Bright fireball meteor explodes over Florida + Dark matter's last stand

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Bright fireball meteor explodes over Florida Monday night

EXCERPTS: Floridians were treated to a fantastic sight on Monday night, as a bright fireball blazed across the sky and then exploded with a brilliant flash of light. At around 10:20 p.m. ET on April 12, 2021, our planet had an extremely close encounter with a small space rock on its journey around the Sun. Swept up by Earth's atmosphere, this meteoroid plunged towards the surface, lighting up the sky as it did.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the American Meteor Society has collected 230 witness reports from the event, from people across the entire Florida peninsula, the Bahamas and even central Georgia. The exceptionally clear skies over the U.S. Southeast on Monday night would have guaranteed a perfect view for anyone who happened to be looking in the right direction at the time.

By compiling all of these reports and comparing each witness's account of the fireball location and direction of travel, AMS scientists can estimate where it happened. With these fireballs typically occurring very high up in the atmosphere — 30 to 50 kilometres above the surface — it's tough for individual witnesses to accurately judge the meteor's trajectory. The more reports they get, however, the more accurate the AMS estimate will be. This meteor's estimated trajectory puts it travelling from south to north, out over the Atlantic Ocean, about 60-70 kilometres northeast of West Palm Beach.

According to the International Meteor Organization, no major annual meteor showers are happening right now. The next meteor shower this year is the Lyrids, which begins on April 14 and peaks on the night of April 21-22. While this fireball occurred only two days before the shower begins, it's unlikely to be an early Lyrid. At the time of the fireball, the 'radiant' for the Lyrids — the point in the sky where the shower's meteors appear to originate from — was in the northeastern part of the sky.

Thus, this particular fireball was likely a sporadic meteor — one not associated with a known meteor shower. This fireball was not only bright enough to be seen by witnesses from hundreds of kilometres around, but its explosive flash was also seen from space... (MORE)

Dark matter's last stand

EXCERPTS: Scientists are fond of saying negative results are just as important as positive results, but after several decades of not finding something, researchers can be forgiven for feeling impatient. Back in the 1990s, experiments began trying to detect the particles that make up dark matter, the ubiquitous yet untouchable invisible material that apparently fills the cosmos. Since then, physicists have found more and more evidence that dark matter is real but not a single sign of the stuff itself. A new version of the long-running XENON experiment that started up late last year aims to finally break that pattern.

[...] Although dark matter has proved more elusive than some had initially hoped, physicists are far from giving up. “A lot of people have a view of science that is like Star Trek,” says theoretical physicist Tim Tait of the University of California, Irvine. “You see something and take out a tricorder and get an answer. But it's actually a very messy process, and you try lots of things until you find something that works. All the things that didn't work were an important part of the process.” (MORE - details)

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