Shooting stars XXL

 tldr; - For almost a year now, an all-sky camera has been on duty on the roof of our school. It quite reliably captures approximately 5000 black-and-white frames per 24 hours of the sky above Bruneck, South Tyrol. Recently, we started checking the huge dataset for bright meteors, also called bolides. During our first two-hour search run, we found four; two more followed. (Yes, astrocusanus does homework assignments, too 😉.)

In 2019 we won the 'Reiff-Preis', a recognition for our year-long efforts in the field of astronomy at school. With the money awarded to us we were able to fulfill a long held dream of an automated all-sky camera (see "Can't take my eyes off you"). With this new 'toy' we not only hoped to be able to check on the weather without the bother of looking out of the window. We also were eager to begin a hunt for bright meteors, aka bolides.

The bolides search team rocks the (overcast 🥺) sky!
Alex, Amy, Letizia, Mara & Christof Wiedemair (counterclockwise from right)

A meteor is a tiny grain of dust that, after a gigayear-long odyssey through the vastness of space, hits the earth's atmosphere. When it does, it heats up the thin air, which in turn begins to glow (simple physics) and triggers wishes in the brains of the delighted beholders (plain nonsense, but you never know). The brighter the meteor, the bigger the wish - a no brainer. So you can fancy us quite motivated.

Fortunately, there is no need to stay up at night to stare at the live images dripping in, although surprisingly, this activity is much more satisfying than you probably expect. For convenience, all frames are stored on a hard disk and converted into a time lapse video the next morning. You heard me right: All our data is just a mouse click away - the stellar banquet is always open for you! (at

Despite this steady temptation, we patiently waited, except for some occasional glimpses, for almost a year, before starting our first systematic search for bolides. On 4 April 2023 five of us teamed up and went through three months worth of images. And we were successful: After a two-hour search, we got four of the bright but transient visitors. 

Compilation of six of the bolides we found in the images of our all-sky cam.

Top left image: The bright spot in the sky is the overexposed moon. The bolide is very close to the horizon. In the following image, you can see that it flew over the Padan Plain and was observed by several other observers. 

Flight trajectory of the bolide from 28.03.23.
Screenshot from the website of Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.

Top right image: The event in the top right image was much more prominent. Unfortunately, its streak crossed the setting moon. 

Flight trajectory of the second bolide, from 28.03.23 as well.
Screenshot from the website of Arbeitskreis Meteore e.V.

Middle left image: This one has not been registered by anyone else. However, we are confident it is an extraterrestrial object.

Middle right image: That's our crown jewel. It entered earth's atmosphere south of Ancona and flew northwest bound along the Apennin mountain range, putting on a show for two other Italian and an Austrian observers. It not only produced an impressive streak but a smoke trail as well! The smoke trail is visible in the clip, so turn up the brightness of your display.

Bright bolide with smoke trail. A pity we didn't witness it with our own eyes.

Bottom left image: Unfortunately, this bolide is a bit hidden from view because of ice crystals forming on the dome of our all-sky cam. It was however seen from a nearby observer in St. Ulrich in Gröden. Before next autumn, we plan to equip our all-sky cam with a dome heating.

Bottom right image: A very bright bolide dating back to the 8 July 2022. It flew over North Tyrol and was seen by other eight observers. 

We are sure there are many other events waiting to be discovered in our 24/7 stellar showcase at Feeling lucky? What are you waiting for? Get yourself going! The comment section is open for you, so let us know if you find something. There should be even some spare wishes around, just in case you are running low. 😜

Christof Wiedemair


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