Category Archives: Astronomy

Meteorite collecting + Sutter Mill fireball + Meteor/Fireball notices

Meteorite collecting has become a popular hobby and a big business worldwide. The pieces of the Ural fireball will no doubt become highly sought after by both collectors and scientists : Meteorites Could be Worth Big Bucks – RIA Novosti.

Find lots of information and web resources on meteorites in the Space Collectables section.

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A fireball  occurred above northern California on April 22, 2012 and meteorite hunters soon began combing the area. Now referred to as the Sutter Mill fragments after the local historical site, nearly 80 fragments were collected by volunteers for scientific analysis within a couple of days of the event.  The quick collection effort meant that there was less time for contamination of the samples, which was important since the object turned out to be a rare type of asteroid called a carbonaceous chondrite:

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Smaller scale fireballs and meteor trails happen somewhere in the world daily. There are various web sites and blogs devoted to reporting on the latest sightings. See, for example:

 

Update on the Russian meteor fireball event

Here are some more articles and resources about the meteor event over Russia today:

Here’s a Russian Today report on the event with lots of video clips along with some silly comments from the news persons:

Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office summarizes the event as follows:

  • It was not a shower of multiple objects but a single asteroid about 15 meters in diameter and weighing about 7000 metric tons.
  • It hit the atmosphere at 18 km/s (40k mph) and exploded into multipe pieces at an altitude of about 20-25 km (12-15 mi)
  • The explosion was equivalent to about 300 kilotons of TNT
  • The shockwave hit the ground causing buildings to shake and glass to break.
  • This asteroid was not a companion to the 2012 DA14 asteroid but on a completely different orbit

Here’s more of my post over at NewSpace Watch:

Some after effects:

Perhaps warnings like this one from Thursday will now be heeded: Ed Lu and Martin Rees: A Warning From the Asteroid Hunters – WSJ.com.

Asteroid organizations have released messages:

* Ed Lu’s Message: Our Cosmic Challenge – B612 Foundation :

The B612 Foundation believes we should find threatening asteroids before they find us. Today’s meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a wake-up call that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth. Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, narrowly missed the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites. We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don’t know exist.

To date, less than 1% of asteroids larger than the one that leveled Tunguska in 1908 have been tracked. The B612 Foundation Sentinel Space Telescope, to be launched in 2018, will provide a comprehensive map of the locations and trajectories of threatening asteroids and will give humanity the decades of warning needed to prevent asteroid impacts with existing technology. By the end of its planned lifetime, Sentinel will have discovered well over 90% of the asteroids that could destroy entire regions of Earth on impact (those larger than 350ft in diameter) and more than 50% of the currently unknown DA14-like near-Earth asteroids.

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* Russian meteorite update – Planetary Resources

In our previous update, we mentioned that many asteroids pass by Earth with little or no warning. We were not exaggerating.  Despite considerable progress in asteroid detection, only about one in ten close-approaching asteroids are known about ahead of time. While not every approaching asteroid may be detected, and with little warning not all can be prevented, in this case a little warning would have prevented many injuries, and quelled the panic that followed.

Today’s events, both with 2012 DA14 and the Russian meteorite, are a reminder that our Solar System is a crowded place. Today was unnerving indeed, and scary and unfortunate for those near Chelyabinsk.  We don’t know when the next one of these might appear, but we’re working to see it coming!

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* Russian Meteor Impact Shows the Need for a Sentry Line of Asteroid Inspection Spacecraft – Deep Space Industries

McLean, VA – February 15 – Today’s impact in Russia and the near miss by asteroid 2012 DA14 should shock the world into creating a sentry line of spacecraft circling the Earth to intercept and evaluate incoming threats, Deep Space Industries proposed.

“The hundreds of people injured in northern Russia show it’s time to take action and no longer be passive about these threats,” said Rick Tumlinson, chairman of Deep Space Industries.

Deep Space Industries proposes establishing several sentry lines encircling Earth with small spacecraft able to dart after intruders to get close-in photos and data as they pass. Over time additional spacecraft able to grab samples for analysis on Earth would join the sentry lines.

Not all asteroids are the same, and to be ready to deflect one that’s on a dangerous trajectory the world needs to know more about their structure and composition. Many may be solid but all photos so far have shown gravel and rock piles. A defense plan assuming the wrong type could make matters worse.

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Asteroid 2012 DA14 passing by today

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is passing by earth today. It’s closest approach (17,200 km) will occur at 2:25 p.m. ET over the Indian Ocean. Alan Boyle provides some info on how to watch it pass:  Watch asteroid 2012 DA14 buzz past harmlessly, via streaming video – Cosmic Log

Observers in that area will be able to see it with binoculars or small telescopes. NASA JPL has a live webcast here of a telescope view: USTREAM – NASA Follows Asteroid Flyby.

Here’s another webcast: The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0: Virtual Telescope’s WebTV

This video from “Samford Valley Observatory in Brisbane, Australia, shows the progress of asteroid 2012 DA14 across the night sky as it nears its closest approach”:

Large scale meteor shower over Russia causes injuries and ground damage

A dramatic meteor shower took place over the Urals area of Russia today with large fireballs  and smoke tails seen in the sky and loud explosions heard. (See video below.) Sightings were reported in the cities of Chelyabinsk, Yekaterinburg and Tyumen. Widespread meteorite debris hitting the ground caused injuries to several hundred people  and damage to buildings (see second video below.)

Update: It was  just a cosmic coincidence. The meteoroid that caused the shower came from a much different orbit than asteroid 2012 DA14 and so they are not related: Astronomers: Russia’s Meteorite Is Not Related To Today’s Near-Earth Asteroid Fly-By – Popular Science.

From reading the articles today, some definitions are in order. A meteoroid is the rock traveling in space, a meteor is the bright flashy trail as it streaks through the atmosphere. and a meteorite is a chunk of a meteoroid that made it to the ground without vaporizing.