Friday, February 1, 2019

Meteors …. A Request For Reports, Why It Is Important and How To Do It…..

Recently my cams have picked up a few nice meteors.  They were bright enough to be classified as a “fireball”.  A fireball is simply a very bright meteor.  There is a relative scale used to approximate the brightness of a fireball.  A magnitude -4 would be as bright as Venus.  A magnitude -12 would be as bright as the moon.  The sun would be magnitude -26.

Meteors are entering the earth’s atmosphere all the time.  Seeing one is a real treat because the odds are against us.  Obviously, most happen when we are asleep.  Thankfully my cams run all night unattended.  So, I guess you could say that I do some of my best work when I'm asleep...😄  Also, given the vastness of the sky we have to be looking in the right direction at exactly the right time.  Most last fractions of a second.  My cameras get lucky every now and then and capture one.  If you think about it, the odds are really pretty slim.  My cameras cover a small percentage of the sky and the shutter is not open all the time.  I think of a good fireball capture as a “trophy”.   

We have been on a good run.  Below is a slide show of the best fireballs my cams have captured between Oct. 3rd and Jan. 25th.  It has been a good viewing season.....  Best watched full screen.

I started watching carefully for meteors a few years ago.  In the process, I found an organization that is very interested in reports of fireballs.   They consolidate the data and if there are enough reports, they can triangulate the reports to find the track and location of these meteors.  These reports are very interesting and fun to watch.

Here is a picture of a nice fireball that my cam captured on January 25th.  The American Meteor Society is using this image for the Feb. 2 through Feb. 8 "Meteor Activity Outlook"  on their home page right now.  Once again, click on the image for full screen.

Here is an image from the AMS site showing what they were able to create from the multiple reports.  This meteor was actually WNW of Kamloops, BC.  That is 218 miles away…..  Wow….  BTW, I’m the little blue guy at the bottom on the left…. 😉

Here is a link to the current report of this fireball: 

How important is it to report a fireball if you see it?  One of my cams just picked up this fireball on January 29th.  

This is a pretty serious fireball and unfortunately there are only 3 reports of it.  Below is the event report from AMS. 

In order to determine track and location AMS needs at least 3 good reports.  In this situation, you can see the three reports are virtually in line with each other.  They cancel each other out.  To triangulate, at least 2 more widely spread reports are needed.  I got a personal report from a Facebook follower saying he saw it while driving near Lynnwood.  I requested that he report it.  Even after that, more reports would be needed.  This was a big fireball and I am sure a lot of folks saw it, but did not know how to report it.

So, you can see the importance of sharing any fireballs you observe with AMS.  It is very simple to do by going to and click on “Report a Fireball”.  Simple walk through instructions follow.  All reports are welcome and appreciated.  After you report it, you can follow your report along with others to see where it was observed and hopefully the track and location.

Over the years I have gotten to know (through email) a very interesting person with the American Meteor Society.  Robert Lunsford fulfills the following roles in the meteor community:
  •        Fireball Report Manager for the American Meteor Society
  •        Secretary-General of the International Meteor Organization
  •        Meteors Section Coordinator of the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers

He is a brilliant and passionate astronomer.  More importantly, he has written a book that has a lot of details about the how to view meteors and the science behind them.  If you want to learn more, this book is highly acclaimed by the meteor community.  

It is available here:  

It is also available on Kindle at Amazon:  

For the record, I have no affiliation with his book sales.  

So, the next fireball you see, please take the time to report it to the American Meteor Society……  And then have fun watching the other reports roll in.

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