You’ve probably heard of meteor showers…and many have you have probably seen part of one. These happen regularly each year, when the Earth’s orbit passes through some band of space debris…usually not much more than dust particles. As these particles burn up in the atmosphere, we see “shooting stars”. Occasionally, a larger rock will enter the atmosphere…producing a “fireball”. These can be quite spectacular, most of the time they will be harmless as the offending rock will burn up before it reaches the ground.
There’s plenty of space debris out there, though. This means that shooting stars can happen any time of year on any night. It’s just that they’re much more common during one of the meteor showers. Likewise, the occasional larger rock will enter the atmosphere…producing a surprise fireball.
These rogue rocks are virtually impossible to forecast, but they can be tracked as they burn up. In fact, NASA is working on a network of cameras that scan the skies watching for “fireballs”.
If you head to the NASA All Sky Fireball Network, you can keep tabs on what their network has seen. They have several cameras in the Southeast…so if you think you’ve seen something, you can check with the NASA site. If their cameras saw it, there may be also be data available on where the rock came from and how fast it was moving.
Worth checking out…especially if you see one of these!