Fireball season enters full bloom
A spring fireball captured by NASA on March 16, 2009.
March 31st, 2011
08:40 PM ET

Fireball season enters full bloom

Signs of spring are upon us, at least in some parts of the country: the cacophony of squirrels and birds, fresh coats of pollen on cars, budding trees ... and great balls of fire in the sky?

Yes, according to NASA, spring also means an increased rate of bright meteors, also known as fireballs.

"Spring is fireball season," said Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Center. "For reasons we don't fully understand, the rate of bright meteors climbs during the weeks around the vernal equinox."

A fireball is a meteor that's brighter than the planet Venus. Other times of the year, a person observing the skies from dusk until dawn might spot around 10 fireballs. This time of year, their nightly rate climbs to 30%.

"We've known about this phenomenon for more than 30 years," Cooke said. "It's not only fireballs that are affected. Meteorite falls - space rocks that actually hit the ground - are more common in spring as well."

Scientists don't have an explanation for the phenomenon, but they're working on it.

"Some researchers think there might be an intrinsic variation in the meteoroid population along Earth's orbit, with a peak in big fireball-producing debris around spring and early summer. We probably won't know the answer until we learn more about their orbits," said meteoroid expert Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario.

Cooke is setting up a network of smart meteor cameras around the country to photograph fireballs and triangulate their orbits, and he's looking for places to put his cameras. Read more on NASA's "What's Hitting Earth" page.

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Sheryl

    I hope that my feeling that someone said something disparaging about my comment was in error.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. Col. Bat Guano

    Do you want to go out sometime Sheryl?

    April 1, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. Philip

    @Mel...wasn't it a parrish priest who spelled the name wrong and it stuck? And you are correct about Schicklgruber. It's not often people chat about this stuff...even in Germany.

    April 1, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
  4. banasy

    @Sheryl: I took your coat thing to be an April Fool's joke. If it wasn't, well that's a quite different kettle of fish for the baby seals, isn't it? 🙂

    April 1, 2011 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    @JAZZ...have you ever visited Germany? I did a job near Chiemsee (Bavarian Ocean) back in 1996 for the German government. I stayed at this amazing Hotel, The Malerwinkle. Hitler used to vacation there. gotta go...ttl.

    April 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RKelly

    There has been quite a bit of research on this subject and I have always found it fascinating...sometimes it's music to my ears. Follow the path of the Fireball, here:

    April 1, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    Really. Hitler used to stay at the Malerwinkel Hotel in Lambach, Germany. (near Munich) The powerboats on Lake Chiemsee used to upset Adolph, so he made it illegal to have a powerboat on the lake unless you were a direct decendant of an U-boat commander. This is according to an eyewitness account. Annie Loh, the hotel's owner, was one of the very few people I could find who liked to talk about this. The others were an old man camping at the lake (he had a pressure-smoker he had made...we were eating eels and drinking warm beer), and an opera singer named Enke. (she was into disco, and, ahem...well, she had a limo) As far as I know, the lake is clean and that law is still in force. And we drilled about a mile away from the lake and did not pollute it one bit. (we drilled with aerated fluid, and the ever-present government official shutting things down if even one drop of oil was spilled. The entire location is paved. Every engine had a catch pan. It was by far the most immaculate drilling operation ever.

    April 1, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sheryl

    I always found Eva Braun a bit overbearing. Always planting cacti in Majolica pots.
    Blondi was sweet, though. She had puppies.
    Where, Col. Bat?

    April 1, 2011 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Sheryl

    Heisenberg was the traitor, you know. We could have had the bomb.

    April 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JAZZ

    Sorry I missed u Phillip , No I have never been to germany but will soon one day. I do plan on doing a lot more traveling. Any more stories like that one are very welcomed. Hope to see u today if not till next time.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
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