Sunday, November 13, 2005

Scientist Says, "The Dazzling Lightshow Was Meteor Shower"

Meteors Over Denver
Meteor shower prompts flurry of 911 calls

     DENVER - A scientist says the dazzling lightshow that lit up the Thursday night sky was the result of a meteor shower.

     DR. Suzanne Traub-Metlay, with the University of Colorado Fiske Planetarium, says November is "meteor season," and the shower shouldn't be a surprise.

     Traub-Metlay says the Earth's orbit is just finishing a pass through the tail of the Encke comet. This results in the Taurid meteor shower. The peak of that shower was November 3 and 4.

     The Earth also is getting ready to pass into the tail of the Temple-Tuttle comet. This results in the Leonid meteor shower, which is at its peak around November 17.

     Because the Earth is between the two showers, it makes sense that Thursday night's meteors were some random debris left over from one or both of those comet tails.

     Traub-Metlay says the meteors that were going through the atmosphere Thursday night were likely the size of a pea or smaller. She says the meteors create a brilliant fireball with many colors surrounding them. This phenomenon is actually the result of oxygen molecules heating up so hot that they glow green or blue.

     Many of those reporting lights Thursday night described them as green and glowing.

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