Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Another meteor? ‘Fireballs’ light up Florida sky

South Floridians who happened to be looking in the right place at the right time Sunday night saw one spectacular light show – possibly a sporadic meteor.

The Coast Guard began getting flooded with phone calls about 7:30 p.m., with reports of folks seeing flare-like objects from Jacksonville to Key West, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Sabrina Laberdesque.

People called in, describing the flares “as orange or red fireballs in the sky,” Laberdesque said. The display was limited to the sky: No injuries were reported, Laberdesque said.

A sporadic meteor is basically a rocky object that comes from the asteroid belt, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society, based in Genesee, N.Y. The group logged 27 reports within about the first two hours of the event, he said.

“This is a lot of reports to come in quickly,” Hankey said.

Gauging by the reports, it happened somewhere over the ocean.

“These fireballs are common,” Hankey said. “It’s rare for any one person to see one more than once or twice in their lifetime. But on any given night, it might happen somewhere in the globe a few times in a day.”

[Read More…]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor Explosion in Russia Hurts More than 500 People

More than 500 people are reportedly injured, and hundreds of buildings damaged, after a meteorite streaked across the sky above Russia’s Ural Mountains Friday morning (Feb. 15) and exploded in a massive blast.

The meteor explosion was centered around the Chelyabinsk region, which is about 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) east of Moscow.

Most of the hundreds injured were reportedly hurt by falling glass in the blast, 112 of whom have been hospitalized, due to cuts from the shattered glass resulting from the blast. In addition, an estimated 297 buildings were damaged, including six hospitals and 12 schools, according to translations of updates by the Russian Emergency Ministry.

Scientists think a meteoroid entered the atmosphere above Russia’s southern Chelyabinsk region, where it exploded and broke up into meteorites scattered across three regions of Russia and Kazakhstan, according to news reports. [Photos of Russia’s Meteor Fireball Blast]

“I would think that this is likely an exploding fireball (or bolide) event caused by the atmospheric impact of a small asteroid,” Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, told SPACE.com. “If the reports of ground damage can be verified, it might suggest an object whose original size was several meters in extent before entering the atmosphere, fragmenting and exploding due to the unequal pressure on the leading side vs. the trailing side.”

Basically, Yeomans added, the meteor “pancaked and exploded.”

[Read More…]

Monday, February 4, 2013

Curiosity Mars rover hammers into rock

The Mars rover Curiosity has used its drill system for the first time.

The robot’s tool bit hammered briefly, without rotation, into a flat slab of rock on the floor of Gale Crater, the huge bowl where it landed last August.

Pictures taken before and after the operation reveal the indentation left by the tool’s action.

Although previous rovers have scrubbed the surface of rocks, Curiosity is the first to carry the capability to drill inside them.

US space agency (Nasa) engineers are taking a step-by-step approach to the procedure.

They need to check both the rock and the drill are behaving as expected.

If the target slab is deemed suitable, a number of test holes are likely to be drilled - using the rotation as well the percussive action - before a powdered sample is picked up and delivered to Curiosity’s onboard laboratories.

The rover’s mission is to try to determine whether Gale has ever had the environments in the past that were capable of supporting bacterial life.

[Read More…]

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