Friday night I was out at O'Brien running a Universe in the Park event, and throughout the evening I and the attendees kept noticing a highly unusual number of bright meteors in the sky. Apparently, it wasn't just us:
It was just before dawn and awfully cold in Independence Pass near Aspen, Colorado. Photographer Thomas O'Brien couldn't help falling asleep. Fortunately, his camera kept shooting, recording a beautiful Saturday morning outburst of Aurigid meteors:
"I never saw one myself," he says. Nevertheless, for about 30 minutes around 4:30 PDT (1130 UT) the sky was filled with colorful meteors and fireballs. Sightings have been reported in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, California, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and western Canada. Meteor radio echoes were heard as far away as the United Kingdom!
The Aurigids is one of several minor meteor showers that pepper the calendar and, for the most part, don't rate much attention from observers. However, this year the Earth was predicted to intersect a stream of dust produced by Comet Kiess around 83 BC, potentially leading to a meteor outburst. Unfortunately we only caught the very leading edge of the event, since the Moon rose around 10 pm and pretty soon was even washing out the stars. Still, pretty nifty that we saw any Aurigids at all, given that the outburst proper didn't happen until nearly dawn. And now I know what they were.