Action in the night sky
Tuesday, 6th January, 2015
By By Michael Murphy
Local residents reported seeing something burning up in the night sky over Broken Hill just after midnight on Saturday night.
Local astronomer Trevor Barrie said he could not speculate about it because he was not observing at the time, but he did offer a general explanation of what locals may have witnessed.
“From sunset to midnight, we are on the trailing edge of the Earth and on any given night there will be 8 to 10 sporadic meteors that will come in through our atmosphere and burn up,” he said, adding that our planet was travelling about 30km a second around the Sun.
“From midnight to dawn, we are on the leading edge of the Earth and we run into stuff ... so midnight to dawn up to 15 sporadic meteors enter our atmosphere.”
He said other things orbiting the Earth, such as space junk, also re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere as their orbit reduced over time.
He said the colour of the burning light often provided a good clue, and the night sky was active, though most people didn’t see anything because they were in bed.
But he gave a tip to the early risers with an interest in astronomy: get out of bed at 3.30am and you will see Jupiter due north, about 42 degrees from the horizon.
He said it will be the brightest object in that part of the sky.
“If they have a look at it with a pair of binoculars they will see some or all of the four giant moons that orbit Jupiter,” Trevor said.
Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system.