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. raven

    Thanks you guys! For the correct terminology and techniques. Ive seen them with my naked eye but wondered if there was some secret-squirrel trick I could try out with my new toy. Thanks again!

    April 1, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. moribundman

    Terrible article.

    "a person observing the skies from dusk until dawn might spot around 10 fireballs. This time of year, their nightly rate climbs to 30%."

    Climbs to 30%? What?

    "Meteorite falls – space rocks that actually hit the ground"

    Meteorites don't fall to the ground. Meteoroids fall to the ground. If a meteoroid k survives the impact it's called a meteorite. A meteor is the observable phenomenon of a meteoroid falling through the atmosphere.

    April 1, 2011 at 2:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. FireFox

    Fireballs from FireFox : )

    April 1, 2011 at 4:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sunar From Indonesia Phone: 628993362379 Web: http://zonacyber.xtgem.com

    hope it not drop on earth

    April 1, 2011 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Logan

    Global Warming is causing this & everything else

    April 1, 2011 at 4:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Criminy

    I just saw a fireball. It was brighter than a 5th grader.

    April 1, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sheryl

    Global warming? You mean climate change?

    April 1, 2011 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sheryl

    Al Gore made a lot of money on that.

    April 1, 2011 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. mark

    II saw one after picking up my daughter from work just this past Wednesday. It was about 9:45pm in Indianapolis and the fireball didn't streak across the sky like other meteors I've seen. It was literally a glowing ball that raced over our head's and went Eastward and I could see it for quite some time. It wasn't an aircraft because 1. there was no sound and 2. if was far too fast and it was not a satellite – I've seen those before, this was not reflected light, more of a glow.

    April 1, 2011 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
    • mark

      why do hard-nosed conservatives have to make everything political and drag global warming and Al Gore into this? For God's sake, just enjoy the phenomena and get on with life. I sure would hate being so miserable all the time that everything I encountered reminded me of something I disliked. I'm sure everyone around you gets it, you don't believe in global warming and don't like Al Gore. Good for you. Please keep those opinions in a forum where they are actually within the context of the article. Otherwise, you just come off like a complete dope.

      April 1, 2011 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Col. Bat Guano

      That there was a ufo.

      April 1, 2011 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Philip

    @Neal...Hitler himself was not of German decent. He was Austrian. His real family name is Heidler if you wanna look it up. Germany is a wonderful country, especially Bavaria. And the German people are amazing. They have managed to prosper even though they have zero natural resources. (natural gas, crude oil, etc.) Imagine US without our own oil and natural gas...TOTALLY dependant on foreign energy. he he...what would we be like?

    April 1, 2011 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      His real family name would have Schicklgruber if his father, Alois Hitler, hadn't changed the last name to Hitler. Yes, Alois Schicklgruber did take the name Hitler to be connected to Johann Georg Hiedler, whom he believed was his real biological father. But technically Adolf Hitler's real last name has never been Hiedler.

      April 1, 2011 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
    • JAZZ

      But his army who did the killings were of German decent. Just very sensivtive about it , I imagine that it's the first thing that crossed some one's mind when a i tell them that i am German. Silly I guess.

      April 1, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  11. nelson

    sounds like a cover up for UFOs

    April 1, 2011 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sheryl

    I DO believe that something is happening to our distribution of temperature! You see, every year or two I buy a new baby-seal coat or jacket (not dyed, usually), because that's my favorite fur–if I had to choose just one–and it keeps getting more costly. I can't wear just mink: everybody has that.
    Therefore, I am concerned about melting ice.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. Mel

    I was looking for CNN's April Fools joke; perhaps I have found it.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sheryl

    I'm glad they caught that cobra before it hurt somebody. Snake bites can become infected.
    They should have cleared out that snake house with poison gas and then started over with new snakes.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. Insider

    It's just the ETs coming for Spring Break. Earth is known for the Best Spring Break Planet this side of Orion.... Meteor shows showers are just a cover up.

    April 1, 2011 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
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