Exciting Week For Local Stargazers

SPOKANE — It’s been an exciting week for astronomy buffs and stargazers, and most residents of the Inland Northwest couldn’t help but take notice of the skies over the past few days.

On Tuesday morning, a meteor lit up the sky
 from Oregon to British Columbia and from Seattle to western Montana. With the brightest concentration somewhere in central Washington, our area had one of the best views of this burning cosmic dust

Dozens of viewers called in to describe what they saw, and most noted that it was one of the most remarkable natural phenomena they’d ever seen.

At about 5:30 a.m., the sky lit up with an intense flash of light that lasted for a few seconds. Though the unanimous consensus is that it was an incredible sight, eyewitnesses couldn’t quite agree on what color it was. Some described the object as burning a bright shade of blue and white while others described green, orange or purple coloration.

Several surveillance videos from the area captured the meteor on camera. (Click on the video links to the right to watch the footage.)

Then, on Wednesday evening, we were treated to a more predictable but no less spectacular sight with a lunar eclipse

The clouds parted late Wednesday afternoon to give residents in Spokane and the surrounding area an excellent view of the eclipse, which lasted for more than three hours starting at about 5:30.

At its’ height, the moon turned a brilliant shade of orange, clearly visible in the eastern sky.

The next lunar eclipse won’t occur until December 21, 2010.

Also Wednesday evening, the US government shot a missile into space, knocking down a satellite that they said would pose a safety threat if it came crashing down to Earth.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman James Cartwright says there’s an 80-to-90 percent chance the missile hit exactly where it had to: the satellite’s fuel tank. That tank contained 1,000 pounds of hydrazine, which the Pentagon says could have posed a threat to people if the tank had survived re-entry.

The Bush administration has maintained that shooting down the satellite was merely a safety precaution to prevent civilian exposure to noxious gases, however many have voiced concerns over the decision.

Skeptics believe that the shootdown was a military exercise while many familiar with the decision have stated that they believe the destruction of the satellite was undertaken to prevent it from falling into other countries’ hands, which could provide that country with valuable national security information.