The existence of disk and point-source meteors was for many years denied but their discovery on photographs – such as during the Leonid storm of 1966 – eventually persuaded the critics of their presence.

To the naked-eye they appear as a momentary flash, similar to the appearance of a satellite tumbling in orbit. On photographs, however, they often occur as new stars in familiar constellations. So if you think you’ve accidentally discovered a supernova, check the sky again – it was probably a point-source meteor!

Disk and point-source meteors are due either to a meteor heading directly towards the observer, or because the meteor is below naked-eye visibility for most of its flight but suddenly flares towards the end, thus becoming visible. They are probably more common than most people realize but their small angular size makes them difficult to observe.

Copyright 1996 Philip M. Bagnall

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