By Abdihakim Mohamed:
“Please update me what is happening in Bannisa, I can hear it is still day time and now it is 12:34 am midnight. That is miracle” posts one social media user.
“The end of times is nigh, did you see the skies tonight?” posts another.
As a section of residents of the three North Eastern Kenya counties of Garissa, Wajir and Mandera reported seeing a white light shooting across the sky at around 7.40pm on Tuesday night, others said they heard a loud rumbling sound, leading some to speculate what the phenomenon was all about.
“It was pitch black and then all of a sudden it was like a light switch went on. It became daylight – the whole sky lit up” said Deka Adan, a resident of Wajir town.
The skies were otherwise clear and no thunder storms recorded ruling out any weather-related explanation.
With no professional explanation on sight, many could only describe what happened while resorting to funny explanations.
“We looked at each other and I could see the dot on my friend’s skin, then it just went black again. It really didn’t last long at all – literally seconds. It was scary and amazing at the same time.” Said Hussein Farah in Shanta Abaq, Wajir south.
To ascertain what the brightest and swiftest shooting stars that bedazzled the night sky in my region entailed, I dug into some research and found out that the phenomenon was all about the Orionid meteor shower, which is normally witnessed in the months of October and November.
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke said the Orionid meteors are special because they are pieces of Comet 1P/Halley, commonly referred to as Halley’s Comet. This famous comet swings by Earth once every 75 to 76 years, so most people will have a chance to see it only once in their lifetime.
The Orionid meteor shower’s intensity varies from year to year. This year, skywatchers expected about 15 to 20 meteors per hour, but in some years, they have exceeded rates of 70 to 80 per hour, Cooke said.
And while there may not be a lot of them in the sky this year, they’re still worth checking out: Orionid meteors are known for being some of the fastest and brightest, sprinting across the sky at a relative speed of about 148,000 mph (238,000 km/h).
These meteors are known as Orionids, because they appear to emanate from a region to the north of the second-brightest star in the Orion constellation – Betelgeuse.
They were originally meteoroids, formed from the remnants of the nucleus – or rocky core – of Halley’s comet. Since breaking apart from the comet, they’ve remained as a swirling cloud of rubble, shadowing it as it orbits the Sun every 76 years.
As Earth passes through this dirt cloud twice a year, these meteoroids burn up in our atmosphere to become meteors – otherwise known as shooting stars.
The Orionids meteor shower can also produce fireballs, which are meteors that shine extremely bright for a few seconds before fading.
Parts of this article was adopted from space.com and sciencealert.com