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Astronomers are claiming “beginners luck” after a meteor entered the skies above Montana, just five hours after a camera dedicated to watching fireballs was set up. The fireball blasted through the skies on December 29, and was the first to be spotted by the All Sky Fireball Camera System. The All Sky Fireball Camera System is capable of detecting meteors, as well as determining the atmospheric trajectory of meteors.
The findings will be passed on to the American Meteorological Society (AMS) which will determine the space rock’s velocity, magnitude, pre-atmospheric mass estimate and the orbit of the space rock before it entered Earth’s atmosphere.
The Montana Learning Center (MLC) established the camera in Canyon Ferry, Montana.
The camera spotted the fireball enter the sky, and determined it to be bigger than a millimetre in size.
These tiny specks of space debris can cause bright flashes as they penetrate the atmosphere, and encounter air resistance for the first time in their history.
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MLC director Ryan Hannahoe said: “We just set up the camera system and focused the camera on the night of the 29th and it just so happened about five or six hours later we captured that fireball. So that was beginner’s luck, as they call it.
“This is a scientific instrument that takes measurements that contributes to scientific databases.
“This system is calibrated so it runs 24 hours every day, and is even capable of catching fireballs that are bright during the day.”
Mr Hannahoe added the meteor was “at least half as bright or brighter than the Full Moon itself”.
Meteorites are the remnant of the early solar system.
As the planets around the Sun were beginning to take shape, planetary collisions and asteroid strikes were common.
As a result, there are still billions of objects in the solar system floating around.
When they come to Earth, they give experts a unique opportunity to study the history of our galactic neighbourhood.
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Mr Hannahoe said: “What’s so cool about meteorites is they are literally our history.”
Perhaps one of the most famous fireballs to hit Earth came in 2013 when a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The blast was caused by a 20-metre meteor which caused such an explosion it dealt more than £25.3million (€30million) in damages to the Russian city.
In 1908, a small asteroid surprised Earth when it exploded over Siberia’s Tunguska, flattening woodlands across 800 miles.
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