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What's that odd meteor?

These aren’t your ordinary shooting stars.
RELATED TOPICS: SOLAR SYSTEM | METEORS
OMearaStephen

On the evening of July 17, 2018, something fortuitous happened. I was out taking long exposures of the Milky Way and Mars near opposition when a large and diffuse meteorlike object passed between them. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen one of these ghostly streaks, which, like sprites, can make you shake your head in wonder. But this time I nailed an image of one — though, admittedly, it almost escaped my notice.

Weird and wonderful phantasms

Nebulous, or diffuse, meteors have caused a stir since at least the turn of the 20th century. That’s when French astronomer Fernand Baldet published in a 1909 Bulletin of the Société Astronomique de France his systematic study of what he called a pretty remarkable phenomenon — “that of nebulous meteors.” He first noticed one the night of March 18, 1903, from Paris, when a “slightly luminous nebulosity, similar to a shred of Laced Way” appeared suddenly above Lambda Orionis and proceeded toward Cassiopeia.

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