2012
Reports Of Giant Fireball Blazing Across California Night Sky, Experts Say Part Of Orionid Meteor Shower
[WATCH VIDEO: A Meteor Shower From Halley's Comet]
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
The National Weather Service (NWS) received numerous calls last night (October 17) from Central Valley to the Bay Area in California, with callers claiming they had witnessed a giant fireball blazing across the night sky. The fireball was reportedly witnessed between about 7:45 and 7:55 p.m. PST.
“We've had a lot of calls about people who have seen a big fireball,” said Stefanie Henry, a meteorologist with the NWS. “The speculation is that it's part of the Orionid meteor shower that peaks about Oct. 21.”
Although professional observers are calling it part of the Orionid meteor shower, most, if not all, call-ins claimed they had only witnessed a single fireball.
Henry said the actual cause of the fireball has not yet been confirmed, and she stressed that meteorologists are not experts on meteor showers.
Reports of the fireball were heaviest in the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of Northern California, with several reports of loud booms from Santa Cruz County and Mendocino County, according to the Oakland Tribune.
NWS forecaster Steve Anderson told the Tribune that a “cloud-free sky and the warm temperatures that are pushing out the clouds will make the showers more and more visible as the weekend approaches.”
The general consensus among professional observers is that the fireball is part of the Orionid meteor shower and not a rogue celestial visitor.
The Orionid Meteor Shower is the most prolific meteor shower associated with Halley´s Comet. They are called the Orionids because of the point from which they appear to originate: the constellation Orion. The Orionids are an annual meteor shower which generally lasts a week in late-October. Some years have spectacular showings, with meteor rates of 50 to 70 per hour. These meteors are said to be among the fastest of all shower meteors, some bombarding the upper atmosphere at speeds of 148,000 mph.
An article featured on Astronomy Magazine's website said the peak for this year´s Orionids should occur during the night on Saturday.
The magazine´s senior editor, Richard Talcott, said conditions should be good this year. “Although a waxing crescent Moon will share the sky with the Orionids before midnight, people will be looking away from it. The Moon shouldn´t cut the number of visible meteors by more than 20 percent,” he noted.