Meteor shower in Ozarks captured in spectacular videos

Published: Nov. 5, 2018 at 6:01 PM CST
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Meteor showers have been a source of fascination for centuries, as they're a reminder that we're part of an enormous solar system in which we're but a small part.

And this past weekend a meteor shower was seen all across the Ozarks with several local residents capturing the moment when a fireball streaked across the sky in spectacular fashion.

You can check out those videos in the accompanying video story.

One amazing sight was captured from the porch of West Plains resident Rachel Gildea Friday night around 7:20. A flash of light followed by a fireball streaking through the sky.

"Absolutely phenomenal," came the reaction from Becky Baker, a senior instructor in the department of physics, astronomy, and material science at Missouri State University. "It's incredibly cool. But basically what you're looking at is leftover material from a comet. And so we're basically going through the debris from that comet."

Janet Whitehill from near Mtn. Grove also captured the meteor's light as it briefly turned night into day. And Michelle Reed got on camera a spectacular fireball from her home in Warsaw. All this coming from meteor showers that originated near the Taurus constellation.

Gary Hurley was driving with his son on Interstate 44 from Joplin to Springfield when they witnessed the fireball.

"I was like 'whoa, what in the world is that, Blake?" Hurley recalled. "You better make a big 'ol wish on that shooting star'. He was like, 'nope, no way. That could have been a plane blowing up'.

"These things look like they're so close you could reach up and touch them," added Baker. "But generally they're coming across three or four states. This one came in at about 62-63,000 miles-per-hour. So that's not shabby."

A meteor shower occurs when a trail of debris left behind by comets or asteroids races toward the earth and the streak we see is the hot air left behind the heated rock. There are an estimated 21 meteor showers each year, most occurring between August and December.

Meteors enter the earth's atmosphere traveling anywhere from 25,000 to 160,000 mph and most of them disintegrate before hitting the ground or fall into the ocean. If they do reach the earth, they are referred to as meteorites, and although 99% of them are pebble-sized, the largest meteorite found on earth is the Hoba Meteorite discovered in Namibia in 1920, weighing in at 119,000 pounds.

The Missouri State's Baker Observatory in Marshfield will be holding an open house on November 16th to view the next major meteor shower. And no matter who you are, it brings out the wonderment in us all.

"I don't think you ever get used to these kinds of things," Baker said. "It's phenomenal when you go outside and look up. Whether you're just looking at the moon or you get to see these visitors that come across the top of the sky. It's just fascinating out there."