KEY POINTS

  • A rare sky event occurred in the skies of Hawaii in July
  • Viewers of the live stream were the ones who first noticed the event
  • It is linked to a phenomenon so rare it has only been reported a few times

A rare "meteor cluster" has been captured by a camera in Hawaii. The Video of the rare sky event shows more than a dozen meteors streaming through the sky within a few seconds.

The Subaru-Asahi Sky Camera is installed at the Subaru Telescope dome in Maunakea, Hawaii, and has been live-streaming the skies over the island since April 2021, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) said in a news release. The goal is to "bring the wonderful starry skies of Maunakea to everyone."

Enthusiastic viewers of the live stream caught a rather special sky event on July 14. At exactly 9:58 a.m. ET, they saw more than a dozen meteors streaming across the starry skies of Maunakea within 10 just seconds.

"At first I thought it was just a series of small meteors, but when I double-checked for a tally, I was amazed to notice that several small meteors were visible coming from the same direction at the same time," one of the viewers commented as per NAOJ.

The discussions on the chat alerted the camera administrator at Subaru Telescope, Ichi Tanaka, that a "rare phenomenon" might have happened. He then contacted NAOJ Vice Director, Junichi Watanabe, and the footage is now being studied by researchers.

So what caused the rare outburst? It is said to be linked to what's called a "meteoroid cluster."

"A meteoroid cluster is thought to be caused by meteoric material breaking up into smaller pieces for some reason a short time before it enters the Earth's atmosphere," the organization explained, noting that the phenomenon is so rare that only a few cases of it have been reported. What's more, it was only first identified during the Leonid meteor shower in 1997.

Other cases of the phenomenon were documented in the Czech Republic in September 2016, during which a cluster of eight meteors appeared within just two seconds, and in January when seven bright meteors appeared within just three seconds. The latter was captured by the camera system owned by the University of Arizona and video of it is also available at the International Meteor Organization (IMO)'s website.

"The scientific significance of capturing such a rare phenomenon is extremely great, and it is especially significant because the overall duration of the event was longer than in previous cases," Watanabe said as per the news release.

"The fact that the camera was located at Maunakea, one of the best observation sites in the world, was also a major factor in capturing such a rare event in addition to recent developments in camera technology. I hope that this camera will continue to capture similar rare phenomena in the future," he added.

Meteor Shower In this multiple exposure image, Perseid Meteor Shower is observed on Aug. 13, 2018, in Bungoono, Oita, Japan. Photo: Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images