By Thomas Webber
Created: November 1, 2004
I don't want anyone to panic. Let's all remain calm as we talk about rocks that can fall from space anytime, anywhere and without warning.
We probably should begin our discussion today by defining some terms.
* Asteroids -- minor planets in our solar system, ranging in size from a small chunk to more than 1,000 kilometers across. They are irregular in shape and most orbit the sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter.
* Meteoroids -- small, almost grainy rocks that orbit the sun, most weighing just a few grams. Most are leftover debris from comets or the result of asteroid collisions.
* Meteor -- a piece of rock or dust that has entered Earth's atmosphere and is in the process of burning up, creating a bright flash in the sky. A meteor is sometimes called a "shooting star."
* Meteorite -- a meteor that survived the trip through our atmosphere and has struck the surface.
Meteorites leave an impression on our planet. Perhaps the most famous is the Barringer Crater in Arizona, formed when a meteorite measuring 50 meters across struck Earth 50,000 years ago. This crater is 1.2 kilometers across and 200 meters deep.
Some collisions are more drastic. In the 1970s, geological dating determined that iridium-rich clay found in a layer between limestone strata all over the world was 65 million years old. That date coincides with a time when more than two-thirds of the species, including the dinosaurs, suddenly became extinct.
The connection? At the end of the Mesozoic era, a meteorite approximately 10 kilometers in diameter struck Earth, ejecting enough dust (including iridium) into the atmosphere to block the sun for several years, causing decreasing temperatures and mass extinctions.
Without the dinosaurs, the stage was set for mammals to develop and thrive in the Cenozoic era. Very humbling, in retrospect: If not for the extinction of the dinosaurs, would we mammals ever have risen to our present dominance?
Evidence now shows that our world experienced several large impacts in the past that have severely altered the biological landscape of this planet.
You might think that since these impacts can be so destructive, there would be millions of dollars and thousands of professionals protecting us.
Nope. There is only a handful of professional "asteroid hunters" working with limited resources. And it's a very big sky to search.
Now, you're saying, "Tom, I hear you. But, hey, aren't the odds of us being hit so low that we shouldn't worry about it?"
Perhaps. And, yes, the number of collisions has decreased dramatically over Earth's 5 billion-year history. But before we relax, let's consider the following three anecdotes.
* On Nov. 30, 1954, Mrs. E. Hulitt Hodge was taking a nap on her couch. A meteorite burst through her ceiling, ricocheted off her radio, and bore its way through two heavy quilts before penetrating her hip. She was severely injured but survived. The meteorite is now in a permanent collection at the Smithsonian.
* A fireball appeared in the skies over Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri on March 26, 2003. Soon after, the peaceful town of Park Forest, Ill., was subjected to a massive meteorite shower when a meteor, as heavy as 7,000 kilograms, broke apart in the atmosphere. No injuries were reported, but insurance representatives were overworked with damaged houses, cars and businesses. Even the fire department was not spared as a 545-gram meteorite tore though the firehouse.
* On Sept. 29, 2004, an asteroid called Toutatis, 4.5 kilometers across, came within 1.5 million kilometers of earth. This is only four times the distance from the earth to the moon. While Toutatis' orbit is such that it will not strike Earth, it does serve to remind us that the celestial coast is not clear and that the threat of large-scale impacts is still very real.
Have a nice day. Don't forget your umbrella.
Comment: For more on recent meteor showers and fireballs, check out our meteor supplement.
Experts try to solve meteorite mystery
Express News Service
Created:October 31, 2004
Forensic experts and geologists in village Nandgaon, about 18 kms from the nearest police station in Kaprada, South Gujarat, are trying to ascertain whether a black stone — weighing a kg — which fell in one of the farms, is a meteorite.
Villagers reported a loud bang and falling of a burning stone in a farm on Sunday evening. The fallen stone had created a little crater on the ground.
Villages like Nandgaon and Dharampur and other neighbouring villages in the hilly areas near the Maharashtra-Gujarat border have been experiencing unseasonal rains for past couple of days. However, on Saturday evening, the villagers reported hearing a loud bang-like noise and a streak of fire across the sky. ‘‘The villagers first thought it was an aeroplane or a fireball, but it turned out to be a black stone which had fallen in a farm in the village,’’ said a Kaprada police station personnel.
With rumours rife that the incident had led to burning of trees and could be a likely meteor, Kaprada police personnel reached the spot and brought the stone to the police station. ‘‘It must be some stone boulder which might have fallen down due to the rains. There are no burnt trees or anything of sort in the area,’’ said Abhaysinh Chudasama, Valsad DSP, who also visited the village.
Taking no chances, Chudasama added that a geologist from Valsad district collectorate had been summoned to check the stone
Created: November 3, 2004
These days, automated search programs discover most new comets. The rest go to keen-eyed amateurs, whose photographic memories and wide-angle binocular views lend themselves to spotting these cosmic vagabonds. But even astronomers can win the lottery sometimes — or at least catch a comet by pure chance.
On September 22, Sandhya Rao and Dave Turnshek, both of the University of Pittsburgh, were taking spectra of a bright star just after twilight at the MMT Observatory's 6.5-meter telescope in southern Arizona. This, they thought, would help set up the telescope in preparation for their scheduled observations of faint quasars. Suddenly, as their exposure of BD+303639 came to an end, a new spectrum appeared.
The spectrograph has an effective field of view only 2" wide by 2' long. Because that's some 100,000 times smaller in area than a typical pair of binoculars, they didn't expect the object to reappear on the next exposure. Much to their surprise, another exposure confirmed the mysterious object's existence; it had perceptibly moved closer to the star's position.
A quick check revealed that both new spectra were identical, and that the team was seeing a new object moving at a rate of 2.2' per hour along the spectrograph's slit. Further exposures confirmed the motion of this mysterious interloper, but its spectrum remained a mystery. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed the object's apparent motion limited it to the solar system, but what could it be?
A comet or an asteroid seemed to be the most likely possibilities, and an analysis of the object's spectrum identified it as a previously undiscovered 16th-magnitude comet. With time pressing, the astronomers moved onto their next target star, but despite calls to other telescopes in the hopes of capturing a confirming image, the object has not been observed again to date.
Statement on Near Earth Asteroids by Board of Directors of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
Date Released: Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Source: Ames Research Center
The following statement was recently approved by the Board of Directors of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. It is the third AIAA Position Paper on NEOs. The first such paper, in 1990, was very influential in calling attention to the impact hazard. (Tagliaferri, Edward, "Dealing with the Threat of an Impact of an Asteroid or Comet on Earth: The Next Step," AIAA Position Paper, April 1990).
PROTECTING EARTH FROM ASTEROIDS AND COMETS
An AIAA Position Paper (2004)
AIAA Space Systems Technical Committee
AIAA Space Operations and Support Technical Committee
AIAA Systems Engineering Technical Committee
AIAA Atmospheric and Space Environments Technical Committee
AIAA Board of Directors
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 500
Reston, VA 20191 (703) 264-7500
The purpose of this Position Paper is to briefly review what is now known about the threat to Earth posed by close approaching asteroids and comets (called Near Earth Objects or NEOs). Based on our current understanding (recently reviewed at the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference sponsored by AIAA and The Aerospace Corporation), AIAA recommends that the following steps be taken to protect the Earth from NEO impacts:
* Create an organization within the U.S. government responsible for planetary defense.
* Extend the Spaceguard Survey, currently focused on finding and cataloging 1-km-class objects and larger, to include finding and cataloging 100-m-class NEOs and larger.
* Develop and fund ground-based techniques as well as missions to several asteroids to gather information that contributes to designing deflection missions.
* Conduct mission design studies to characterize requirements for short-, medium-, and long-term missions.
* Conduct flight tests to demonstrate our ability to change a NEO's orbit.
* Sponsor research to assess the political, social, legal, and disaster relief consequences of a serious NEO threat, mitigation effort, or possible impact.
Significant progress has been made in a number of areas to better understand the nature and physical characteristics of NEOs. These include a well-defined program to detect and determine the orbits of potentially hazardous NEOs (Spaceguard Survey) and missions to comets (Stardust, Deep Impact) and an asteroid (NEAR). These areas have been addressed in a series of national and international conferences culminating in the 2004 Planetary Defense Conference sponsored jointly by the AIAA and The Aerospace Corporation (www.aero.org/conferences/planetdef).
A primary result of these conferences and related studies is the agreement that the threat of NEO impact is real and must not be ignored. They have noted that although the present NEO search efforts are looking for large NEOs (>1 km diameter), impacts of smaller objects, while not likely to cause worldwide disasters, can result in significant loss of life and major property damage and need to be considered. There is also a growing concern that a small impact in the wrong area at the wrong time could be mistaken as an attack, possibly leading to the use of nuclear weapons. [...]
Comment: But have we not been told countless times that the chances of an impact in the near future are 50 zillion to one? Is someone getting scared? Has someone other than the Signs of the Times team been noticing the considerable increase in the number of meteorite sightings and impacts over the past few years?
No doubt. But the extent of government knowledge about cyclical catastrophes caused by meteorite impacts will remain secret until such time as it is beneficial to the powers that be to release it, and even then there will be so much spin as to render it useless to the people.
Huge craters confirm meteorite impact on Earth!
Created: November, 8, 2004
Huge craters discovered in the Sahara desert have confirmed that Earth suffered from simultaneous meteor impacts in the recent past.
According to Newscientist, the largest field of impact craters ever uncovered on Earth had gone unnoticed until now because it is partially buried beneath the sands of the Sahara desert in south-west Egypt.
Philippe Paillou of Bordeaux University Observatory in Floirac, France, first noticed circular geological structures in the Sahara last year, while analysing radar satellite pictures of the area.
The structures turned out to be part of a huge field of 100 craters spread over 5000 square kilometres near the Gilf Kebir plateau. The craters vary in diameter from 20 metres to 2 kilometres across. The previous largest known crater field covers a mere 60 square kilometres in Argentina.
In February, Paillou led a joint Egyptian and French mission to find the site and examined 13 of the craters, confirming that they were the result of simultaneous impacts. But accurately dating the field has been tricky. Paillou estimates that it is roughly 50 million years old, relatively young in geological terms.
The size of the field suggests that it could be the result of two or more meteors disintegrating as they entered Earth's atmosphere, the first evidence of a multiple strike, he says.
"Because the field is so big, it can't have been made by one meteor," Paillou was quoted as saying. (ANI)
Queen's talk to discuss asteroid impact threat
Created: 08 November 2004
The prospects and implications of an asteroid impact on Earth will be the topic of the November meeting of the Café Scientifique at Queen's University. [...]
On average 30- 40 Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are discovered each month - asteroids and comets that could one day collide with the Earth. Over 3,000 NEOs have been found, and a world-wide effort involving professional and amateur astronomers attempts to keep track of these objects. Now a team of astronomers at Queen's will endeavour to track some of these objects each week using large high-performance telescopes.
Dr Fitzsimmons and his colleagues from the UK Astrometry and Photometry Programme (UKAPP) for Near-Earth Objects, based at the University, are currently tracking NEOs and feeding their information into the international programme of protecting the Earth from any future impact by a comet or asteroid.
|Saving Earth from Imminent Impact|
Created: Wednesday, 10 November 2004, 07:00 CST
Among the proposals for diverting an asteroid collision with Earth, one involves gently pushing the incoming rock over the course of a year. This low-thrust solution has its challenges since at various stages of that perilous year, if it ever came, locations on Earth would naturally see human influences as they became the bullseye.
Astrobiology Magazine -- Russell Schweikart is the Chairman of the B612 Foundation, an advocacy group endorsing 'a gentle push' approach to asteroid risk mitigation. Schweikart was also an Apollo 9 astronaut and uses his experiences in mission planning to design a strategy for diverting incoming --and potentially life-threatening--space debris. The B612 Foundation's charter proposes a demonstration to alter the trajectory of an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015.
The origin of the foundation's name, B612, stretches back into historical literature. B162 was the asteroidal address for The Little Prince, authored by the French writer Antoine de Saint Exupery in 1943. Their call for action is founded on four principles: asteroids have led to planet-scale disasters historically, a sea of near-earth asteroids surrounds us, an unacceptable collision this century carries a two-percent risk, and actions to avert a collision should be started now. To astrobiologists familiar with the geological record, asteroids and comets have shaped our own planet's biology, but are best preserved in the geological records among the craters on neighboring moons and planets. [...]
Meteor running for sharp-eyed cabbie
By Hhayley Seeney
(Australia) - A BRILLIANT green ball seen shooting across the night sky on Saturday could be part of two meteor showers expected in northern skies this month.
Stuart Elletson was driving his taxi along Primrose St, Belgian Gardens, at 9.25pm on Saturday when he saw what he believes was a meteor.
Mr Elletson described the sight as a "bright emerald green" ball that flew across the sky in an arc for about 10 seconds.
"I was looking out the window and the next thing I saw in the sky was a burning, bright light," Mr Elletson said.
"It was orange in colour at first and then it went off towards Pallarenda and it was bright emerald green.
"It definitely wasn't a shooting star."
Director for the Centre for Astronomy in the School of Maths and Physics at James Cook University Associate Professor Graeme White said hearing Mr Elletson's description, he was "almost certain" the taxi driver had seen a meteor. [...]
A meteor is coming and we're all going to die, British teacher tells pupils
Created: Thu Nov 18, 7:06 PM ET
LONDON - A British schoolteacher, attempting to motivate her pupils into making the most of each day, told them a meteorite was about to smash into the Earth and that they should all return home to say goodbye to their families, a report said.
The teacher at the high school in Manchester, northwest England, only realised her lecture was misjudged when many of the assembled teenagers started crying, the Sun newspaper said in its Friday edition.
According to the report, the unnamed female teacher made the announcement to around 250 pupils at St Matthew's Roman Catholic High School during their regular morning assembly.
Saying she had bad news, the teacher announced that a meteor would strike the Earth in 10 days' time, and that they should return home and say their "final farewells" to their parents.
After the crowd of 13- and 14-year-olds looked on in horror, and many burst into tears, the teacher swiftly explained that she was only trying to encourage them to "seize the day".
"Some of the children were 100 percent convinced they were going to die," the father of one child told the paper.
"God only knows what this teacher thought she was doing."
Comment: Well, one thing she did was to help ensure that any idea of a meteor striking the Earth will be written off as fear mongering. See our Signs Meteor Supplement for the facts.
Bright Light In Sky Startles Central Floridians
Created: 4:45 am EST November 19, 2004
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A bright streak of light that some said turned blue and included sparks startled some Central Floridians early Friday morning.
Hundreds of callers to Local 6 and a local Orlando radio talk show said the light lasted about 30 seconds and was so bright that they had to look away.
"They called up a little before 6 a.m. this morning and it was kind of an alarmed voice and they saw a blue light near the airport with sparks in the sky," radio morning show host Scott McKenzie said. "As soon as the first call came through, then the phones lit up like a Christmas tree with people backing up the same story about how bright it was."
The light may have been caused by the annual Leonid meteor shower, which peaked Friday morning.
"This could have been a meteorite and there was some talk that their might have been a satellite going back through earth's atmosphere," Local 6 meteorologist Reynolds Wolf said. "Right now, we are thinking maybe a meteorite."
"It was bright enough to light up the patio at Florida Today," said employee Tom Deer, who is a former Air Force meteorologist.
Deer said at first he thought it was an explosion. "It was a bright streak of white light," said. "The glow lasted for about 30 seconds."
Officials at Patrick Air Force Base and the National Weather Service office in Melbourne had no firm reports on what caused the event.
School's out forever
A BRITISH teacher lurched into a War of the Worlds-style disaster when she tried to motivate her pupils by telling them a meteor was about to hit the Earth.
The teacher at the high school in Manchester, northwest England, told about 250 pupils at St Matthew's Roman Catholic High School she had bad news: a meteor would strike the Earth in 10 days, and they should go home and say their final farewells.
After many of the 13 and 14-year-olds burst into tears, she swiftly explained she was only trying to encourage them to "seize the day".
"Some of the children were 100 per cent convinced they were going to die," the father of one pupil said.
"God only knows what this teacher thought she was doing."
In 1938, Orson Welles ignited panic among thousands of Americans when his news broadcast adaptation of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds convinced many that the Martians were invading.
Scaremongers, get over it
Jay Ambrose: Scripps Howard News Service
Last Updated: November 19, 2004, 02:56:34 PM PST
(SH) - If you took a look at the Drudge Report Friday morning, as I did, you may have noticed two stories that had a certain similarity, although one of them was about a school teacher in Manchester, England, and the other about Linda Ronstadt, the singer.
The school teacher, according to an Agence France-Presse account on the Web site, wanted to persuade 250 high school students in a morning assembly that they should seize the day, that they should make every moment count.
So she told them the Earth was coming to an end. A meteor was racing toward the planet. Go home and say goodbye to your mothers and fathers, she advised.
The students - ages 13 and 14 - didn't get that she didn't mean it. They were scared to death, and some burst out in tears. The teacher stopped her tale and confessed the truth. The students apparently were not amused. Nor were their parents.
Next we come to an interview with Linda Ronstadt in USA TODAY, and we hear this singer railing about Americans so confused and benighted that they did this utterly stupid thing. They re-elected President Bush this past Nov. 2. Horrors await.
"People don't realize that by voting Republican they voted against themselves," she is quoted as saying, adding later:
"I worry that some people are entertained by the idea of this war (in Iraq). They don't know anything about Iraqis, but they're angry and frustrated in their own lives. It's like Germany, before Hitler took over. The economy was bad and people felt kicked around. They looked for a scapegoat. Now we've got a bunch of Hitlers."
The story has this in common to the one about the English school teacher: It has the potential of making straight hair go curly and curly hair go straight if anyone should believe it, although it is based on total fiction.
It is similar, too, in that Ronstadt seems to regard herself as having a teacher-student relationship with those she is addressing, the American people.
"I think you just have to carry on and do what you can to get information out to people," she told the USA TODAY reporter.
There are differences between the two stories, though.
One is that the schoolteacher knew her meteorite fantasy was just that, a fantasy, whereas Ronstadt actually seems to believe that the Bush administration is Hitlerian, which is to say, capable of the worst kinds of totalitarian abominations, such as the ushering of people into concentration camps.
It's not, of course. The administration may have made misjudgments, but not out of evil intent. Even if it were filled with the Nazi-minded, it would be hemmed in by our constitutional system of checks and balances.
The singer's imaginings wander even further into the wilderness. She seems to suppose the U.S. economy is on a par with the disastrous state of the German economy prior to Hitler's ascendancy, which is a bit like comparing a stubbed toe to a cracked skull. As for Americans being "entertained" by the war in Iraq, she should talk to a few, thereby discovering they hate the deaths of American troops and of innocent Iraqis. They hate the atrocities committed by the insurgents. They hate the expense of the war. But millions also believe it is a justified step in quelling the terrorist threat.
Another difference in the two stories is that the American people are not like the students in the classroom. For the most part, they are not going to buy such nonsense. Teacher Ronstadt found that out last June when she angered a Las Vegas audience with her dedication of a song to the Bush-bashing movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," and she and other scaremongers found it out again when the election results let them down.
Now the Ronstadts of this nation - and that includes not just a number of confused celebrities but also a host of liberal columnists, a bunch of academics and anyone who has seriously threatened to move to Canada - must recover from their fearful phantasms.
No meteor is going to hit the planet and Hitler does not reside in the White House. We Americans have our differences, but we can resolve them through a political system that continues to sail smoothly ahead, despite the icebergs some supposed were directly ahead.
Comment: Nice piece of damage control. When a famous person uses their notoriety to start speaking out against the government, spin doctors are immediately employed to downplay, ridicule or debunk their comments.
Ronstadt makes some very astute observations about the actions of the current regime and the economy, seemingly mirroring the events in Nazi Germany prior to WWII.
Regular readers of the Signs of the Times will likely enjoy the irony of the last paragraph.
|Meteorite 'photographed' hitting Earth|
|By Nigel Adlam|
Created: November 24, 2004
Territory scientists were last night studying what could be the first photograph of a meteorite hitting Earth.
The chances of an impact being captured on film are millions to one.
The photograph was taken by keen amateur photographer Wayne Pryde as he stood near the Darwin Cenotaph on The Esplanade and looked down to Fort Hill Wharf on Monday evening.
The meteorite, which could have been as small as a grain of sand, would have been travelling about 30,000km/h.
Mr Pryde believes a tiny piece of space rock hit the top of a 20m lamp post on the wharf.
He said the explosion on impact could be seen clearly in the photograph.
The "tube'' created by the meteorite as it hurtled towards Earth is harder to pick out.
"I was taking a series of time-lapse pictures of the build-up of clouds,'' Mr Pryde said.
"I did not realise I had snapped the meteorite until later.'' [...]
He said most of the thousands of meteors heading towards Earth burnt up before landing.
"Nobody has ever photographed one hitting Earth,'' he said.
"But I doubt this very much - the trajectory is too straight,'' he said.
Rocks of all ages tell story
(New Zealand) - A few hundred metres off the coast of Northland stand tiny islets that may tell the story of the biggest catastrophe in the history of life on Earth.
Arrow Rocks, just off Tauranga Bay about 40km north of the Bay of Islands, are so small that you can clamber round the main rock in about 10 minutes.
The other rock is even smaller, but more treacherous, rising from the waves like a sharp arrow head - or, as the Maori saw it, a bird's beak. They named the islet Oruatemanu, "two birds" or perhaps "the bird's home".
You can see at once why these rocks have drawn geologists from several Japanese universities this week for their eighth field trip in as many years. In the eroded cliff faces and caves, layer upon layer of multicoloured rocks have been twisted into rollercoaster patterns by years of folding and deformation.
These are not just any old rocks. This is one of a handful of places on the globe where you can see rocks that were laid down just before, during and immediately after something awful that happened 251 million years ago.
Almost instantaneously, geologically speaking, 90 per cent of the living species that existed at that time were wiped out - a far worse disaster even than the meteorite that hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago and destroyed about half the species of that time, including the dinosaurs.
At the end of what geologists call the Permian era, named after the Russian city of Perm where 250 million-year-old rocks were first found, the dinosaurs had not yet evolved.
Only about 120 million years before, the first amphibians had ventured out of the protection of the sea on to a raw land.
By Permian times a whole zoo of land animals had evolved - creatures called synapsids, or mammal-like reptiles including huge plant-eaters the size of rhinos, and sabre-toothed meat-eaters that jumped on the backs of the plant-eaters and ripped their skins with their teeth.
The land was covered in mosses and ferns, with a few early trees around the margins of lakes and rivers. Spiders, beetles and a wide variety of insects had evolved in the undergrowth. The sea teemed with tiny plankton, snails, seafloor plants and fish.
Then suddenly, 251 million years ago, the fossil record preserved at places such as Arrow Rocks shows that most of these life forms disappeared. Plants died and were replaced by fungus. Of 74 species of amphibians and reptiles, only two survived.
Auckland University geologist Bernhard Sporli, who is working with the Japanese on Arrow Rocks, says it was a terrible time.
"You had general wildfires, dust that went into the atmosphere. The effects were not measured in months but in years. It could have been dark for a whole year."
With no sunlight, photosynthesis stopped and plants died. Eventually the animals that fed on them followed.
But the causes are a mystery.
"We just don't know," says Dr Chris Hollis of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, who was at Tauranga Bay this week. [...]
"One thing is clear, however. The biggest mass extinction of all time did happen 251 million years ago, and even if we cannot yet fully explain why, it is important to look at the consequences of cutting life down to 10 per cent or less of its normal diversity. There are lessons to be learnt."
A local star gazer finds a fallen star
By Jim Konkoly
Created: 1, December, 2004
COSHOCTON -- For the second time in her life, a falling star has come within a few yards of Phyllis Rice.
"My heavens," she said last week when Coshocton High School science teacher Dan Zielinski examined the unusual rock she had found lodged in the screen of her patio door.
Zielinski confirmed what Rice suspected.
During the last meteor shower on the nights of Nov. 15 and 16, a small falling star hit the home of Phyllis and her husband Larry Rice at 1921 Adams Street.
About a half inch in diameter, black on one side and a rusty, burnt orange color on the other, this rock has all the characteristics of a meteorite, said Zielinski, who teaches astronomy and other sciences at the high school and directs the planetarium at Central Elementary School.
"I'm not the expert on meteorites," he added. "But I can say it's highly likely that this is a meteorite, a falling star, based on the texture and the color, and the angle of impact on the screen." [...]
'Sonic Boom' rattles Opp
By Kim Henderson
Created: 1, December, 2004
(Florida) - A loud noise that sounded like a "boom" roused the normally peaceful community of Opp Tuesday morning.
Law enforcement officials and residents living near Hub Brown Road heard "a very loud shaking noise" yesterday and became concerned.
According to Covington County Emergency Management Agency/E-911 Director Kristi Stamnes, a call came into dispatch Tuesday morning in reference to a disturbing noise that shook portions of the Covington County neighborhood.
A law enforcement officer made the call to E-911, Stamnes said, and an anxious community awaited to see what the ruckus was all about.
Fairly early in the day Tuesday, the E-911 director described that she knew little of the situation.
"The only thing we have had is a call in reference to some type of sonic boom (in Opp)," she stated. "It could be that Eglin (Air Force Base) could be testing over that way."
Calls to Eglin Air Force Base in Northwest Florida, in neighboring Okaloosa County, resulted in little information, as base officials could not confirm any type of testing Tuesday. [...]
Richmond Mystery Booms Continue
By Jim Nolan
Created: Dec 4, 2004
Residents in the Bellevue neighborhood of Richmond's North Side were shaken and stirred yesterday by another mysterious boom.
The explosion was heard around 9:49 a.m. and prompted at least 35 calls to 911, said Richmond fire Lt. Keith Vida.
Reports placed the origin of the boom in the 1400 block of Wilmington Avenue.
Officials were unsure what caused the explosion. Vida said investigators searching the area were unable to find evidence of the household materials used in a number of the chemical-reaction explosive devices detonated in the area in the past month.
Two Ginter Park teenage boys have been arrested in connection with several of the explosions. Officials have said they are considering felony charges against four more suspects. Simply making or possessing the explosive devices is considered a crime.
To date, the booms have not injured people, nor have they caused serious damage to property. However, a number of homeowners in the area have reported cracks in their walls they attribute to the explosions.
Still, authorities are not convinced all of the booms can be accounted for by pranksters.
The city is expected to bring in special equipment over the next couple of days to help monitor the ground for possible seismic activity.
"We want to look above and below ground," Vida said. "We will continue the investigation."
Meteorite caused flashes: expert
By staff writers
Created:December 6, 2004
STRANGE flashes of light, vibrations and loud rumblings heard early today by residents along the New South Wales coast could be caused by a meteorite, according to one expert.
The flashes are said to have occurred about 4am AEDT. ABC Radio received reports from listeners from Coffs Harbour to Wollongong.
Rob McNaught, from the Siding Springs Observatory at Coonabarabran, says it has all the hallmarks of a meteorite which came within 20km of the earth's surface, the ABC reported.
One caller, Dorothy, from near Macksville, told the ABC Mid-North Coast Breakfast program of her experience.
"I'd only just got out of bed and I was looking out a northerly facing window and to me it just lit up the hills," she said.
"It didn't seem to come out of the sky like lightning does... I thought it might have been a vehicle light's flashing, but it was too much of a flash for that and it may have been five minutes later that there was a low rumble."
BOOM! ... What the heck was that?
By Adam C. Holland, Sun Staff
Created: 6, December, 2004
Mysterious blasts, flashes in the sky have Tyngsboro residents rattled
TYNGSBORO Looking south from his home on Curtis Road Tuesday night, Chris Lyons saw the bright flash light up the clouds.
About three seconds later came the boom a deep thump that shook his entire house.
From Hudson, N.H., to the Chelmsford line, the eastern half of Tyngsboro has been rocked with well over a dozen of these mysterious, pulsating booms over the past five weeks, rattling both windows and nerves.
Lyons said he knows a thing or two about explosives. As a youngster, the engineer used to mess around with M-80s or fashion homemade explosives under proper adult supervision, of course out of black gunpowder and aluminum piping.
"Those are like sparklers compared to what is going on here," Lyons said. "If this were in a house, there would not be a board left. The house would be pulverized.
"Ten sticks of dynamite might not completely blow up a house," Lyons added. "But what happened that night ... I can't even describe it. For a guy who's not afraid of this stuff, my God, I felt very intimidated.
"All I could think of, to tell you the truth, was my son going to school the next day, and it was unsettling," Lyons said.
All reported incidents have occurred after dark, mostly between 7 and 9 p.m. Nearly all of them have been reported on Mondays and Tuesdays.
When the bangs were first heard in late October, police called the Federal Aviation Administration, thinking they might have been sonic booms from aircraft. They were not.
Residents didn't report the incidents at first, thinking they were related to demolition or construction projects that might be happening in the area. Blasting permits are only allowed during daytime hours, and none were issued during this time period.
Callers initially reported seeing bright flashes of light in the hills west of the Firehouse Restaurant & Lounge which is about a half-mile south of the Tyngsboro Bridge and to the east, near the banks of the Merrimack River. Most of the flashes were white, but other eyewitnesses have reported seeing orange and red flashes. One resident said she saw blue lightning-like streaks.
"I didn't think anything of it," said Jackie Baker, who lives down the road from the Firehouse Restaurant. "But then, when it shook the house... ."
On Nov. 1, police received dozens of calls reporting at least six incidents between about 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. The Lowell and Chelmsford police departments also investigated similar complaints stemming from the same incidents.
Tyngsboro patrol cars were even in the area during all of the bangs, but officers could not pinpoint their location. Riding on all-terrain vehicles the next day, other officers searched the expansive woods west of the Boston University Corporate Education Center campus, where some thought the blasts might have originated.
More booms were heard Nov. 2, Nov. 9, Nov. 23 and Nov. 30.
"It was very loud," said Henry Moulton, who lives on Lawrence Road, just south of the school complex on Norris Road. "Something like a bomb exploding in World War II."
"I thought it was in my back yard," said Moulton's wife, Yvette. "I thought maybe the swimming pool had blown up."
It took nearly 10 minutes for Henry Moulton to get through to the police dispatcher, whose telephone line was flooded with dozens of similar calls.
What is especially baffling is that, to date, no one has reported finding any evidence of explosions, such as burn marks, splintered wood or rock or other debris.
"There's got to be something, somewhere," said Ellen Lyons.
It would seem unlikely that the blasts are being caused by dynamite or more modern explosives. In the wake of 9-11, even blasting caps must be painstakingly accounted for, making it nearly impossible to misplace such materials without drawing attention from federal investigators. Some residents suspect the blasts could be homemade concoctions of fertilizer, chemicals or explosive gases.
"We definitely want to get to the bottom of this ... absolutely," said Selectman Kevin O'Connor.
Deputy Police Chief Richard Burrows said the police don't know what's causing the low-pitched booms and are looking for the public's help.
Comment: First we have mystery booms in Richmond Virginia, now more booms accompnaied by lights in the sky in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Just what is going on...?
Meteorite lands in Polonnaruwa
by Manjula Fernando
Created: 7, December, 2004
Further studies are being conducted into the fallen meteorite found at the Sankabodhi Viharaya, Polonnaruwa by the Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies to find its definite origin.
The tests are to determine whether the object which shows certain magnetic qualities, is from the asteroid belt, inner solar system or outside the solar system, Dr. Chandana Jayaratne said.
This asteroid which fell to the Sankabodi Viharaya on November 27, creating a fissure 3.6 cm in length, 3.3 cm in width and 3 cm in depth has now been confirmed to be a rare type iron meteorite by the Arthur C Clarke Institute for Modern Technologies after an X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry analysis and several other tests, Dr. Jayaratne said.
A resident monk has seen a blue smoke tail when it came down. According to eye witnesses the object was shining metallic blue but within 24 hours it has turned brownish black due to oxidation after contact with oxygen in the earth's atmosphere.
The meteorite weighing 47.015 grms. consists of elements Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe and Zn and was the first outer space object to be tested since the setting up of the meteorite testing laboratory at the Clarke Institute.
Comment: Few people are aware of the number of "space rocks" that have been raining down on us over the past few years. Is it possible that there really is something out there headed this way? All of the signs suggest that there is, but don't expect to hear anything about it in the mainstream media. They are not interested in real journalism or putting facts together to really inform the public. The public's job is to remain distracted by the banalities of daily life and things like Janet Jackson's right breast. Such things are much more interesting and important than the prospect of impending planetary catastrophe, aren't they
See our recently updated Signs Meteor Supplement for the facts on what has been going on in the heavens for the past three years.
By Richard Macey
After circling the sun for billions of years it exploded over northern NSW yesterday with the force of about 500 tonnes of TNT, shaking people from their sleep and lighting up the pre-dawn sky.
As worried Taree residents phoned police, a shockwave from the meteor's blast was heard by networks of sensitive microphones set up near Hobart and Tennant Creek to listen for secret nuclear tests.
"We saw the shockwave for about five minutes," said David Brown, a scientist from the Federal Government's Geoscience Australia, which runs the listening posts.
Dr Brown said the data showed that the meteor, travelling west to east, broke into about five parts high in the sky just north of Taree at 4.18am.
"Any debris would have fallen into the sea," he said, adding that Geoscience Australia's earthquake monitoring stations did not detect any ground impact.
Dr Brown said the explosion was probably equal to that of about 500 tonnes of TNT but could have been as big as that of 1000 tonnes.
Graham Bird, of Taree police, was among those who heard the meteor's arrival. "I certainly woke up," he said. "It sounded like really heavy thunder."
Police received reports of the blast from Wollongong to Coffs Harbour, and his own station received about 70 calls, he said.
"We had a few truck drivers say the sky lit up for about four seconds and that it was like daylight," he said.
The blast woke Warren Burnes, owner of a prawn trawler, who was at home in Harrington, 40 kilometres north of Taree.
"I thought it was the local petrol station exploding," he said. "It was very, very loud. I jumped up in bed and looked outside but I saw nothing. Everyone heard it. It made my sister-in-law's baby cry."
A Manly caller to Angela Catterns's ABC radio program said the jolt knocked a painting off her wall, smashing the glass. "It scared the daylights out of me."
Rob McNaught, an astronomer at Siding Spring, near Coonabarabran, said meteors typically entered the atmosphere at about 20 kilometres a second and started glowing 90 kilometres up.
The boom heard by residents suggested that yesterday's meteor was less than 50 kilometres up when it exploded.
If made from stone or iron the meteor was probably at least as big as a basketball.
Mr McNaught said there was a chance that security cameras in eastern NSW recorded the fireball, or at least its reflected glow.
New Comet Now Visible to Naked Eye
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer, Space.com
Created: 07 December 2004
A comet discovered earlier this year has now moved close enough to be visible without binoculars or telescopes by experienced observers under dark skies. It is expected to put on a modest show this month and into January.
Comet Machholz will be at its closest to Earth Jan. 5-6, 2005, when it will be 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) away.
People with dark rural skies and a good map should be able to find it on Moon-free nights now into January.
Backyard astronomers have been watching Machholz for months through telescopes. It was spotted by naked-eye observers for the first time about three weeks ago from the Southern Hemisphere, said Donald Machholz, who discovered the frozen chunk of rock and ice in August.
"I saw it last night for the first time with the naked eye," Machholz told SPACE.com Friday. [...]
Astronomers cannot say exactly how bright Machholz will get, because it is notoriously difficult to predict the behavior of comets making their first observed close trip around the Sun. Scientists don't fully understand the composition of comets, nor their variety, so they don't know how much stuff will sublimate nor how fast.
Machholz is expected to reach magnitude 4.0, based on an early estimate. On this astronomers' scale, smaller numbers represent brighter objects. The dimmest things visible under perfectly dark skies are around magnitude 6.5. The brightest star, Sirius, is magnitude minus 1.42. [...]
The Andromeda Galaxy is the furthest object visible to the unaided human eye under dark skies. It is a magnitude 3.4 object.
If the comet were to become roughly magnitude 3.0, it would still appear common among the sea of stars available to dark-sky observers. City and suburban dwellers would likely not find it without optical aid. In either case, binoculars or a small telescope might reveal the comet as more of a fuzzy patch, and if it develops a significant tail, that could be visible too.
Machholz, who has found nine other comets, suggests looking for his latest discovery when the Moon is out of the picture, such as around Dec. 11 when it will be at its New phase.
"The comet can still be seen when the Moon is out, but it will be difficult," he said by email. "Use binoculars or a wide-field (low power) telescope, and/or get to a dark site."
The comet is low on the horizon now, where the atmosphere makes for poor viewing. By early January, the comet will be much higher in the sky, improving viewing conditions.
Comment: This new comet was only discovered four months ago. Note also the comment about how it is quite difficult to predict the behavior of newly discovered comets making their first observed trip around the sun. It also seems to be rather difficult for scientists to find and predict the paths of many other near-Earth objects, such as meteors. See our recently updated Meteors, Asteroids, Comets, and NEOs Supplement for more details.
We are also in the process of updating our other Signs Supplements, and even adding new ones.
Sonic boom? Perhaps
Created: Friday, December 10, 2004
Some likened it to noiseless thunder.
Others said they heard a boom, while still others suspected an earthquake.
Whatever it was that shook Saginaw on Thursday afternoon left many residents puzzled.
"I was on the phone with my uncle about 2 p.m. when I felt the house kind of shake," said Beverly J. Nothelfer, 54, who lives along Irving in Saginaw.
"It kind of felt like when thunder shakes the house, but I didn't hear anything. It was like an explosion without the noise."
Employees at Princing & Ewend, a public relationbs and marketing firm along Niagara next to the Holland Street Bridge in Saginaw, also were left shaken.
"I heard a boom, but louder than normal," said Andrea L. Fisher, 28, of Midland, president of the company.
"We're right next to the bridge and big trucks go over it all the time, and the big ones can cause a kind of rattle here. But this was louder than anything in the past. We heard it more than felt it.
"Our creative director, Greg Branch, came over from the other end of the building and asked, 'Did you guys feel
"I felt a vibration," Branch said. "Occasionally you get that if a double-trailer truck goes over the bridge and hits a bump. I even looked out the window to see the truck, but there wasn't any.
"I knew it wasn't an earthquake because of the noise."
Some folks old enough to remember sonic booms are wondering if an errant aircraft pushed across the sky too fast.
Branch said he's starting to believe that's what caused the excitement.
"It sounded a lot like it, but then I thought, 'Nah, we don't have (sonic booms) anymore.' "
Sonic booms result when objects move faster than the speed of sound -- about 760 mph, depending on the altitude. Sonic booms were known to break windows in homes and shake plaster loose. Congress outlawed them over land in the 1970s.
Experts are ruling out a temblor.
"Michigan has not had an earthquake," Carolyn C. Bell, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters in Reston, Va., said Thursday.
The agency's nearest seismograph, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is sensitive enough to detect tremors well into Canada, she said.
Big 'boom rattles glass, trips alarms
By: Jared Denniston
A fire that gutted a chemical plant in southwest Houston Friday night sent shockwaves throughout the area and sent local fire department units scurrying, trying to locate the explosion that residents called in to report.
Despite being in the 14500 block of Minetta in Houston, the explosion at the Marcus Oil and Chemical plant, which manufactures polyethylene waxes for products such as paints and inks, sent giant plumes of black smoke into the evening sky shortly after the facility caught fire around 6 p.m.
According to Pearland Volunteer Fire Department Chief Paul Jamison, the aftermath of the explosion had many residents on the west side of Pearland wondering what happened.
"A lot of (the blast) was felt throughout the city," said Jamison. "The phone calls kept coming in but nobody was really sure about a location."
After placing a call to the Houston Fire Department, he said, firefighters finally found out that the blast was about 20 miles away.
Residents as far away as Friendswood and Clear Lake reported to various media outlets that they had heard the blast, described by one earwitness as like a sonic boom in the distance.
To others, however, the explosion seemed like it was right on top of them.
Rick Fernandez, who works for the Pearland Police Department, said he was inside a Pearland store, right off of FM 518, when he heard the blast.
"I heard a boom. I didn't know what the heck it was," said Fernandez. "I thought somebody hit the building."
Officials doubt that the fire produced any airborne toxins that could be a threat to the area.
At the time of the fire, Jamison said, the winds were coming out of the east and would have blown any hazardous materials away from the city anyway.
No serious injuries were reported in the fire.
'Ball of Fire' in Sky Was Meteor Shower
By Martin Weil and Clarence Williams
Created: Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page C07
Not long after nightfall yesterday, the calls started coming in at police departments across the Washington region.
Callers, acting out of curiosity or a sense of responsibility, or both, gave accounts of bright lights flashing across the sky.
"It looked like a ball of fire falling out of the sky," said Cpl. Cynthia Brown, a Maryland State Police dispatcher, recounting what a caller from the Golden Ring area of Baltimore County told her about 7:30 p.m.
It appeared last night that the callers were witnessing part of the Geminid meteor shower.
In general, meteors, or shooting stars, are bits of cosmic dust that burn up as they speed through the atmosphere. The dust usually comes from the deterioration of comets, but scientists say asteroid debris may have produced the Geminids, which are visible in the southern sky.
This manifestation of astronomical pyrotechnics is expected to reach its peak tomorrow night and Tuesday morning. But the shower, which began making its presence known about the beginning of last week, was vivid enough last night for a number of witnesses.
One of them, near Middletown in the western part of Frederick County, told state police of a "fiery ball coming out of the sky," according to a communications officer.
The state police barracks in Pikesville, near Baltimore, got calls about "bright lights shooting through the sky." And in Fairfax County, residents of the Great Falls area telephoned authorities with similar accounts.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office told of receiving a number of reports, some of them speculating about the possibility that an unidentified flying object might have been streaking through the skies.
"We sure have" been getting such calls, said a dispatcher at the Fauquier County Sheriff's Office. He said callers gave information about "fire in the sky."
At the Maryland State Police barracks in Waterloo in Howard County, Brown tried to get information from her caller about where the bright falling object might have landed.
"There was no telling," she said. The caller said it just fell. There were no reports last night of anything on the ground being struck.
The flurry of calls was not a total surprise. Les Dorr, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, indicated that the shower was "nothing that was not expected."
The Geminids are so named because they seem to come from the constellation Gemini. But they appear not to be as well known as other showers that occur throughout the year. One reason might be that they occur in December, making outdoor viewing somewhat less pleasant.
1952 military engagement with UFOs myth or mystery?
Created: Dec 10, 5:16 PM
BY Billy Cox
In an account of a military engagement sure to leave critics scoffing, a UFO investigator claims more than a dozen U.S. Air Force jet fighters were destroyed by flying saucers on a single day in 1952. But not before their guns and rockets crippled several UFOs that wound up making emergency landings in rural West Virginia.
"I know how it sounds," says Frank Feschino, the Port Orange artist whose new book attempts to reconstruct what would be the biggest dogfight since the Marianas Turkey Shoot in 1944. "But I think it's going to come out real soon. There's a lot of guys out there who know what happened but are too scared to talk."
Feschino's book -- "The Braxton County Monster: The Cover-Up of the Flatwoods Monster Revealed" (Quarrier Press, $29.95) -- revisits a mystery that has been a part of West Virginia lore for more than half a century.
At its core are a dozen eyewitnesses to a strange, robotic creature that appeared on a hilltop following the crash of an alleged meteor on the evening of Sept. 12, 1952. But following an investigation that took 14 years to research and write, Feschino claims the beginning of the incident involved a UFO air battle that began in Florida, shifted to the Eastern seaboard and ended in an Air Force whitewash.
Thirty five years ago this month, the USAF officially terminated its UFO study, called Project Blue Book, by concluding there were no national security aspects to the phenomenon. Arguably the most hectic phase of Blue Book's 22-year existence was 1952, when a record 1,501 reports were logged. July was the busiest month. Warplanes were scrambled to chase nocturnal UFOs that buzzed Washington, D.C., on consecutive weekends.
Even Patrick Air Force Base got splashed by the wave on July 18 of that year, when seven on-base airmen observed a series of silent amber-red objects approaching restricted air space late one evening. One UFO passed directly overhead before pulling a 180-degree U-turn and disappearing to the west. According to the Blue Book reports, none of the objects were spotted on radar and no planes were dispatched to confront them.
Blue Book ruled the avalanche of UFO sightings across the southeast on Sept. 12, 1952, could be attributed to a meteor.
But no meteor showers were scheduled for that night, and the Harvard Meteor Project, which tracked 2,500 cosmic fireballs from 1952 to '54, recorded no activity on that date.
Feschino also quotes Indian Harbour Beach astronomer Hal Povenmire, author of "Fireballs, Meteors and Meteorites," as dismissing the meteor explanation. Povenmire declined to comment on Feschino's book, but he reiterated his stance for FLORIDA TODAY:
"It definitely wasn't a meteor." [...]
UFO 'explodes' in China
Created: 13/12/2004 07:34 - (SA)
Beijing - An unidentified flying object, or UFO, passed across the large north-western Chinese city of Lanzhou and apparently exploded in the suburbs, state media said on Monday.
The unusual sighting of two bright trails of light, reported by several witnesses, took place on Saturday shortly before midnight, the China Times reported.
Police, working on the theory that it was a meteorite, went to investigate the matter, but as of early Monday they had found no evidence of what caused the nightly phenomenon, an officer said by telephone.
A taxi driver told the paper he was in his car when everything suddenly became "as bright as day."
When he pulled over, he saw a fireball with a tail of about three metres darting across the sky, he said.
One witness who was on the late shift at his company reported the courtyard outside his office was suddenly bathed in a ghostly red light as the object passed overhead, the paper said.
Others said they heard a huge explosion and felt as if an earthquake had struck.
China has been hit by several waves of UFO sighting in recent years, and the country has a research association devoted to the study of possible extraterrestrial visits.
Comment: For more stories like this one, see our new UFO Supplement and our updated Meteor Supplement.
|Mass Meteorite Sighting in Gansu Province|
Created: 2004-12-14 17:22
Hundreds of people in northwest China's Gansu Province witnessed an unidentified flying object (UFO) Saturday night, and local police are searching for what may have dropped in the area.
Witnesses in Gansu's capital Lanzhou said that a strange shining object swept through the sky at about 11:36 p.m. Saturday, following by earthshaking sounds like bombing. They also reported that an ensuing tremble was felt within 100 sq km from Lanzhou.
One of them, a driver surnamed Zhang, said that he saw a shining ball with a three-meter-long trail flying from west to east and heard two thunders right after, when he was driving from Lanzhou city to neighboring Yongdeng county.
The local public security department confirmed that they have received more than 700 reports on the case, some saying it was an earthquake, and others saying it was an aerolite falling. The department has sent policemen to search for possible fallen objects but found nothing so far.
Liu Yanan, astronomy professor at the Northwest Normal University, said that it might be a meteoroid entering the earth's atmosphere.
Fireball creates a lot of interest
Created: Wednesday, 15 December 2004
At approximately 4.15am, Monday morning, December 6, a large bright object was seen streaking across the coastal fringes of the mid-north coast of NSW.
A large number of callers inundated the John Kerr 2UE radio program with eyewitness reports of a fast moving 'meteor' trailing a greenish-blue hue passing across the night sky before exploding in a series of bright flashes. An eerie, constant, low rumbling sound accompanied the explosions.
Reports came from as far north as Coffs Harbour to Wollongong in the south.
News editor of SKY & SPACE Magazine, and editor of 'Astronomy Media Services', Dave Reneke of Wauchope fielded over a dozen enquiries that morning from radio stations across the state who picked up on the story and gave an educated analysis of the event. He spoke at length with John Kerr in an interview that morning to encapsule the information and provide an insight into the reports.
He said it appears a large 'bolide' or meteor entered the atmosphere in the early morning hours and, moving at roughly 30km/sec, became extremely hot due to friction, turning into possibly a 'fireball' before finally exploding and splitting into at least 3 or separate 4 pieces. "The rumbling sounds associated with the event may have been due to the compression of air from the object's high speed" David said.
The descriptions by some observers of a seeing a "greenish hue" or 'tail" suggest a mineral content, possibly copper or some similar element, which tends to categorise it as something of natural composition, as opposed to man-made space junk.
David said reports as graphic as this are very rare and, due to the apparent large size of this object, put this incident above the 'normal' meteorite sighting category. David estimated the size of the object to be around the size of a suitcase - or even a small bar fridge.
David Finlay, from the Wollongong Amateur Astronomy Club contacted David to add that an Australian monitoring station, Geoscience, recorded the acoustic signal from its two bases at Tenant Creek and Hobart and estimated the yield of the bolide between 200 Tonnes to 1 Kilotonne. They produced a map showing the hypothesised source location which they said was fairly close to Kempsey, in the Macleay area of NSW.
Given that the object was travelling from west to east, it is likely that any fragments fell into the Pacific, however the source location is only an estimation and the strewn field could be large for such a massive object. It is still possible however that some fragments impacted on land .
Mysterious booms have shattered stillness for hundreds of years
By Jason Hardin
Created: Monday, December 13, 2004
It was 1:30 in the afternoon. The skies were clear of storms. It was a typical summer day. Nothing unusual to report.
But Aug. 1, 2003, suddenly turned into a strange day for the Lowcountry.
A booming noise swept across the area, rattling windows and startling residents, including one Reynolds Pommering of Mount Pleasant.
Pommering, who had been surfing the Internet in his apartment, said he expected the worst: A plane crash; a terrible explosion; a terrorist attack.
"I jumped up from what I was doing and ran out the front door. I really thought something bad had happened," he said.
But there was nothing to see.
As suddenly as it had started, the noise had vanished. It left behind no trace of a cause.
That deep, resonating boom was only the most recent in a string of mystery noises that stretches back hundreds of years, perhaps beyond. No official record apparently exists, but it seems to occur at least every few years.
The pattern is the same each time.
Telephone calls pour in to various authorities, who have no answers.
Military officials say it wasn't a jet smashing through the sound barrier. Emergency officials report no explosions or similar catastrophes. Meteorologists say it's not thunder. Seismographs reveal no substantial seismic activity, let alone a sizable earthquake. There is a theory, however.
The noise -- and perhaps many others like it over the years -- was an example of Seneca Guns, a folk term given to unexplained noises frequently heard along the East Coast.
The Seneca Guns might be mysterious, but they are real, seismological and meteorological experts agree. They have been reported as far back as the 1700s. The name comes from Seneca Lake in New York, where unexplained booming noises have been heard for centuries. James Fenimore Cooper (author of "The Last of the Mohicans") wrote about the phenomenon in a short story more than 150 years ago.
More recently, the booms have been heard frequently along the coast of North Carolina, particularly around Wilmington.
While experts agree that some of the noises might be Seneca Guns, there is less agreement on what, exactly, a Seneca Gun is.
There are plenty of ideas, however. Some are outlandish, some simple. Some involve spaceships taking off from the bottom of the ocean. And some are really weird.
Tyler Clark, chief geologist for the North Carolina Geological Survey, has heard them all: Sonic booms from far off that carry over the oceans; methane gas explosions from dead material on the sea floor bubbling up to the surface; underground limestone formations collapsing as water tables drop from relentless human thirst; little earthquakes; meteorites; UFOs.
"I've heard all kinds of crazy things," Clark said. "The bottom line is that nobody's been able to come up with an explanation for it."
Many have speculated that seismic activity, perhaps small, localized tremors, might be causing the noises.
Clark discounts that idea. "The problem that we have is that earthquakes, contrary to popular belief, don't make a whole lot of noise," he said.
Earthquakes, except perhaps huge ones, don't really move air. Seneca Guns, however, seem to travel through the air, behaving more like sonic booms than underground tremors.
The undersea gases idea involves organic material gradually piling up at the bottom of the ocean. A pocket of gases forms and grows. Finally, something shakes it loose, and a bubble shoots to the top, creating a massive blast that some say is what swallows ships in the Bermuda Triangle.
Some suspect the noises have a clearly explainable cause; it's just that the military doesn't want us to know what it is. This theory has the noises coming from secret jets that can fly several times the speed of sound.
On the other hand, that doesn't explain why Seneca Guns were heard back in the days before the Wright brothers, let alone the Concorde.
Peter Malin, a Duke University professor of seismology, says he knows how to tell for sure where the noises are coming from. Put a recorder under the ground, then compare the readings to an above-ground recorder.
Malin says he's ready to do the work himself. There's a problem, however: Money for a recording device, or lack thereof.
"I need about $15,000," he said.
In any case, Malin says he's certain the sounds come from the atmosphere. He's heard them, and they rattle the windows, not the floor.
His guess as to the cause? A lightning-like electrical discharge that produces a thunderous noise with no visible lightning.
Richard Thacker, a senior forecaster with the National Weather Service, is skeptical of that theory. Seneca Guns can be heard on perfectly clear days.
"I can't perceive of how that could occur without some kind of cloud," he said.
Like other experts, Thacker has ideas. The booms could stem from the first wave of cooler air to hit the warm gulf stream air. He also mentions the underwater methane gas theory. Or they could be taking place at the same time.
Or, well, it could be something else.
"I think that this is going to be a harder one to pin down than the Loch Ness monster," said Thacker. "It really is truly kind of mysterious."
The hope is that someone will feel compelled to sit down and finally solve the mystery. That might take awhile, though.
The problem is that there's no great rush to figure out the cause of the Seneca Guns. They don't hurt anyone and don't disrupt commerce. Really, they don't do much other than make people curious.
"Maybe it is aliens," said Clark, not entirely seriously. "It defies all logical explanation at this point."
New Asteroid Threat to Earth
From Nick Greene,
Created: 16, December, 2004
Although scientists have basically cleared us from any danger from asteroid 2002 NT7, which originally had been reported as an impact hazard for the year 2019, a newer space rock has been spotted, which may pose a threat even sooner.
At around 1.2 km in width, 2003 QQ47 is substantially smaller than 2002 NT7 (2km), but has been called "an event meriting careful monitoring" by astronomers. If an impact does occur, it could be on March 21, 2014.
Discovered on August 24, 2003, by the Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research Project (an MIT Lincoln Laboratory program funded by the United States Air Force and NASA) in New Mexico, 2003 QQ47 has been classified as a 1 on the Torino scale of impact hazards.
Scientists are urging calm, however, saying the odds of a catastrophic collision are only around 1 in 909,000.
The orbit of this asteroid has been calculated on only 51 observations during a seven-day period and require further observations to determine if any danger does exist. It will be monitored closely over the next two months. Astronomers expect the risk of impact to decrease significantly as more data is gathered.
If it does strike Earth, the impact could have the effect of over 20 million Hiroshima style atomic bombs. As Billy Bob Thornton says in Armageddon, ìIt's what we call a Global Killer....the end of mankind. Half the world will be incinerated by the heat blast.....the rest will freeze to death in a nuclear winter. Basically, the worst part of the Bible!î
Asteroids are rocks and debris which are the leftovers of the construction of our solar system nearly 5 billions years ago. Most are in a belt, which orbits the sun between Mars and Jupiter. However, the gravitational influence of the gas giant planets, like Jupiter, or an impact by a comet can knock these large rocks out of their safe orbit.
Needless to say, we will be monitoring this situation very closely.
Impact Potential in 2014 - Updated; No Threat
Once again, the planet can breathe a sigh of relief. After making further observations of asteroid 2003 QQ47, astronomers now say there is no threat from this rock. It has been downgraded to a zero (0) on the Torin scale, which says, "The likelihood of a collision is zero, or well below the chance that a random object of the same size will strike the Earth within the next few decades. This designation also applies to any small object that, in the event of a collision, is unlikely to reach the Earth's surface intact."
While this particular asteroid appears to not be a threat to Earth at this time, the Near Earth Object Program and other agencies continue to monitor space for other threats. After all, it is a big universe, and there are a lot of asteroids and comets out there.
Comment: First we're given a warning, then we're told to forget about it. We are informed that these scientists did some further calculations and decided that there is no danger of impact after all.
But we are also told that the gravitational influence of a large planet like Jupiter can knock these objects out of their safe orbit. So, what they're saying is that asteroid prediction is an uncertain science and there's no real way of knowing whether it will hit or not.
Sorry for raising the false alarm, now go back to sleep.
With all the recent meteor sightings being reported in the media, we don't need experts giving vague warnings anymore, all we have to do is open our eyes and see.
Meteor May Have Fallen in Salt Lake
Created:Dec. 16, 2004
This week's Geminid meteor shower may have hit really close to home this time; how about in somebody's backyard in Salt Lake City. Clark Planetarium was out today with metal detectors, searching for a chunk that could have fallen early Tuesday morning.
Meteorites of all shapes and sizes are on display at the Clark Planetarium. Unfortunately, none are from Utah. Perhaps that's why the Planetarium was more than eager to go searching for what could be a fallen space rock on the east side of Salt Lake. Clark Planetarium's Robert Bigelow was out this morning searching for what even he believes may be an elusive treasure.
Robert Bigelow, Clark Planetarium: "We have a credible witness who saw it land. I mean, most of the time you see this streak going across the sky and there's no way you can tell anywhere near close to where it landed."
That witness was KSL engineer Ken English who. 4:30 early Tuesday morning he was on his way to work along 9th east at about 3100 south.
Robert Bigelow: "And he saw what he described to us, a glowing object come down from the sky over here. Come down, come down through one of these trees. Saw some sparks come off and then he said it looked like it landed somewhere over in this area."
But somewhere is a big area to look for a small space rock.
Robert Bigelow: "Something like this or something even smaller. You can see, I mean these are really small. Some of them might even be pea size."
A small chunk would punch just a tiny hole in the ground, nothing like what happened two months ago when a two pound meteorite the size of a baseball dropped into a backyard near Denver, Colorado. But it's still interesting if a small piece fell from the Geminid shower somewhere here.
Robert Bigelow: "Most meteor showers come from comets, comet debris. But this one actually comes from an asteroid, asteroid patheon."
Incidentally, if a meteorite falls in your backyard, it's your meteorite. You decide what you want to do with it. The Planetarium of course would hope it would end up on display here.
Not a crash, not aliens
Created: Thu, Dec. 16, 2004
By Josh Hoke
The Air Force accepted responsibility for Tuesday's sonic boom, quelling 20 hours of conspiracy theories and putting a multitude of questions to rest.
Capt. Mark Gibson, chief of public affairs for the Air Force's 20th Fighter Wing, said Wednesday two F-16 fighter jets were involved in supersonic, offshore training exercises, creating the boom that shook the Strand.
The sound rattled windows, buildings and nerves throughout the region, cultivating conspiracy theories that are likely to linger despite the official explanation.
Gibson said two F-16 fighter jets were involved in authorized and routine training exercises when both of the planes crossed the sound barrier about 7:30 p.m. He said the planes were flying legally within the mandated 15-mile corridor along the coastline and above the mandated 10,000-foot altitude. He said the sound came ashore because of the weather.
"The atmospheric conditions at the time were clear and cold, and that caused the sound to [travel] a farther distance than typical," Gibson said.
Coastal Carolina University professor Louis Keiner, who teaches physics, said it's possible for the sound waves that a boom creates to travel for many miles.
Certain areas of the atmosphere have different temperatures and the sound will bounce from one area to another before being channeled in a certain direction, Keiner said. He compared it to light in a fiber-optic cable.
"You see this a lot more in the ocean where you get sound channels," he said. "Sound can travel for thousands of miles where the conditions are colder than other areas."
Theories on what caused the boom bounced through the Grand Strand on Wednesday, with opinions varying from a falling meteor to gases in the ocean to a coverup of an actual plane crash.
A meteor could produce a sonic boom when entering the atmosphere and can be described as a fireball due to its glowing flame, said Kim Youmans, a coordinator with the American Meteor Society.
"We are experiencing the Geminid meteor shower right now," said Youmans, who has watched the show from his Georgia home. "The Geminids usually don't have sonic booms with them. It could have been a sporadic meteor ... but I think the plane is a more likely explanation."
Some residents said they saw flames several miles into Tuesday night's clear sky. Gibson said those lights were flares the Air Force uses during training that burn up before they hit the ground.
Youmans pointed to Occam's razor to explain the event. That principle says the simplest, most logical answer is usually the correct one.
The media has a lot to do with the public's perceptions, or misperceptions, said Barry Markovsky, a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina.
"To a degree people come to the media to see what happened," Markovsky said. "What they report, whether true or untrue, can feed the speculation. This often gets things started."
Retired Air Force fighter pilot Coupe DeVille, who once trained over the waters off the S.C. coast, an area now called Whiskey 177, said it is possible the pilots made a mistake and flew at supersonic speeds into the 15-mile corridor, but that shouldn't worry residents.
"We have to understand that they may traverse that barrier by accident," he said. "It's definitely a part of the intensive training those guys do now."
Comment: The author of this article appears to go through quite a bit of trouble to explain how just the right conditions were present for a sonic boom to be heard from over 15 miles away. Interviewing a military captain and a Carolina University physics professor to justify the anomaly, he goes into great detail when it seems no one is really asking.
He doth protest too much.
The rash of "conspiracy theorists" were probably just looking for a reasonable explanation, as in super-sonic jets or what have you, and he adds all this extra information about cold weather and fibre-optic sound channels.
Also, the sighting of flames by witnesses doesn't seem consistent with the dropping of flares, especially from a distance over 15 miles, but it's hard to say because this story doesn't go into detail as to what exactly was witnessed.
The most revealing line in the article above is the media's role in the shaping of public perception. It seems they are well aware of the effect this kind of press release will have, and perhaps that's why he went to all that extra trouble to make it sound "plausible".
It does seem possible, even likely, that it was a meteor that made the flames and the sonic boom, and that this story was published as a cover-up and deliberate diversion from the truth.
Or perhaps we'll never know...
Posted on Thu, Dec. 16, 2004
Clarification | Information from Horry County Public Safety Director Paul Whitten in a story on A1 on Wednesday should have said U.S. Air Force jets might have caused Tuesday's sonic boom.
Meteor Suspected in Jakarta Blasts
Created: Sunday Dec 19, 2004
The Sydney Morning Herald
A large explosion was heard over Jakarta today after a suspected meteor was seen streaking across the sky over the Indonesian capital.
The blast, which came as the country is on heightened alert after warnings of an imminent extremist attack, caused brief alarm but astronomers said it was likely caused by a large meteor exploding as it fell to Earth.
Dozens of people telephoned Jakarta's el-Shinta radio to describe an object, white in appearance, crossing the sky west of Jakarta and a violent noise followed by what they said sounded like an echo. The explosion could be heard in Tangerang, just west of Jakarta, the southern suburb of Depok and as far away as Bogor, some 60 km south of the capital.
"It is difficult to say what it was because there were no clear timings between the sighting and the blast, but from what the various accounts said, it is very likely to have been a falling meteor," said astronomer Muji Raharto.
Hours after the sightings were reported at around 7.30am (1130 AEDT), it was still unclear what the object was or where it exploded. Police said they had no reports of any fallen objects and said they were still investigating the origin of the explosion.
Indonesia's security forces have been on alert after warnings from the Australian government last week that Islamic militants blamed for a series of deadly bombings in the country were planning an imminent attack in the run-up to Christmas.
Meanwhile, meteorologists in both Jakarta and Tangerang said there had been no seismic irregularities registered in those areas. Officials at Jakarta's international airport said their radars were incapable of picking up meteors.
Raharto, from the Boscha astronomical observatory in Bandung, West Java, said only specialised radar can detect falling space debris and to be visible in daylight, the falling meteor would have to be substantial in size. He also said that the suspected meteor could have exploded as it entered Earth's atmosphere, explaining the absence of any evidence of a large impact.
Raharto also said that based on the witnesses saying they heard what appeared to be an echo after the explosion, the suspected meteor could have exploded over a region with high relief, such as the hills around Jakarta. He said that it was very unlikely that the falling object was part of an obsolete satellite as some witnesses cited a clear tail behind the object.
Comment: So our planet is being rained on by meteorites; big deal, right? Forget all about the fact that there is historical evidence to support the idea that there exists a comet cluster traveling on an orbit that brings it into contact with the earth every 3600 years and that there may well be a smaller cycle within that cycle of 1600 years. Ignore the fact that the period known as the "dark ages" in Europe, which began around the middle of the 5th century AD and destroyed much of the landmass and social infrastructure of Western Europe, was very likely caused by meteorite impacts. Most importantly of all, give no credence to the fact that, assuming the 1600 year cycle is accurate, we are now overdue for this millennium's 'performance'. Shut out those annoying streaks in the sky and loud booms that are happening with alarming frequency all over the planet, and go back to the concerns of your little lives.
Unknown Energy Surges Continue to Hit Planet, Global Weather Systems in Chaos
By: Sorcha Faal
Created: December 22, 2004
An increasingly panicked global effort is now underway by the worlds top scientists to understand an unprecedented series of ëblastsí, energy surges, which the planet has been taking from as an yet unknown source which has been bombarding Antarctica with cosmic rays and disrupting Northern Hemisphere weather systems on a global scale.
The first of these cosmic ray blasts occurred nearly 5 years ago and have been increasing in their frequency and intensity since the end of November. The once normally darkened skies of the Northern Hemispheres Arctic regions are now in twilight due to these blasts. Wayne Davidson, from the Canadian Government's weather station at Resolute Bay, located in the Arctic Circle, says about this mysterious lighting, "The entire horizon is raised like magic, like the hand of God is bringing it up.î
On December 1, 2004 the largest recorded blast sent not only shockwaves through the world scientific community but also through the Northern Hemisphere resulting in one of the largest weather events in recorded human history when 86,800 square miles of China was shrouded in fog, bringing transportation systems (especially air travel) to a virtual standstill throughout the country.
As reported by the BBC in this article from October, 2002 (see previous article), ìGerman scientists have found a significant piece of evidence linking cosmic rays to climate change. They have detected charged particle clusters in the lower atmosphere that were probably caused by the space radiation. They say the clusters can lead to the condensed nuclei which form into dense clouds.î
These German scientists from the from the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg go on to say that their measurements "have for the first time detected in the upper troposphere large positive ions with mass numbers up to 2500", and "Our observations provide strong evidence for the ion-mediated formation and growth of aerosol particles in the upper troposphere."
What they hadnít expected to happen though has been the large scale occurrences of this over the past few weeks, to include China on December 2nd and 14th and then India on the 21st, which is due to both Chinaís and Indiaís reliance on fossil fuels and the continuing degradation of their air quality.
The effects of these blasts have also been felt throughout the rest of the Northern Hemisphere resulting in such freak occurrences as, hurricane force winds in Paris , Germany, Canada, Russia, England and the United States on an almost simultaneous basis. Accompanying these hurricane force winter winds have been the massive cold fronts following them dropping normal winter lows to record lows throughout the entire Northern Hemisphere.
Though not yet at a point to acknowledge this publicly, some of the worldís top scientists are beginning to see an astrophysical correlation between these cosmic ray blasts to our planet and an ever increasing number of global events relating to atmospheric explosions of inbound meteors, such as those in Indonesia, where a meteorite was picked up by their Air Forces radar, China, where a meteorite explosion turned ënight into dayí and Washington D.C. where one police official stated, "It looked like a ball of fire falling out of the sky." (Ed: See our Signs Metoerite Supplement for the true extent of the phenomenon)
The worldís top scientists have begun coordinating with Dr. Eun-Suk Seo from the United States University of Maryland, and her team, in a ësearchí for answers to the origin of these cosmic ray blasts directed from an unknown origin in space towards the South Pole and disrupting our global weather systems.
Under Dr. Eun-Suk Seo her and her international teamís direction NASA launched a stratospheric balloon on December 20th from Antarcticaís McMurdo base and have stated, ìThe balloon, following circulation of winds high, will sail around the ice continent for about three weeks. During this time, data of great scientific interest will be gathered. These data concern flows of charged particles of highest energy (cosmic rays) coming from Space.î
But as one Russian scientist said to us, and who wished to remain anonymous, ìWhy this game? We all know whatís happening.î an apparent reference to the fact though these events are well known to both world governments and the scientific establishments they are beyond the understanding of the general public at large.
Whatever the end results these experiments reveal for these scientists, it remains an undisputed fact that this world of ours is facing a type of global cataclysmic event buried in our common geological past, and maybe, as some social scientists report, in our common ancestral memory also.
Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth
By Robert Roy Britt
Created: 22 December 2004
Astronomers spotted an asteroid this week after it had flown past Earth on a course that took it so close to the planet it was below the orbits of some satellites.
The space rock was relatively small, however, and would not have posed any danger had it plunged into the atmosphere.
The object, named 2004 YD5, was about 16 feet (5 meters) wide, though that's a rough estimate based on its distance and assumed reflectivity. Had it entered the atmosphere, it would have exploded high up, experts figure.
The asteroid passed just under the orbits of geostationary satellites, which at 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) altitude are the highest manmade objects circling Earth. Most other satellites, along with the International Space Station, circle the planet at just a few hundred miles up.
2004 YD5 is the second closest pass of an asteroid ever observed by telescope, according to the Asteroid/Comet Connection, a web site that monitors space rock discoveries. The closest involved a rock that flew by last March and was not announced until August.
2004 YD5 was discovered Tuesday, Dec. 21 by Stan Pope, who volunteers his time to examine images provided by the FMO (Fast Moving Object) project, an online program run by the University of Arizona's Spacewatch Project. After the initial detection, other observers noted the object's position during the day and its path was then calculated back. Closest approach occurred on Dec. 19.
The rock approached Earth from near the Sun and so would have been nearly impossible to detect prior to close passage. It soared over Antarctica -- underneath the planet, Washington State University researcher Pasquale Tricarico told the Asteroid/Comet Connection.
Astronomers are aware of this significant blind spot for asteroids that approach Earth while in the glare of the Sun. Only a space telescope could detect such objects before they arrive.
Asteroids orbit the Sun, mostly in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. Some are redirected closer to the Sun, often by gravitational nudges provided by the planets. Earth has been hit by devastatingly large asteroids many times in the distant past. Astronomers say sooner or later the planet will be struck again, but the odds of a large impact occurring in any given century are extremely small.
This has been an interesting year for asteroid encounters.
On March 18, a giant boulder about 100 feet (30 meters) wide passed just above the orbits of geostationary satellites. Its path was bent about 15 degrees by Earth's gravity. The asteroid, 2004 FH, was discovered a mere three days prior.
On Sept. 29, the largest asteroid ever known to pass near Earth, named Toutatis, roamed by at about four times the distance to the Moon. Astronomers had known for years the flyby would occur, since Toutatis is 2.9 miles (4.6 kilometers) long and had been in Earth's vicinity before.
But many near misses by small asteroids likely go unnoticed, astronomers say, because the entire sky is not continuously monitored. Such small asteroids have been detected only in recent years as more sophisticated telescopes have been hooked up with digital cameras.
And some asteroids come even closer, entering the atmosphere. Most never reach the ground because they break apart under the stress of entry. One study of data collected by U.S. military satellites logged 300 in-air asteroid explosions.
2004 YD5 was announced Tuesday evening by the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass, where comet and asteroid observations from around the globe are digested.
Tremors 'due to aircraft boom'
Created: Tuesday, 21 December, 2004
Earth tremors reported by people living in north Wales and parts of north west England on Tuesday are believed to have been caused by a "sonic boom".
The first tremors were felt around midday on Anglesey, with further reports in Merseyside and Lancashire.
They were caused by a "sonic boom", which can be heard when an aircraft exceeds the speed of sound.
The British Geological Society says a Typhoon jet was on exercise over the Irish Sea at the time.
People rang BBC Wales to report a series of "tremors" on Tuesday lunchtime with reports of "loud explosions" being heard.
Hundreds of people all over Merseyside also felt the tremor.
Police, firefighters and the Met Office on Merseyside received calls from people from as far afield as Widnes, Southport, Birkenhead, St Helens.
Police in Lancashire received calls from a wide area including Poulton, Cleveleys and Blackpool.
But the British Geological Society in Edinburgh said British Aerospace in Preston confirmed that a Typhoon Eurofighter aircraft was on exercise over the Irish Sea at the time.
A spokesman said that there were at least four separate events between 1200 and 1230 GMT.
Reports described "heard a loud rumbling noise", "felt the ground shaking", "the whole house shook quite violently" and "all the windows rattled," said the spokesman.
In September workers at Powys Council HQ in Llandrindod Wells thought they has suffered similar earth tremors.
But the disturbance was later blamed on a sonic boom from low-flying aircraft as was another loud explosion heard in Conwy and Denbighshire a week later.
Comment: Having experienced the effects of a sonic boom ourselves, we are immediately suspicious of the "official" explanation here. Sonic booms do not generally make the ground shake, nor do houses shake from a single aircraft breaking the sound barrier, particularly when it is "out at sea". Coming on the heels of similar strange booms that shook the ground and houses in the US, we are lead to believe that something very strange is occurring on our planet at this present time. That this report blithely parrots the official story we take it as further evidence of the extreme lack of integrity and responsibility that typifies the mainstream media. All the more reason to turn to "alternative" news sites like Signs of the Times for the REAL news.
Meteor showers to devastate planet Earth
Someone in deep black space deliberately bombards the Earth with meteorites
Residents of Jakarta and two other neighboring Indonesian towns were frightened with a series of loud explosions on December 18th overnight. Western special services warned Jakarta of possible terrorists acts in the country on Christmas Eve. The police, however, did not find any destruction either in Jakarta, or near it. Local television channels reported that several people had seen some objects, possibly meteorites, falling down from the sky. There were no meteorites found in the area either.
The Indonesian Air Force confirmed the meteorite origin of the above-mentioned explosions in Jakarta: radars registered an unidentified flying object, which was falling down on the ground at a very high speed. Astronomers supported the space version too: they said that eyewitnesses had seen meteorites, not a crashed spacecraft.
The mystery of December blasts in Jakarta has not been unveiled yet. If it was really a large meteorite that fell into pieces and exploded in the Earth's atmosphere, one may say that it was not a "timely" meteorite at all.
December is the time of meteor showers, especially the Geminids and the Ursids. The Geminids light the night sky as they fly from the constellation of Gemini on December 14th. The mysterious explosions in Jakarta occurred on December 19th - it was too late for the Geminid meteor shower, as it had flown away already on December 17th. There is another meteor shower called Ursid - these meteorites are considered to be fragments of 8P/Tuttle comet, which, as scientists believe, neared Jupiter and exploded 600 years ago. December 19th was not a good date for the Ursids either, for they appear in the sky at night of December 22nd. If there was a meteorite in Jakarta, it must have been a very unusual meteorite.
As a rule, meteorites do not fall down on inhabited localities. They prefer to hit seas, lakes, fields and even the Antarctic. There can be exceptions from the rule, of course. A large meteorite blew up above the village of Boqate Ha Sofonia in Lesotho, South Africa, two years ago. The space rock burst into thousands of small fragments (400 of them were found afterwards) and showered down on village houses. One of the pieces flew into a kitchen window and burnt a plastic container there. Local residents had to experience the invasion of scientists later, who determined that the meteorite originally weighed about one ton. It was orbiting the Sun for 4.6 million years, until it broke into the Earth's atmosphere at the speed, which exceeded the sound speed 50-100 times.
A recent research showed that the number of meteorite collectors considerably increased owing to the Internet. It is noteworthy that the black market of meteorites has been very active in 2004. Meteorite trafficking and robbery has become much more frequent; the prices on space rocks started growing too. Lunar and Martian stones are especially expensive - the prices on them can reach $30,000 per gram, which is 3,000 times as expensive as gold.
Reports about meteorites falling down on Earth appear almost every week. A strange object was seen flying across the Australian sky shortly before the above-mentioned Jakarta meteor. Unusual luminescence and roaring sounds have recently been registered in the sky above several German towns. Scientists said that those phenomena had been caused with fragments of asteroids in the Earth's atmosphere.
Doctor Valeri Rudakov from the Institute of Earth's Physics believes that one should not underestimate the meteor danger. "Meteorites might cause considerable damage to our civilization. They can destroy enterprises, level electric power stations, not to mention nuclear power plants. In addition to it, meteorites can cause tremendous earthquakes and volcano eruptions," the scientist said.
Reports about meteorites appearing in the sky of planet Earth have become much more frequent indeed. It was generally believed before that small meteorites hit the Earth once in a hundred years whereas large meteorites, the Tunguska meteorite, for example, fall down on the planet once in a thousand years. It is clear now that it was a wrong assumption. One may recollect the large Vitimsky meteorite, which fell down two years ago in Siberia - it has become the second "gift" from space in 100 years. The need in space protection programs is becoming more obvious. Russian and American scientists were going to create a joint space interception system several years ago. The governments of the two countries, however, preferred not to assign any money for the program, and the question went into the background.
The international symposium dedicated to the asteroid security took place a week ago in Tenerife. Doctor Sergei Gusyakov represented Russia at the conference - the scientist took part in the mission to explore the phenomenon of the Vitimsky meteorite. "The pictures that we took in the Siberian woods in the north of the Irkutsk region produced a sensation. It became clear that it was a huge meteorite, which could have caused a monstrous devastation in Europe, for example," Gusyakov said. When the researcher returned home from the symposium, he was informed about another incident in the Irkutsk region: a large 10-ton celestial body fell down in the northern part of the region again.
Experts do not know why incidents with meteorites have become so frequent nowadays. One of the versions says that someone in deep black space deliberately bombards the Earth with meteorites.
Spacecraft Impactor is to collide with Tempel-1 comet on 4 July 2005. Flyby spaceship, which carries the Impactor to the target, will observe the first-ever collision between the man-made craft and the celestial body. The goal of the 300-million-dollar program called "Deep Impact" is to obtain the inner substance of the comet. Scientists believe that the comet substance will be the source of extremely important information about space, for the substance has remained unchanged since the time, when the Solar System was formed.
The Flyby spacecraft is to be launched on 28 January 2005. Impactor will fly to the comet at the speed of 37,000 kilometers per hour. Flyby's scientific equipment and telescopes of astronomic laboratories on Earth will analyze the cloud of the comet substance after the impact. It is not ruled out, though, that someone will wish to explore our planet with the help of such a barbaric method too.
Asteroid collision alert sounded for 2029
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:12 p.m. ET Dec. 23, 2004
But further observations expected to eliminate risk
LOS ANGELES - Thereís a 1-in-300 chance that a recently discovered asteroid, believed to be about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long, could hit Earth in 2029, a NASA scientist said Thursday, but he added that the perceived risk probably will be eliminated once astronomers get more detail about its orbit.
There have been only a limited number of sightings of Asteroid 2004 MN4, which has been given an initial rating of 2 on the 10-point Torino Impact Hazard Scale used by astronomers to predict asteroid or comet impacts, said Donald Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program at NASAís Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
No previously observed asteroid has been graded higher than 1.
On Friday, April 13, 2029, ìwe canít yet rule out an Earth impact,î Yeomans said. ìBut the impact probability, as we call it, is 300-to-1 against an impact.î
The asteroid was discovered in June and rediscovered this month.
ìThis is not a problem for anyone and it shouldnít be a concern to anyone, but whenever we post one of these things and ... somebody gets ahold of it, it just gets crazy,î he said.
ìIn the unlikely event that it did hit, it would be quite serious. Weíre talking either a tsunami if it hit in the ocean, which would be likely, or significant ground damage,î Yeomans said.
Its estimated size has been inferred from its brightness, which assumes that its reflectivity is similar to other asteroids that have been observed. At about 1,320 feet in length, it would have about 1,600 megatons of energy, Yeomans said.
Comment: How fast we move, from a possible collision in the next 50,000 years, to now one colliding in 2029, but, according to NASA:
"This is not a problem for anyone and it shouldnít be a concern to anyone, but whenever we post one of these things and ... somebody gets ahold of it, it just gets crazy." ó Donald Yeomans NASA
We have to disagree with Mr Yeomans here. We don't know anyone getting "crazy" about the possibility of an meteorite strike on earth, in fact we don't know anyone who is even remotely aware that such an event is a distinct possiblity given the recent "hail" of space rocks the planet has been experiencing. It would seem then that various world governments and government organisations like NASA are doing a very good job of keeping extremely important information out of the public domain.
Asteroid has 1-in-60ish chance of Earth hit
By Robert Roy Britt, SPACE.com
An asteroid that has a small chance of hitting Earth in the year 2029 was upgraded to an unprecedented level of risk Friday, Dec. 24. Scientists still stress, however, that odds are further observations will show the space rock won't be on a collision course with the planet.
The risk rating for asteroid 2004 MN4 was raised Friday by NASA and a separate group of researchers in Italy.
The asteroid's chance for hitting Earth on April 13, 2029 has now been categorized as a 4 on the Torino Scale. The level 4 rating ó never before issued ó is reserved for "events meriting concern" versus the vast majority of potentially threatening asteroids that merely merit "careful monitoring."
The Dec. 24 update from NASA states:
"2004 MN4 is now being tracked very carefully by many astronomers around the world, and we continue to update our risk analysis for this object. Today's impact monitoring results indicate that the impact probability for April 13, 2029 has risen to about 1.6%, which for an object of this size corresponds to a rating of 4 on the ten-point Torino Scale. Nevertheless, the odds against impact are still high, about 60 to 1, meaning that there is a better than 98% chance that new data in the coming days, weeks, and months will rule out any possibility of impact in 2029."
With a half-dozen or so other asteroid discoveries dating back to 1997, scientists had announced long odds of an impact ó generating frightening headlines in some cases ó only to announce within hours or days that the impact chances had been reduced to zero by further observations. Experts have said repeatedly that they are concerned about alarming the public before enough data is gathered to project an asteroid's path accurately.
Asteroid 2004 MN4 is an unusual case in that follow-up observations have caused the risk assessment to climb ó from Torino level 2 to 4 ó rather than fall.
2004 MN4 was discovered in June and spotted again this month. It is about a quarter mile wide.
That's bigger than the space rock that carved the Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona, and bigger than one that exploded in the air above Siberia in 1908, flattening thousands of square miles of forest. If an asteroid the size of 2004 MN4 hit the Earth, it would do considerable localized or regional damage. It would not cause damage on a global scale.
Scientists project an asteroid's future travels based on observations of its current orbit around the Sun. On computer models, the future orbits are not lines but rather windows of possibility. The orbit projections for 2004 MN4 on April 13, 2029 cover a wide swath of space that includes the location where Earth will be. Additional observations will allow refined orbit forecasts ó more like a line instead of a window.
The asteroid will be easily observable in coming months, so scientists expect to figure out its path.
Most asteroids circle the Sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. But some get booted by gravity toward the inner solar system.
The 323-day orbit of 2004 MN4 lies mostly within the orbit of Earth. The asteroid approaches the Sun almost as close as the orbit of Venus. It crosses near the Earth's orbit twice on each of its passages about the Sun.
2004 MN4 was discovered on June 19 by Roy Tucker, David Tholen and Fabrizio Bernardi of the NASA-funded University of Hawaii Asteroid Survey. It was rediscovered on Dec. 18 from Australia by Gordon Garradd of the Siding Spring Survey. More than three dozen observations have been made, with more expected to roll in from other observatories this week.
Earlier this week, scientists announced that a small space rock had zoomed past Earth closer than the orbits of some satellites.
Comment: Not bad. Yesterday the odds were 1 in 300. If it continues like this, tomorrow they'll drop to one in twelve, and by Monday, it'll be one in two. But don't worry, because there is likely another piece of rock out there that will hit us before that, reducing the odds considerably.
Mega-disasters can happen here
We're rich enough to be ready - but are we wise enough?
06:30 PM CST on Monday, December 27, 2004
By Glenn Reynolds
A killer asteroid is on the way. Or maybe not.
As I write this column, Asteroid 2004 MN is projected to have a roughly 1-in-37 chance of striking the Earth when it passes this way in 2029. By the time you read this, the odds number ñ which is being continually revised as new data arrives and uncertainties about the asteroid's precise position and path are resolved ñ may have gone up, or may have dropped to zero.
Regardless, this is at least a close call, and should also serve as a wake-up call. Asteroid impacts aren't just the stuff of science-fiction novels and Hollywood special-effects extravaganzas. This stuff is real.
But there's worse news: The asteroids that we see may be less troubling than the ones that we're missing.
Days before Christmas, astronomers located an asteroid after it had whizzed by the Earth, coming so close it was below the orbits of some satellites.
This asteroid wouldn't have been a threat. It was too small. It serves to demonstrate that there's a lot of stuff out there, and we don't have a very good handle on it. And, as space journalist Leonard David noted a couple of years ago, smallish asteroid impacts pose another sort of risk:
"Military strategists and space scientists that wonder and worry about a run-in between Earth and a comet or asteroid have additional worries in these trying times," he wrote. "With world tensions being the way they are, even a small incoming space rock, detonating over any number of political hot spots, could trigger a country's nuclear response, convinced it was attacked by an enemy."
Of course, as I write about the potential dangers posed by asteroids, a very real event ñ an earthquake and tsunami that have killed large numbers of people along the coast of the Indian Ocean ñ has just taken place. And that raises some questions: How much effort should we put into preparing against things like asteroid strikes, versus preparation for more earthbound disasters? And, if we decide to do more to prepare against tsunamis and earthquakes, how are we to go about it?
It may actually be cheaper to prepare against an asteroid strike. The first step, monitoring the heavens for threats, is relatively cheap and promises to do some good ñ certainly it's likely to produce more warning than we can get before earthquakes and tsunamis. Later stages, involving the interception of dangerous asteroids, will cost more, but since as far as we know there's no way at all to prevent earthquakes or tsunamis, they'd still be comparatively cheap.
But this weekend's deaths were as much a result of poverty and inattention as of earth movement. Poverty, of course, leads people to live along the waterline in ramshackle housing. With this, as with much else, it's better to be rich.
Inattention is partly the result of poverty. Rich nations can worry about threats like asteroid impacts, while poor nations can't even worry about tsunamis. And, in fact, inattention played a role in the tsunami deaths.
None of the hardest hit nations had a warning system in place to detect the oncoming waves. And the extreme rarity of such occurrences in the Indian Ocean meant that populations had not been taught to run inland if they felt earthquake tremors. A threat that hadn't appeared recently was discounted, with tragic results. Let's not make the same mistake where asteroid impacts are concerned.
Over the longer run, the best protection against catastrophes, whether foreseen or unforeseen, is a society that is rich enough, and diverse enough, to be well prepared for all sorts of contingencies. Which means that economic growth, and the freedom that produces it, may be the best guarantor of safety for us all.
A rich society can afford to worry about things that a poorer one wouldn't have the resources to think about. A rich society can take steps to prevent disasters before they happen. A rich society is better positioned to survive disasters once they occur, even if they are completely unforeseen, or unforeseeable.
Where survival is concerned, rich is better. That's something to keep in mind when people describe economic growth as "anti-human."
Asteroid Earth impact in 2029 ruled out
Created: Wednesday, December 29, 2004
PASADENA, California (AP) -- Additional observations have ruled out the chance that a recently discovered asteroid, believed to be about 1,300 feet long, could hit Earth in 2029, NASA scientists said.
Last week, asteroid 2004 MN4 had been given a small chance of impacting Earth, based on observations in June and again this month. Astronomers then began independent efforts to find earlier observations of the asteroid.
The Spacewatch Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., found faint pictures of the asteroid in archival images dating to March 15, the Near Earth Object Program Office, located at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement on its Web site this week.
The pictures from March allowed scientists to refine the asteroid's projected trajectory, and "an Earth impact on 13 April 2029 can now be ruled out," the program office said.
Scientists also ruled out an impact with the moon.
Spacewatch is associated with the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Observatory.
Comment: Now, doesn't that feel better?
IRAN: Meteor weighing 16kg hits house
Created: Thu, 30 Dec 2004
A meteorite weighing at least 16 kilograms has hit a house in the southeast of Iran, the state news agency IRNA reported on Thursday.
According to local police official Mohammad Arab, the sparkling crystalline rock hit a home in Saravan in Sistan-Baluchestan province. No injuries or serious damage were reported.
The report said most of the meteor had already been broken up and taken away by local people before police arrived at the scene.
Comment: We have the unfortunate sensation that this is only the beginning. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and meteors...