Mojave Desert Fireball

By: Wally Pacholka


Region: Americas

Site: Mojave Desert - USA

Date: 2009 December 14

As seen on Astronomy Picture of the Day and National Geographic News this cosmic sword of Orion is an amazingly bright fireball which was captured during the Geminid meteor shower of 2009. The dramatic view from Hercules Finger rock formation in Mojave Desert of southwest USA includes the setting prominent winter stars from the dazzling Sirius (left) to constellations Orion and Taurus, with the famous open star cluster Pleiades at the right end. Fireballs are dazzling meteors, brighter than any of the planets (magnitude -4 or brighter). About one in 1,200 observed meteors becomes brighter than -5 magnitude, while only one in 12,000 reaches -8 magnitude. as noted by the photographer "It was a lucky shot after 1521 photos on a cold night. An all sky camera from 40 miles away also caught the fireball. It is hard to judge its brightness, but my impression was a flash as bright as the full moon. Also seen close to the horizon and accounting the atmospheric extinction I believe it might be in the Bolide category (very rare fireballs reaching magnitude -14 or brighter)." The annual Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on December 13/14, displayed a fascinating show in 2009, the best seen Geminid shower for many sky observers. Wally Pacholka/

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