Strange lights in sky likely Taurid meteors

  • Fri Nov 16th, 2012 4:16pm
  • News

By Eric Stevick Herald Writer

EVERETT — Another night, another fireball.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call of streaking light in the night sky around 10:15 p.m. Thursday. It was similar to reports on Halloween night from people seeing a strange light in north Snohomish and Skagit counties.

One caller on Halloween described a large explosion of white light and thought it might have been a plane crash off I-5.

Shari Ireton, the sheriff’s office spokeswoman, did some investigating Friday morning. She talked to a NASA scientist who believes he has an explanation: Taurid meteors.

He referred her to a NASA web page that offers a description of why the fireballs often can be seen each fall.

“Every year in late October and early November … Earth passes through a river of space dust associated with Comet Encke,” the NASA site says. “Tiny grains hit our atmosphere at 65,000 mph. At that speed, even a tiny smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light — a meteor — when it disintegrates. Because these meteors shoot out of the constellation Taurus, they’re called Taurids.”

Taurids first were discovered in 1869 and have been dubbed “Halloween fireballs” because of the time of year they appear.

Ireton said it was a great science lesson.

The sightings can be common on crisp, clear nights in the fall.

Curiosity seekers might be hard pressed to find the comet remnants.

“The chance of finding them is going to be pretty remote because they are very tiny-like pebbles entering the atmosphere,” Ireton said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com