13 September 2008

September 2008

HBCC Research

Mon, 25 Aug 2008 00:25 EDT

Date: August 22, 2008

Time: Approx: 9:30 p.m.

Location of Sighting: West of Stratford Ontario.

Number of witnesses: 3

Number of objects: 1

Shape of objects: Fireball.

Full Description of event/sighting:
Just after dark I was sitting facing the west in my backyard, when
through the trees I spotted a fiery ball approximately parallel to the
line of my back neighbours roof. My view to the west is through
backyards and trees, no buildings in the way. I pointed it out to 2
friends sitting with me and they both saw it. It looked like a flaming
ball with dark smoke streams behind it. It traveled from the south
towards the north west. My view was obscured sometimes, but I could see
its path through a young willow tree by my back fence. Then I lost
sight of it as it went farther north and the building blocked my view.
Sadly my husband just missed it, because he is an amateur astronomer.

I have been watching my local newspaper but nothing was reported by anyone else.

Thank you to the witness for their report.

New comet discovered by Swiss amateur astronomer 

Agence France-Presse

Sat, 30 Aug 2008 20:17 EDT

Geneva - A Swiss amateur astronomer has discovered a new comet from
an observatory in the western Jura district, the ATS news agency said

Only five similar comets -- fragile clusters of dust, ice and
carbon-based molecules believed to be primitive material left over from
the building of our star system -- have been been documented from
Switzerland since the 17th century.

The latest one to be discovered has a diameter of 20,000 kilometres
(12,400 miles) and has been named Ory after Michel Ory who made the
discovery, the report said.

Discovered from the Vicques Observatory in Jura, Ory spotted the
comet overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday and again from Wednesday to

The best sightings are expected in October and November, the report added.

Some 200 comets are currently documented, the most famous of which is Halley's Comet.

Ory has already discovered some 50 asteroids.

US: Streaking fireball a vivid spectacle in daytime sky

Shelley Shelton

Arizona Daily Star

Sun, 24 Aug 2008 00:15 EDT

Tucson, Arizona - A fireball hurtled across the southern Tucson sky
in broad daylight Saturday morning, startling and inspiring awe in
those who saw it.

Chelsey Dever was working a yard sale at her grandmother's house on
the Northwest Side around 10:30, she said, when she looked toward the
south and saw the ball arcing through the sky.

"At first I was like, 'Is that an airplane that's on fire?' " she
said. Then she realized it wasn't. The other two people outside with
her at the time didn't see it.

Across town, Catherine O'Sullivan was riding her bicycle southbound
on Sabino Canyon Road when she looked up and saw it, she said.

"It looked like someone put a fiery ball in a catapult and launched it," she said.

O'Sullivan said she used to work in a planetarium and was guessing the fireball was a "bollide" - a big meteorite.

"For one to come this close in the atmosphere and be seen during the day, it's just unheard of," she said.

Richard Dougall, equipment loan coordinator for the Tucson Amateur
Astronomy Association, said he was thrilled to see the meteor as he
drove south on Kolb Road.

"It was a fireball. It was beautiful," he said. "I've been in seventh heaven all morning."

He was so entranced, he almost forgot to pay attention to his driving, he said.

When asked how common it is to see such a thing in broad daylight, he responded, "Not."

"I've always wanted to see one in daytime," he said.

He's been a member of the astronomy group since 2001 and has seen quite a few at night, he said.

This one had the bright reddish-orange color of a road flare, he said.

He guessed that it was probably 200 or 300 miles to the south, maybe farther, but said it's always hard to tell.

Even though it's unusual to see a meteor or meteorite during the day, Dougall said they are pretty common.

"The Earth gets struck constantly by meteorites. Constantly," he said.

US: Explosion sparks fires at plant

The Salt Lake Tribune

Fri, 29 Aug 2008 21:18 EDT

Utah recycling fire
©Steve Griffin/The Salt Lake Tribune
Lake City Fire Department crews battle a blaze at Western Metals
Recycling near 4400 west and 700 south Aug. 27, 2008. The fire burned
wooden pallets and some old cars and no injuries were reported.

Utah - Several small fires at a metal recycling plant erupted into a
huge cloud of thick black smoke on Salt Lake City's west side Thursday

At about 9:45 a.m. an explosion caused power lines to arc and throw
sparks onto the lot, igniting fires in old cars, garbage and pallets at
Western Metal Recycling, 4221 W. 700 South, said Salt Lake City Fire
Department spokesman Scott Freitag

Firefighters don't know what caused the initial explosion.

Manuel Munos, 42, said he saw a transformer explode as he moved cars
on the space he leases for a metal recycling business, ABC Recycling.

Oscar Penn, 21, was also at the lot.

"I heard a big explosion, and the roof caught on fire and started going to the pallets," Penn said.

Rocky Mountain power officials reported a power outage associated
with the fire, but said they had no immediate reports about their
equipment malfunctioning there. The company is investigating.

About 20 people were on the lot when the fires started, but all were evacuated and there were no injuries, Freitag said.

Firefighters were also able to keep the flames from igniting a 3,000
gallon diesel fuel tank, though small amounts of gas in the cars' tanks
fueled the fire.

A small shed was the only structure lost on the acre-sized lot, Freitag said. He had no estimate on the amount of damage caused.

It's the second major fire to break out in the area this summer. On
June 28, a four-alarm fire ignited by sparks from a passing train
destroyed nearby Central Pallet of Utah, 810 S. 4190 West. That fire
caused about $2 million in damage.

Western Metals Recycling is the largest metal recycling company in
the West, according to the company's Web site. It was formed in 1996
when several scrap companies merged and is now headquartered in Salt
Lake City and owned by a Cincinnati-based company.

Clara Moskowitz


Thu, 04 Sep 2008 13:00 EDT


Halley's comet, which lights up Earth's sky every 75 years with its glowing tail, is a bit of a scientific mystery.

So far theories have been at a loss to explain how it acquired its
extremely unusual backwards orbit, but the recent discovery of another
odd comet orbiting farther out in the solar system may shed light on
Halley's origins.

The newly-discovered comet 2008 KV42 circles the sun at a tilt of
104 degrees compared to the main plane in which most of the planets and
asteroids travel. The newfound oddball also orbits in reverse compared
to almost everything else. Scientists think it might represent an
intermediate point between comets like Halley's and their progenitors
in the far and totally uncharted reaches of the solar system.

"The big mystery's been, how do you get comets like Halley's comet?"
said astronomer JJ Kavelaars of the National Research Council of
Canada, who worked on the team that discovered KV42. "It's one of the
most famous comets known and we have no dynamic explanation for how it
got into its orbit, and how it got to be there. Now we've found an
object that could provide a source for a Halley-type comet."

KV42 was discovered at about 32 times the distance from the Earth to
the sun, and the closest it swings to the sun is about where Uranus is.
Researchers suggest the comet may have originated out in the distant
Oort cloud of objects theorized to swarm in a sphere around the solar
system almost 1 light-year out from the sun, or roughly a quarter of
the way to the next nearest star.

At some point, they think, gravitational interactions (such as with
Uranus or Neptune, or even a nudge from another star in the galaxy
passing nearby the sun long ago) could have kicked the comet from its
perch in the lower level of the Oort cloud, about a tenth of a
light-year away, down to where it is now, orbiting beyond Neptune in a
region known as the Kuiper Belt, where several other normally-orbiting
rocky objects have been found.

This would explain how it got such a bizarre backward, or
retrograde, and tilted orbit. If it originated in the spherical Oort
cloud, the comet could develop an orbit with any tilt at all, as
opposed to most comets, which originate in the plane of the solar
system, so must have an orbit in line with the planets.

Eventually, researchers predict KV42 could get kicked down even
closer to the sun by interactions with the outer planets and the solar
system's heavyweight, Jupiter. Ultimately, both Halley's and KV42 are
likely to end up slingshot out of the solar system altogether from
gravitational interactions with the planets.

Until now, physical models haven't been able to come up with an
explanation for a comet like Halley's, but the researchers hope the
discovery of KV42 will allow physicists to plug a new half-way point
into their models to derive a reasonable evolutionary path for these

"An orbit like this provides the road sign that says there must be a
source of objects which could very plausibly be something related to
the Oort cloud, which is feeding in slowly over the age of the solar
system," research team member Brett Gladman of the University of
British Columbia told SPACE.com. "It's a pointer hopefully to a
coherent model."

The researchers presented their discovery at the 10th "Asteroids,
Comets and Meteors" meeting in Baltimore in July 2008. They first
observed KV42 with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, and
made follow-up observations on the MMT telescope in Arizona, Cerro
Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) 4-metre telescope in Chile,
and Gemini South telescope of Canada's Gemini Observatory, also in

Amateur Astronomers See Perseids Hit the Moon


Tue, 02 Sep 2008 19:12 EDT

There's more than one way to watch a meteor shower.

One, the old-fashioned way: Find a dark place with starry skies and
count the meteors streaking overhead. Two, the new way: Find a dark
place with starry skies and then completely ignore the meteors. Instead, watch the Moon. That's where the explosions are.

On August 9th, a pair of amateur astronomers on opposite sides of
the United States did it the new way. With the Perseid meteor shower
just underway, they fixed their cameras on the Moon and watched
meteoroids slam into the lunar surface. Silent explosions equivalent to
~100 lbs of TNT produced flashes of light visible a quarter of a
million miles away on Earth. It was a good night for "lunar Perseids."

"I love watching meteor showers this way," says George Varros, who recorded this impact from his home in Mt. Airy, Maryland:


The flash, which lit up a nighttime patch of Mare Nubium (the Sea
of Clouds), was a bit dimmer than 7th magnitude--"an easy target for my
8-inch telescope and low-light digital video camera."

Hours later, another Perseid struck, on the western shore of Oceanus
Procellarum (the Ocean of Storms). This time it was Robert Spellman of
Azusa, California, who caught the flash. "It's exciting to witness
these explosions in real time," he says. "I used a 10-inch telescope
and an off-the-shelf Supercircuits video camera."

Rob Suggs of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office has reviewed the
data. "They look real to me," he says. "The flashes appear in multiple
video frames and the light curves are similar to other lunar meteors
we've recorded in the past."

Suggs would know. Along with colleague Bill Cooke, he leads a team
at the Marshall Space Flight Center that has recorded more than 100
lunar explosions since 2005. "We monitor lunar meteors in support of
NASA's return to the Moon," Suggs says. "The Moon has no atmosphere to
protect the surface, so meteoroids crash right into the ground. Our
program aims to measure how often that happens and answer the question,
what are the risks to astronauts?"

map of 100 lunar meteors observed by astronomers at the Marshall Space
Flight Center since 2005. Every impact on the map was bright enough to
see with an amateur telescope. [ more]

NASA's official lunar meteor observatories are located in Alabama
and Georgia. Both were off-line on August 9th, so the NASA team didn't
see how many Perseids were hitting the Moon that night.

"This shows how amateur astronomers can contribute to our research,"
points out Suggs. "We can't observe the Moon 24-7 from our corner of
the USA. Clouds, sunlight, the phase of the Moon - all these factors
limit our opportunities. A global network of amateur astronomers
monitoring the Moon could, however, approach full coverage."

By day, George Varros is a software engineer at NASA headquarters.
After work, he takes off his NASA badge, goes home and fires up his
self-described "barely adequate" telescope. "Until a few years ago, I
really didn't like the Moon because it interfered with my observations
of comets and meteors. Then, in 1999 during the Leonid meteor storm,
(fellow amateur astronomer) David Dunham photographed six lunar impact
events from my backyard in Maryland," Varros recalls. "I was hooked."

Dunham's observations inspired not only Varros, but also NASA. "Our
own observing program can be traced back to those early amateur
observations of lunar Leonids," says Suggs.

A major advance in lunar meteor detection came in 2006 in the form
of LunarScan, a computer program written by amateur astronomer Pete
Gural that searches digital video of the Moon for split-second flashes.
Using LunarScan, Varros has bagged at least a dozen lunar meteors.
Three of them were observed simultaneously by the NASA team in Alabama,
confirming the fidelity of Varros' techniques. (LunarScan may be freely
downloaded from Varros' web site; NASA uses the program, too!)

Spellman's lunar Perseid, recorded from his home near Los Angeles at 0406 UT on Aug. 9, 2008. [more]

Like Varros, Robert Spellman's interest in lunar meteors began with
the Leonids of 1999. "I read about the success of amateurs recording
impact flashes," he recalls. "I've been in love with the Moon since my
first observation when I was five years old, and I wanted to conduct an
observing program with scientific value. Lunar meteors were a natural."

Spellman's day job is at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
and the La Brea tar pits where he works as an educator. He also
conducts public astronomy programs three nights a week at the Griffith
Observatory. The rest of his evenings he devotes to the Moon.

Spellman uses no special software to catch his impacts. "I look for
the flashes in real time," he says. "Although it may sound tedious to
stare at a blank screen for hours on end, the prospect of seeing an
explosion keeps me alert. In future, I do plan to use LunarScan to
increase my success rate."

Suggs hopes other amateurs will take up this hobby, not only to
improve NASA's lunar impact statistics, but also to support the
agency's LCROSS mission: In 2009, the Lunar CRater Observation and
Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) will intentionally dive into the Moon,
producing a flash akin to a natural lunar meteor. Unlike natural
meteoroids, which hit the Moon in random locations, LCROSS will
carefully target a polar crater containing suspected deposits of frozen
water. If all goes as planned, the impact will launch debris high above
the lunar surface where astronomers can search the ejecta for signs of
H2O. The impact flash (if not hidden by crater walls) and the debris
plume may be visible to backyard telescopes on Earth: details.

Ready for meteor watching--the new way? NASA offers a FAQ and telescope tips to help you get started. Good hunting!

Encounter Of A Different Kind: Rosetta Observes Asteroid At Close Quarters 

Science Daily

Sun, 07 Sep 2008 22:43 EDT

ESA's comet chaser, Rosetta, has flown by a small body in the main
asteroid belt, asteroid Steins, collecting a wealth of information
about this rare type of minor Solar System body.

Asteroid Steins
Steins seen from a distance of 800 km, taken by the OSIRIS imaging
system from two different perspectives. The effective diameter of the
asteroid is 5 km, approximately as predicted. At the top of the
asteroid (as shown in this image), a large crater, approximately 1.5-km
in size, can be seen. Scientists were amazed that the asteroid survived
the impact that was responsible for the crater.

At 20:58 CEST (18:58 UT) last night, ESA's Rosetta probe approached
asteroid 2867 Steins, coming to within a distance of only 800 km from
it. Steins is Rosetta's first nominal scientific target in its 11½ year
mission to ultimately explore the nucleus of Comet

The success of this 'close' encounter was confirmed at 22:14 CEST,
when ESA's ground control team at the European Space Operations Centre
(ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, received initial telemetry from the
spacecraft. During the flyby operations, Rosetta was out of reach as
regards communication links because its antenna had to be turned away
from Earth. At a distance of about 2.41 AU (360 million kilometres)
from our planet, the radio signal from the probe took 20 minutes to
reach the ground.

Steins is a small asteroid of irregular shape with a diameter of
only 4.6 km. It belongs to the rare class of E-type asteroids, which
had not been directly observed by an interplanetary spacecraft before.
Such asteroids are quite small in size and orbit and are mostly found
in the inner part of the main asteroid belt located between Mars and
Jupiter. They probably originate from the mantle of larger asteroids
destroyed in the early history of the Solar System, and are thought to
be composed mainly of silicate minerals with little or no iron content.

The data collected by Rosetta last night and which will be analysed
over the coming days and weeks will finally unveil the true nature of

Through the study of minor bodies such as asteroids, Rosetta is
opening up a new window onto the early history of our Solar System. It
will give us a better understanding of the origins and evolution of the
planets, and also a key to better interpreting asteroid data collected
from the ground.

Under Rosetta's scope

This is not Rosetta's first look at Steins. Over two years ago, in
March 2006, the Osiris camera onboard Rosetta observed the brightness
variations of this rotating asteroid from a distance of 159 million
kilometres (a little over the distance between Earth and the Sun), and
was able to determine that the tiny asteroid spins around its axis in
about six hours.

Together with the two navigation cameras onboard, Osiris was again
pointed towards Steins on 4 August and continued to observe the
asteroid until 4 September, in order to assist Rosetta's navigation by
optical means - a first in the history of ESA spacecraft operations. A
few days before the flyby, most of the Rosetta orbiter instruments, as
well as the Philae lander magnetometer, were switched on to collect
science data on the asteroid, with ever-increasing accuracy as the
spacecraft closed in on it.

Rosetta's powerful instruments have initially been focusing on the
asteroid's orbital motion, rotation, shape and density. As the distance
has diminished, the investigation has broadened to take in the
observation of surface properties and features, and the analysis of the
chemical and mineralogical composition of the terrains, as well as
their relative ages and the effects of the solar wind on the surface.

At its closest approach, Rosetta flew by Steins at a relative speed
of 8.6 km/s. To keep the small asteroid in the field of view of its
instruments, the spacecraft had to perform a rapid and highly demanding
rotation manoeuvre, which had been successfully rehearsed in March this

A preliminary analysis of the first data from the flyby was presented to the press at ESOC at 12:00 CEST today.

To Steins and beyond

"Steins might be small, but we're making big science here", said Dr
David Southwood, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.
"The better we learn to know the different kinds of asteroids, the
better we will understand our origins in the past. Moreover, when such
Solar System wanderers escape from the belt they could become a threat
to Earth. The better we know them, the better we will be able to
mitigate the risks some of them might present in the future."

"Rosetta performed very well all along," Southwood continued. " This
was a complex manoeuvre to keep such a small target in sight, but the
spacecraft came through with flying colours. Now we are even more
confident in its capacity to conduct the complex tasks that await it at
comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko."

Science observations of Steins will continue until 10 September.

Since its launch by an Ariane 5 rocket on 2 March 2004, Rosetta has
already travelled about 3.7 thousand million kilometres and swung by
the Earth twice and Mars once for gravity-assist manoeuvres. On 17
December this year Rosetta will reach the maximum distance from the Sun
in its current orbit, and will then head back towards Earth for the
next and last gravitational kick from our planet on 13 November 2009.
This will give the probe its final push toward its cometary target.

On its way, Rosetta is scheduled to conduct another flyby, this time
with the much larger (21) Lutetia asteroid, on 10 July 2010. Arrival at
67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is due by mid-2014. By that time the probe
will have covered a distance of about 6.5 thousand million kilometres.

Adapted from materials provided by European Space Agency.

US, North Carolina: Residents report 'boom' that shook houses

The News Observer

Mon, 08 Sep 2008 16:33 EDT

Residents in the Clayton and Wendell areas reported hearing several
loud "booms" that shook their houses between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Sunday.

Emergency officials said fire officials were investigating, but have
found no evidence of an explosion that could have caused the loud

Also, officials at both Raleigh Durham International Airport and
Seymour Air Force Base said they knew of no aircraft in the area that
could have produced sonic booms.

Comets Disguised as Asteroids 

Jeremy Hsu


Mon, 08 Sep 2008 16:25 EDT

An asteroid cruising through the solar system six years ago
seemed just another silent ship sailing in the eternal darkness, until
it flared up with the startling brightness of a comet's halo.

Just like that, the space rock known as NEO 2001 OG108 was
re-classified as C/2001 OG108 in 2002, from asteroid to comet.
Scientists now suspect that 5 to 10 percent of other Near Earth Objects
(NEOs) may also be comets lurking in disguise as asteroids.

"That was the first real evidence we have of objects that look like
asteroids but are comets in the NEO population," said Paul Abell, a
planetary scientist with the Planetary Science Institute who is located
at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Now he's heading a
NASA-funded study to sort out which are which.

The astronomy files

Telling apart comets and asteroids matters more than just to
sticklers. Knowing the composition of NEOs is crucial to preventing
possible collisions with Earth, especially when a collection of comet
pieces bursting in the atmosphere can have far deadlier consequences
than an asteroid. Finding out about the materials in comets and
asteroids also provides hints about the early evolution of the solar

Abell's research may even uncover future targets for spacecraft to
investigate, similar to the Deep Impact and Stardust missions. He is
working with Faith Valis, director of the Multiple Mirror Telescope
Observatory at Mount Hopkins, Ariz., to try and identify suspect
objects for sure as comets or asteroids.

The most mysterious objects don't give up their secrets easily.
Far-off comet bodies resemble dirty snowballs that lack the halo or
"coma" they get once they approach the warmth of the sun. As a result,
such objects can appear "blacker than coal" to telescopes because they
reflect just 3 percent of light that hits them, Abell told SPACE.com.

Fingering the culprits

The former NEO 2001 OG108 got as close to us as the orbit of Mars
before acquiring its coma, which kept astronomers guessing up until
then. Another object that continues to arouse controversy is 3200
Phaethon, a suspected asteroid that some observers believe to be the
husk of a burned-out comet.

The uncertainty goes to the heart of comet evolution. Scientists
argue about whether some comets simply lose their surrounding cloud of
dust and gas, or form hardened shells to contain the loose icy material
that makes up comets.

So far, Abell has set his sights on three comet culprits in the
crowd of space rocks. NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility at Mauna Kea
in Hawaii allows his group to see the chemical composition of different
objects, and even find the unique fingerprints of comets depending on
their origins.

Stranger and stranger

For instance, some comets come from the Kuiper Belt, a disk-shaped
icy cloud past the orbit of Neptune. Other passing comets such as
Halley's Comet start from much further away in the Oort Cloud, which
lies far beyond Pluto's orbit at 1,000 times the distance from the sun
to the Kuiper Belt.

"There are some indications that there may be spectral differences
between things that come from the Oort Cloud and things that come from
the Kuiper belt," Abell noted.

The survey has a long way to go after analyzing just three objects,
Abell said, but that's how science works. You get a result, and then
you can start asking better questions.


Tue, 09 Sep 2008 17:01 EDT

Yes, it pays to watch the sky. This morning, Sept. 9th, with no
warning whatsoever, a flurry of bright fireballs appeared over eastern
parts of the United States. "Our SENTINEL all-sky camera picked up 25
bright meteors in a shower that began at 0620 UT and lasted
approximately 4 hours," reports NASA astronomer Bill Cooke of the
Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This video
"frame-stack" shows the outburst at a glance:

fireball outburst

"Most appear to have a radiant near Perseus (3.3h, +43o), leading
us to hypothesize an outburst of the September Perseids," says Cooke.
Also known as the delta-Aurigids, the September Perseids come from an
unknown comet and have been caught bursting only four times in the last
century: 1936, 1986, 1994 and now 2008. Most of the meteors recorded by
the NASA camera were magnitude -2 or brighter, i.e., as bright as
Jupiter or Venus.

"We encourage people to keep an eye on the sky tonight," says Cooke.
"The outburst is almost certainly over, but we don't know enough about
these mysterious meteors to say for sure." Stay tuned for updates.

Comets Throw Light On Solar System's Beginnings

A new picture of the composition of comets is emerging with the help of
21st century technology available at Diamond, the UK's national
synchrotron light source, in Oxfordshire.

Comet Wild 2.

Scientists already know that comets played a significant role in
ensuring that conditions were right for life on Earth. Most of the icy,
small planetary bodies that otherwise became comets went into forming
the gas giant planets in the outer Solar System but some were ejected
from the vicinity of the largest planets. Of these, a fraction ended up
in the inner Solar System bringing water and biogenic elements of
interest to Earth. Without this cometary transport, life on Earth may
never have had a chance to start.

Now, scientists from the Space Research Centre at the
University of Leicester have, for the first time, brought samples of
the Comet Wild-2 to Diamond. In doing so, using Diamond's microfocus
spectroscopy capabilities - bright and powerful X-rays with a beam size
equivalent to one 25th of a human hair - they have discovered that the
old model of comets as dusty iceballs is not the whole picture.

Dr John Bridges, from the Space Research Centre, explains
the results, 'Comets are starting to look a lot more complicated than
the old dusty iceball idea. For one thing Wild-2 contains material,
like chromium oxides, from the hot inner Solar System - so how did that
material get mixed in with a comet which has spent most of its life
beyond Neptune? It suggests that there has been major mixing of
material from inner and outer parts of the Solar System in its earliest

'At Diamond, we have also been finding X-ray signatures of
iron oxides. These are important because they show that on the Wild-2
nucleus there could have been small trickles of water that deposited
these minerals. Similar grains are found in carbonaceous chondrite
meteorites. This might mean that there have been localised heating
events perhaps caused by impact on the Wild-2 nucleus that melted some
of its ice.'

Their samples, which were born in the Kuiper Belt near
Neptune, were collected by the Stardust space mission, which involved a
seven year long, five billion km, journey. They then travelled by more
conventional means (Fedex) from the US to the Space Research Centre.
The Stardust mission was conceived so that comets could be studied
directly as this will help researchers to find out more about the Solar
System's water and the dust that escaped planetary formation.

Dr Bridges adds, 'It's now becoming clear that not all comets
are the same. For instance, Wild-2 may have more similarities to some
asteroids and primitive meteorites than comets from the Oort Cloud,
which extends to the outer limits of our Solar System and which are
infrequent visitors to Earth.'

The University of Leicester team plan to study more cometary
tracks at Diamond in the months to come, from which they will be able
to establish accurate comparisons with meteorites and determine the
processes - such as liquid water in the nucleus and mixing in material
from the hot inner Solar System - that have gone towards forming

Adapted from materials provided by British Association for the Advancement of Science.

UK: Mysterious odour causes problems for residents

A foul smelling odour that was noticed from Townsend Way to the top end
of Malvern Link had residents baffled last week. Some speculated it may
have been blocked drains caused by the heavy rain experienced in the
area, while others thought a reckless farmer's muck sprayer may have
been to blame.

Adrian Beard and his wife Dawn, from Hampden Road, Malvern
Link, called the Gazette on Friday afternoon (September 5) when they
could not take the smell any longer.

Mr Beard said: "I smelt it last night about 11 or 12 o'clock
just when we were taking the dogs out. This morning it was just
horrible." Dawn added: "I've never smelt anything like it at all. It's
like some sort of smog in the air."

Adrian Sunter and his family from Whitethorn Grove, Malvern,
felt physically ill after they were bombarded by the sewers-type smell
for three days running.

Mr Sunter said: "The smell was bad enough last night to make
me and members of my family feel ill. The first couple of times we
experienced the smell we just thought it was an inconsiderate farmer
muck spreading.

"But when it happened for a third time last night I became
very suspicious that it might be something else so decided to ask the
council to investigate."

Worcestershire County Council spokesman, Sarah Jayne Butcher,
confirmed the information had been passed onto the Environmental Health
team to investigate.

India: Bangaloreans speculate about mysterious boom and rattling

The Hindu

Sat, 13 Sep 2008 19:07 UTC

Bangalore: The city was abuzz with rumours on Friday morning about a
low intensity earthquake in parts of the city after residents
experienced a mysterious sound and rattling.

Speculations were rather specific and even strangely
consistent: that a quake measuring 1.5 on the Richter scale hit
Kengeri, HSR Layout and Yelahanka at about 8.30 a.m. These were,
however, quickly put to rest by the meteorological centre here, which
said it was more likely a quarry blast. The centre received several
calls, a majority from media organisations, according to its director
A. Muthuchami.

"We have checked with authorities in Chennai and New Delhi and
both have said there was no seismic activity," he said. Moreover,
earthquakes never occurred in isolated places across the city, he
added. "The only possible explanation can be that they were quarry

There was also speculation that it could be a sonic boom, a
loud noise that is created by shock wave produced by an aircraft
travelling at supersonic speed.

Tejaswini R., resident of Yelahanka, said she heard window
panes rattle loudly, while Arun Kumar, who lived in Kengeri, said he
heard an inexplicable thud on the front door around the same time.

"I heard a loud noise around 9.15 a.m. It thundered in my ears
for three to four seconds. I thought that it was an effect of
earthquake. I still don't know what it was," said P. Ranjini, a
resident of an apartment in Raju Layout, near Kengeri Satellite Town.
Vasudeva Sharma, president of Child Welfare Committee, too heard the
sound around 8.45 a.m. at S.D Layout near Konanakunte.

Meanwhile, the city police were flooded by calls from public asking whether it was an earthquake.

It was a busy morning for policemen attached to J.P. Nagar,
Kengeri, Basavanagudi, Chandra Layout, HSR Layout, Bidadi and other

"It was really a tough time for us. We deployed almost all our
staff to check the origin of the sound, but no information was
available," said an officer attached to J.P. Nagar police station.

On the other hand, the staff at the HAL police station said
the sound could be from fighter aircraft. "Usually, two or three
fighter aircraft fly over the city for training every day. On Friday
too, we saw aircraft on the western parts of the city."

However, this speculation too was put to rest as officials of
the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Indian Air Force stated that
there was no flight which experimented supersonic speed.

"Tremors were recorded at the broadband station of the Indian
Institute of Science at about 10 a.m.," T.G. Sitharam, Professor, Civil
Engineering Department, told The Hindu. "But it is too early to know the magnitude and whether they were created by an earthquake or a quarry blast."

The BBC and the National Geographic Channel are making a documentary
based on the controversial theories of a Wollongong academic, who
claims that meteorites hit the earth every 1000 years.

Professor Ted Bryant
©Sylvia Liber
Professor Ted Bryant with the US film crew at Jones Beach.

New York-based production company Pangolin Pictures has been filming
for the documentary this week at Greenfields Beach, near Vincentia, in
a cave at Jones Beach, Kiama Downs and at Bass Point, Shellharbour.

The documentary, Ancient Mega-Tsunamis, is based on the
theories of University of Wollongong associate professor Ted Bryant and
the Holocene Impact Working Group, a collective of scientists from the
United States, Russia, France, Ireland and Australia.

"Ted Bryant believes the meteor impact 500 years ago created
mega-tsunamis that devastated coastal populations along the NSW coast
as well as parts of New Zealand," the show's associate producer, Jackie
Forster, said. "It is very controversial - NASA scientists say it
happened 10,000 years ago, but this group believes it happened only 500
years ago."

The "geographical evidence" includes whirlpool bedrock at Bass
Point "where the tsunami came in and tore out the bedrock in a cyclone
movement", the tsunami-created Cathedral Rocks and the cave at Jones
Beach as well as a collection of boulders at Greenfields Beach. The
documentary will screen in Australia in late 2009.

California, US: Mysterious odor causes lock-down at Indio High School

Students at Indio High School have been released to go home early
following a lock-down prompted by reports of an unknown odor in two
math classrooms. The odor was reported just after 11 a.m. First
arriving fire units at the scene near Avenue 46 reported that two
people had fainted and requested county hazardous materials and
environmental health teams to respond to the incident. It has now been
confirmed that only one student fainted. 11 students total were taken
to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio after complaining of
feeling ill. Fire officials say their ailments are considered to be
non-life threatening. The parents of those 11 students have been

There were rumors that the cause of the odor may have been due to a
freon leak, however fire officials have confirmed those rumors are
false. The cause of the odor remains under investigation.

School officials say classes will resume tomorrow as usual.
Parents are urged to call the school's main line at 775-3550 for more

UK: Fireball sighted over Wigan

Wigan Today

Tue, 23 Sep 2008 18:41 UTC

A man has emailed the wigantoday newsroom asking if anyone else saw a
bizarre Unidentified Flaming Object in Shevington last night.

His email in full reads ...
Hi ... Did anyone else in the Shevington area/Shevington
Moor area see the fire ball above Shevington High? I live opposite the
playing fields on Parkbrook Lane. At about 9pm last night my daughter
and I witnessed what looked like a giant firework/rocket flying several
hundred feet on a horizontal path towards Elnup Woods.

It was a only a matter of several seconds and disappeared
or broke up before the woods. It was twice the speed of a firework and
had a trailing flame behind it.

This is not a wind up, other people in the area must have seen it.

Frank Welch

If you saw the object add your comments below ...

A reader responds:

Chorley 23/09/2008 15:08:23

I was on the M60 approaching Chorley and saw the object. I
noticed a star-like object moving quickly across the sky and pointed it
out to my girlfriend.

As we watched, it grew brighter and picked up speed, and then
a white tail appeared behind it. The object continued to get brighter
and the tail turned orange, and then it started to break up. In my
opinion it was a small meteorite, because it looked as if it burned up
as it was entering the Earths atmosphere.

It was an amazing sight, and I nearly drove straight into the back of someone because I was so engrossed by it.

UC Berkeley Expert and Association of Space Explorers Study Global Strategy to Defend Against Incoming Asteroids


Tue, 23 Sep 2008 18:01 UTC

San Francisco, CA -- Professor Karlene Roberts has never donned a
spacesuit nor orbited around the planet, but the spirited
organizational behavior expert at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business
was tapped to help a committee of astronauts, diplomats, and legal
experts find ways to mitigate the impact of an asteroid hitting Earth.

After two years of work, Roberts will join that co mmittee --
the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) Committee on Near Earth
Objects (NEO) -- in presenting its findings, "Asteroid Threats: A Call
for Global Response," at a press conference, September 25, 2008, 10
a.m., at the Google Foundation, 345 Spear St., 2nd Floor, San
Francisco. A full report will be presented to the United Nations in
early 2009. The press conference follows the committee's weeklong
workshop in San Francisco. Over the past two years, the group conducted
similar workshops in France, Romania and Costa Rica.

The NEO Committee, chaired by Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty
Schweickart, was formed to work with world leaders and organizations on
preparations to protect the planet from near earth object impacts. The
committee invited Prof. Roberts to share her expertise in risk
management and organizational behavior. Roberts studies and advises
organizations and systems in which errors can have catastrophic
consequences, such as wildfire response, air control towers, nuclear
submarines, and the medical industry.

"This is not an astronomy problem. It is a financial problem,
an accounting problem, an international problem, an organizational
problem, a political problem, and a problem that needs to be solved by
public and private enterprise coming together to solve it," says
Roberts. Asteroids are often referred to as space rocks but consider
their potentially enormous danger. In an Atlantic Monthly article, June
2008, journalist Gregg Easterbrook wrote, "astronomers are nervously
tracking 99942 Apophis, an asteroid with a slight chance of striking
Earth in April 2036 ... it could hit with about 60,000 times the force
of the Hiroshima bomb - enough to destroy an area the size of France."

The committee includes chair and Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty
Schweickart; NASA astronauts Thomas Jones, Edward Lu and Franklin
Chang-Diaz; and four international space explorers.

The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) is an international
nonprofit professional and educational organization of over 320
individuals from 373 nations who have flown in space. Karlene Roberts'
bio: here

More information about ASE: here

Artificial Meteorite Shows Martian Impactors Could Carry Traces Of Life

An artificial meteorite designed by the European Space Agency has shown
that traces of life in a martian meteorite could survive the violent
heat and shock of entry into the Earth's atmosphere. The experiment's
results also suggest that meteorite hunters should widen their search
to include white rocks if we are to find traces of life in martian

Foton-M3 capsule
Foton-M3 capsule immediately after landing. The STONE-6 rock samples
were fixed in the circular positions at the left side of the capsule.

The STONE-6 experiment tested whether sedimentary rock samples
could withstand the extreme conditions during a descent though the
Earth's atmosphere where temperatures reached at least 1700 degrees
Celsius. After landing, the samples were transported in protective
holders to a laboratory clean-room at ESTEC and examined to see if any
traces of life remained. The results will be presented by Dr Frances
Westall at the European Planetary Science Congress on 25th September.

Recent missions have gathered compelling
evidence for water and sediments on early Mars. Potential traces of
Martian life are more likely to be found in sediments that have been
formed in water. However, although about 39 known meteorites from Mars
have been identified, all are basaltic rock-types and no sedimentary
meteorites have been found to date.

Dr Westall said, "The STONE-6 experiment shows that
sedimentary martian meteorites could reach Earth. The fact that we
haven't found any to date could mean that we need to change the way we
hunt for meteorites. Most meteorites have been found in Antarctica,
where their black fusion crust shows up clearly against the white snow.
In this experiment we found that the sedimentary rocks developed a
white crust or none at all. That means that we need to expand our
search to white or light-coloured rocks."

The STONE-6 experiment was mounted on a FOTON M3 capsule that
was launched from Baikonur on 14th September 2007. Two samples of
terrestrial sedimentary rock and a control sample of basalt were fixed
to the heat-shield of the return capsule, which re-entered the
atmosphere on 26th September after 12 days in orbit. The basalt was
lost during re-entry. However, a sample of 3.5 billion year old
volcanic sand containing carbonaceous microfossils and a 370 million
year sample of mudstone from the Orkney Islands containing chemical
biomarkers both survived.

On examination at ESTEC, the 3.5 billion year old sample of
sand from Pilbara in Australia was found to have formed a
half-millimetre thick fusion crust that was creamy white in colour.
About half the rock had ablated but the microfossils and carbon
survived at depth in the sample. Approximately 30 percent of the other
sediment, a lacustrine sand from the Orkney Islands, also survived, as
did some of the biomolecules. The heat of entry resulted in
mineralogical changes in both rocks.

The rocks also transported living organisms, a type of
bacteria called Chroococcidiopsis, on the back of the rocks, away from
the exposed edge. Unfortunately the heat of reentry was so high, even
with a protective two centimetre-thick rock coating, that the organisms
were carbonised. They died but their cells still remain as "pompeified"

Dr Westall said, "The STONE-6 experiment suggests that, if
martian sedimentary meteorites carry traces of past life, these traces
could be safely transported to Earth. However, the results are more
problematic when applied to Panspermia, a theory that proposes living
cells could be transported between planets. STONE-6 showed at least two
centimetres of rock is not sufficient to protect the organisms during

About STONE-6

In 1999, ESA created the first artificial meteorite experiment
in space, STONE-1, which tested the effects of entry into the Earth's
atmosphere on samples of igneous and sedimentary rock as well as a
simulated sample of martian regolith. Since then, further STONE
experiments have tested the effects on different rock types and
biological traces. During descent, the re-entry capsule reaches a
velocity of 7.6 kilometres per second, slightly lower than normal
meteorite velocities of 12-15 kilometres per second.

Adapted from materials provided by Europlanet.

University of Michigan astronomy professor Mario Mateo was a little
jealous when he learned a group of Ypsilanti bus drivers and a teacher
saw an apparent fireball Thursday morning.

"Shoot. I wish I'd seen it!'' he said. "They can be very, very bright and are quite impressive.''

This bolide - or fireball - may have been nothing more than a rock up to about a foot in diameter, Mateo said.

It certainly impressed Josephine Watson and Shirley Lucas.

The bus drivers were in the parking lot at the end of Railroad Street
in Ypsilanti at about 6:50 a.m. when they spotted a line of fire in the
sky that tracked roughly west-to-east.

"Then poof, it disappeared,'' Lucas said.

"We were shocked. We had never seen anything like that,'' Watson said.

When Watson arrived at Estabrook Elementary School, she said a teacher reported seeing the phenomenon, too.

Mateo said some fireballs he's seen were short-lived, while others lasted many seconds and traversed tens of degrees in the sky.

He described one as: "A beautiful, slow bolide that just was
getting brighter and brighter. When it got to the point that it was
considerably brighter than Venus, it just exploded, as if a fiery hand
opened up and then rapidly disappeared from view.''

Mateo said about 100 tons of extraterrestrial matter fall on
Earth every day - about the capacity of a railroad car - and most is
just space dust, with the occasional pebble or stones that become

But most fireballs occur over oceans and uninhabited regions, and many are masked by daylight, he noted.

And despite their name, fireballs aren't actually on fire. The
rocks move so fast that friction with the upper atmosphere, even where
there's little air, heats them until they glow, Mateo said.

A huge fireball traveling across the South Bend skies before dawn
Thursday also was seen in Michigan, Ohio and Canada, according to other
news accounts.

A Tribune reporter watched the fireball - confirmed
by some Canadian astronomers as a meteor - as it streaked across the
sky from north to south before the sun came up in the eastern sky.

The meteor was unusually bright and long-lived, with a green-tinted fireball and glowing arc trailing behind it.

South Bend and St. Joseph County 911 dispatchers said they did not receive any calls about the fireball.

But in Michigan, local media said Ypsilanti school bus drivers called news outlets to report what they'd seen.

And in Ohio, Cleveland residents e-mailed WEWS-TV, some saying they'd never seen anything like it before.

The ABC affiliate said contacts to their e-mail link reported
seeing the "mysterious light" across the greater Cleveland area, south
to Columbus and west into Indiana and southern Michigan.

"Whatever it was, it was a spectacular sight to see," one viewer wrote.

"It was so impressive that seeing it felt somewhat surreal," added another.

And indeed, it was breathtaking.

The mystery, however, appears solved by The University of Western Ontario.

According to the Chatham Daily News, the university's
physics and astronomy department checked their systems after two women
taking their morning walk reported seeing the fireball in Chatham, a
Canadian town about 50 miles northeast of Detroit.

University staff told the Daily News the light was a
meteor seen across their entire network, which their Western Meteor
Physics Group bases in London, Ontario, and uses for monitoring.

Carol Handsor and Gillian Andrews were greeted with a bright welcome during their usual morning stroll on Thursday.

While walking on a trail along Mud Creek behind John McGregor Secondary
School, the Chatham residents witnessed a bright object falling from
the sky.

"It was a huge ball of fire," Handsor told The Chatham Daily News.

"It had sort of a blueish tinge to it. The end of it was coming down with sort of a tail of flames. It went down quick."

Wayne Edwards, a postdoctoral astronomy student at The University of
Western Ontario's physics and astronomy department, confirmed Thursday
afternoon what the Chatham residents saw was a meteor.

"We do have one meteor that was seen across our entire network," Edwards told The Daily News.

"It was moving at about 55 kilometers per second. So it was motoring."

The UWO has a network of seven all-sky cameras stationed
throughout southwestern Ontario detecting meteors on a daily basis,
Edwards said.

"Meteors are falling all the time," he said.

"Some are brighter than others. This one was particularly
bright . . . it was early enough in the morning, so lots of people
could have seen it. This is one of the few ones that have been seen
across our network."

He said the meteor started at a 106 km altitude and made it down to 92 km.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

9/19/2008 about 11:00 or 12:00 pm in long beach ca arund los cyoties and wardlow couldnt be more then 500 feet and the sky a rock form flaming ball falling to earth never anything looking like a shooting star as it braks to three smaller pieces i call my frind out he thought i see thing not much after first one a short flame of a secound one wichy my frind saw