The Living Force
A bright fireball streaked through the night sky over the Cuenca, Spain.
Published on Oct 19, 2021 (1:43)
Published on Oct 19, 2021 (1:43)
A failed Russian spy satellite crashed back to Earth early this morning (Oct. 20), burning up in a brilliant fireball spotted by many observers in the American Midwest.
The American Meteor Society (AMS) has so far received more than 80 reports about the fiery display, from people as far south as Tennessee and as far north as Michigan. The AMS has posted dramatic imagery captured by some of these observers, including a 27-second video from skywatcher Chris Johnson that shows the meteor blazing a trail through the skies above Fort Gratiot Township, Michigan.
The fireball lit up around 12:43 a.m. EDT (0443) today, according to the AMS, leaving little doubt about its cause.
12:43 a.m. EDT is "the exact predicted time Kosmos-2551 passed over the region, and within the re-entry time uncertainty window given by Space Force. So I conclude that the ID with Kosmos-2551 is solid," astronomer and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell, who's based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said via Twitter today.
Kosmos-2551 is a Russian reconnaissance satellite that launched on Sept. 9 but apparently failed shortly thereafter. The spacecraft had not adjusted its orbit once since liftoff, McDowell tweeted on Monday (Oct. 18), noting that Kosmos-2551 was expected to re-enter Earth's atmosphere the next day — a forecast that turned out to be off by less than an hour.
Kosmos-2551's incineration likely did not threaten anyone on the ground. The satellite "is thought to be only about 500 kg [1,100 pounds] and no debris is expected to reach the ground," McDowell said in another Monday tweet.
Space junk fireballs, while often spectacular, aren't particularly rare. Last year, for example, the re-entering third stage of a Soyuz rocket caused a brilliant sky show over parts of Australia during the launch of a Russian military satellite.
Such incidents are becoming more common as humanity launches more and more satellites to orbit. This satellite boom concerns many experts, who stress that action is needed to make sure the space-junk issue doesn't get out of hand.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on
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Get your scorecards out — Jupiter just took another interplanetary hit. If it's confirmed it would be the 11th observed comet or asteroid strike at the gas giant since the pieces of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 slammed into Jupiter in 1994.
A little more than a month after five amateurs independently recorded a similar flash, a team of astronomers, led by Ko Arimatsu of Kyoto University, captured this most recent flare in Jupiter's cloud tops (IR/visible image below) at 13:24 UT on Friday, October 15th.
Arimatsu and the group used a surveillance system called PONCOTS as part of the Organized Autotelescopes for Serendipitous Event Survey (OASES) project to make their discovery. The event occurred in Jupiter's North Tropical Zone near the southern edge of the North Temperate Belt at latitude +20° North and longitude 201° (System II). From the video, the burst lasted about 4 seconds. It quickly rises into visibility, maintains a steady light for about 2 seconds and then swiftly disappears.
Jupiter displays alternating dark belts and bright zones that help in identifying any potential impact scars in the wake of the most recent flash. Zones are colder and mark upwelling ammonia ice clouds; belts are warmer regions marked by descending gases.
Sky & Telescope illustration
According to the Europlanet Society, on average 6½ objects 10 meters across and larger (that is, big enough for amateurs to record) hit Jupiter each year. Aided by transient-alert software like DeTeCt, we've seen a steady uptick in the number of impacts in recent years, proving that the more we look, the more we see. The most recent impact, in September, didn't produce a visible impact scar. This one may not either. But both events make us keenly aware of the potential hazards that still lurk in our solar system.
Jupiter impact flash in false color This is a false-color view of the impact, combining visible and infrared exposures. He used a 28-cm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope (Celestron C11) and an original, Python-based pipeline developed for impact flash detections
Ko Arimatsu / Kyoto University
CROATIAN ASTRONOMISTS DISCOVER NEW METEOR SWARM - OCTOBER ZETA PERZEIDE
According to the Central Bureau of Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), on October 28, Dr. Denis Vida from the University of Western Ontario and Damir Šegon from the Croatian Meteor Network (HMM) reported a meteor burst in Perseus and 14 meteors, respectively. recorded by Global Meteor Network (GMN) cameras on the night of October 24 this year. Half of the meteors were observed in 30 minutes of peak activity, and the activity lasted a total of 3 hours. The search for the parent body of these meteors according to orbital elements has not yielded results so far. The new meteor swarm is officially listed in the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Meteor Swarm Working List under number 1131 and is named the October zeta Perseids (OZP).
A NEW METEOR SWARM WAS ALSO RECORDED FROM CROATIA
The Global Meteor Network is a project that grew out of the Croatian Meteor Network and today has more than 300 cameras globally in over 30 countries. Five of the fourteen meteors were recorded by the cameras of the Croatian Meteorological Network in Hum (Istria), Zadar, Virovitica, Đakovo, Ogulin, Požega and on Mosor (Split), Čiovo, Korčula and Hvar on the hill Humac (#jelsa #visitjelsa). In recent years, the Croatian Meteor Network project has been partly financed and maintained through the Croatian Astronomical Association, ie Public Needs in Technical Culture of the Republic of Croatia (Croatian Association of Technical Culture and the Ministry of Science and Education).
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That one was pretty close. Notice this:
Out of curiosity I just looked up how many objects came closer to earth than the moon in 2021. Already 54 such objects slipped by this year! And we still have more than 7,5 months to go until the end of this year. In the whole of last year 107 such objects slipped by earth. If that trend continues (see below) it very much looks like the all-time record number of last year (107 objects) could be overtrumped again quite significantly this year:
128 days (in 2021) ≙ 54 Objects recorded
365 days ≙ approx. 154 Objects (theoretical extrapolation for the whole year of 2021)
Compared to 107 such objects recorded in 2020.
There was a video about a European Meteor Network based in Germany. Their website has an archive of past fireball events recorded from the perspective of different cameras. Some events have so many that one needs to use the left-right side scroll bar to see them all. The clearer recordings are nearest to the left.Oct 15, 2021
Regarding the recent observation, the archive has uploaded: