Frequent Fireballs


Have you ever stepped outside after dinner to walk the dog–just in time to see a bright fireball streak across the sky? It makes you wonder, how often does that happen?

Pretty often, according to astronomer Bill Cooke of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Using a computer model of Earth’s meteoroid environment, he made this plot showing the global number of fireballs per day vs. the brightness of the fireball:

According to his calculations, fireballs as bright as Venus appear somewhere on Earth more than 100 times daily. Fireballs as bright as a quarter Moon occur once every ten days, and fireballs as bright as a full Moon once every five months.

The vast majority are never noticed. About 70% of all fireballs streak over uninhabited ocean. Half appear during the day, invisible in sunny skies. Many are missed, however, simply because no one bothers to look up. So grab a leash and a dog (optional), and head outside. The chance of a fireball is better than you think.

About Kevin

Kevin Jarnot is a technologist who lives just South of Boston, MA. He is currently employed as Chief Technology Officer at Micronotes, an AI-driven conversation-marketing company based in Boston, MA.
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