ARCTIC METEOR TURNS NIGHT INTO DAY: On the evening of Nov. 16th, aurora tour guide Tony Bateman of northern Finland was indoors, warming up between auroras, when his surroundings began to vibrate. “There was a huge bang and the cottage shook violently,” he reports. “At first I thought it was an earthquake. Or maybe a tree fell on the cottage roof! I walked outside and inspected the trees. Everything looked okay.” A quick replay of his aurora webcam solved the mystery. “It was an incredible meteor,” he says.
“It gave me goosebumps to see the night sky turn blue as the meteor exploded,” he says. “Auroras and a fireball–what a night!”
This week Earth has been moving through a stream of debris from Comet Encke, source of the annual Taurid meteor shower. Taurids are rich in fireballs. However, the trajectory of this meteor suggests it was no Taurid.
It appears to have been a sporadic–that is, a random meteor from no particular comet. Every day, Earth is peppered with sporadic meteors from a diffuse swarm filling the inner solar system. NASA statistics show that sporadic fireballs as bright as Venus appear somewhere on Earth more than 100 times daily. Fireballs as bright as a quarter Moon occur once every ten days, and fireballs as bright as a full Moon once every few months or so. The Arctic fireball of Nov. 16th belongs in the rarest of those three categories–a lucky catch, indeed.