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©2011 by Richard Nolle

WOW!APR 11, 2011 - Science@NASA YouTube Channel is for those times when a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a million. That's most of the time, in our post-literate civilization. Old school guys like me, who can still read (speed read, even) find video an inefficient way of transmitting information per se; but nothing quite says fireball like seeing one. And fireball is what the first installment of the Science@NASA YouTube Channel is all about; or more specifically, why spring is fireball season. For reasons unknown, the rate of bright meteors - "shooting stars" brighter than the planet Venus - goes up 10-30% in the weeks around the vernal equinox. The natural inference is that our home planet crosses paths with a higher density of higher incoming velocity cosmic debris during that portion of our orbit around the Sun, but the exact mechanism remains to be established. Bill Cooke of NASA'S Meteoroid Environment Center is setting up a network of "smart meteor cameras" around the country to photograph fireballs and triangulate their orbits, in an attempt to unravel the mystery. Science@NASA YouTube Channel teases the story with pretty pictures and such, but thoughtfully provides links to more detailed accounts, for the benefit of those who'd like a little more in-depth follow-up. (NASA is planing new nodes for the Fireball Network - assuming the federal government doesn't go bankrupt before it can buy a few more cameras.)

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