Fireballs are so bright they outshine all the stars in the sky as they skip across it

THE sky is still full of planets as we approach the Spring Equinox, and have to go through the annual ritual of putting all our clocks forwards by an hour. Jupiter is almost overhead as darkness falls, and a couple of hours later, by the time Jupiter has dropped towards the west, ruddy-hued Mars is visible above the eastern horizon. By midnight, golden-coloured Saturn has followed Mars into the sky, shining to the lower left of the famous Red Planet. And as dawn approaches, Venus shines lantern-bright in the south east.

Although there are no meteor showers due until late April, at this time of year, for reasons no-one has been able to figure out, we tend to see more fireballs than usual. Fireballs are particularly bright, lone meteors which can be so bright they outshine all the stars in the sky as they skip across it. Some blaze a vivid blue or even green, and the brightest can be so bright they cast shadows, and leave ghostly trails of smoke behind in the sky long after they have faded.

So, absolutely no promises, but on any clear night until April's end, keep an eye on the sky for fireballs. You never know...

Stuart Atkinson

Eddington Astronomical Society of Kendal

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