Monday, February 25, 2013

Astronomer Sleuths Find Clues to 100-Year-Old Meteor Mystery

This painting by artist and amateur astronomer Gustav Hahn depicts the meteor procession of Feb. 9, 1923 as observed in High Park, Toronto. Hahn estimated that the fireballs passed about halfway between Rigel and the Belt of Orion.


It may be the ultimate cosmic cold case, but the 100-year-old mystery of a huge group of fireballs flying in formation through Earth's atmosphere is finally a bit closer to being solved, scientists say.

By sifting through the archival records from the meteor procession that took place on Feb. 9, 1913, sleuthing stargazers pieced together the surprisingly large path of the rare astronomical event.

From Canada to Brazil, observers watched as hundreds of meteors streaked across the sky, but this wasn't any ordinary annual meteor shower. Because these meteors were traveling nearly parallel to the surface of the Earth, each piece of space dust and rock stayed visible for about a minute as each burned up in Earth's atmosphere. The procession lasted for several minutes.

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