Tim Cline of Williamson admits he’s a bit of a space geek.
A machinist by trade, Cline built a space observatory, complete with a retractable roof, in his back yard.
“The roof, when I unlock it, will roll back on to my wooden structure back here and that way it opens up my telescope to the outside and I just undo it inside and winch it off with my winch back there and it goes right back,” said Cline.
But it’s what he captured on his meteor cameras Thursday evening that has a lot of people talking. It’s what appears to be a massive meteor flying right over Des Moines.
“That’s the holy grail,” Cline said.
“I didn’t even know that I had caught it until I got home and took a shower and had supper and had people dinging me on Facebook and texting me asking what the heck was it?” he said.
“If it was a meteor it was probably a pretty good sized one to be as bright as it was.” says Richard Miles with the Science Center of Iowa.
“It could also be some space debris. Anything that goes through our atmosphere from outer space is going to be going at pretty intense speeds and that’s going to cause a lot of friction, cause a lot of heat, and that’s what causes the glowing that you see as a meteorite or debris burning up in the atmosphere,” Miles said.
Miles said seeing meteors really isn’t very uncommon…on a clear night you can usually see at least a couple. But to see one this bright, he says, is unusual.
“This particular one sounds like it was big enough to where there could be something left behind that impacted somewhere. And actually with the video that was taken sometimes they can actually see based on the direction it was in and the angle it was moving they can actually trace where that may have impacted.” Miles said.
If that’s the case, Cline said he would love to see it. He’s not crazy about talking with us on television…he says he’s a private person. But he is passionate about space. And if his video sparks interest in the next generation of amateur astronomers..he’s all for it.
“If it will get a couple people, they’ll see this and maybe get interested in it and stuff, it’s worthwhile. So…space is a big place,” Cline said.
If you would like to see Cline’s video, or some of the pictures he has taken of different galaxies, log on to his website here.