UK UFO Sightings
Mon, 01 Jun 2009 15:40 UTC
Posted: June 1, 2009
Date of Sighting: 31st. May '09
Time: 00:30 a.m. approx.
Witness Statement: Huge ball of bright
orange light traveling at speed from North to West. There was no sound.
Same height as plane would be, but faster than plane. I thought it must
be an aircraft on fire, perhaps being hijacked and I was waiting to
hear a crash as it landed, but heard nothing. I thought then it must be
a meteor or something.
Can't see it being chinese lanterns. Too high up, too fast and powerful, too big.
UK UFO Sightings
Mon, 01 Jun 2009 15:48 UTC
Posted: June 1, 2009
Date of Sighting: 30th May 2009
Witness Statement: I saw the anomaly,
much like a flaming orange ball traveling North to South initially, at
an estimated 5-10,000 ft. It was traveling about 2 or 3 times faster
than a plane with no noise, I thought it was an asteroid initially.
However, it seemed to slow down and then travel in a West direction
rapidly increasing in speed and altitude, traveling roughly 5 times the
speed of a plane. The whole experience lasted about 1m 30 secs. Both my
partner and I witnessed it and have never seen anything like it before.
HBCC UFO Research
Tue, 02 Jun 2009 13:21 UTC
Posted: June 2, 2009
Date: May 28, 2009
Time Approx: 11:30 p.m.
Number of witnesses: 2
Number of Objects: 1
Shape of Objects: Orb-like.
Full Description of Event/Sighting:
Driving down highway 12 slowing down for construction, I had seen a
medium-sized green fireball-like orb falling towards the ground at a
close 45 degree angle approximately 1 mile away. I wasn't sure if it
were fireworks or a flare gun initially considering the construction
nearby. I also had considered a falling star. A couple of seconds later
I realized it couldn't have been either of those and quickly asked my
girlfriend sitting next to me what it could be. We both looked at it
for 3-4 seconds as it rapidly fell towards the ground. We weren't able
to see where it fell due to a blocking view caused by a big-rig truck.
We're not exactly sure if anyone else had seen the
green fireball as well since there were so many distractions and nobody
stopped in their tracks to look in awe.
UK UFO Sightings
Thu, 04 Jun 2009 14:41 UTC
Posted: June 4, 2009
Date of Sighting: 31st May 2009
Time: 10-11 PM
Witness Statement: I was having a ciggie
out of the bathroom window and saw a large 'fireball' (glowing orange)
moving horizontally and quite low in the sky. This thing appeared to be
both bigger than a 747, and faster than any plane or helicopter. I
watched it, shouted and ran to get my partner, was literally gone 3-4
seconds, and when I returned it had just vanished ! Impossible! I know
what I saw, and it wasn't anything man made (that I know of !). Just a
big ball of 'fire' flying at a constant speed and height.
It's stayed in my mind all day as it was so bizarre. This definitely wasn't a meteor so what was it ?
The Times of India
Wed, 03 Jun 2009 18:15 UTC
"Meteorite is a rocky material which enters into earth's atmosphere
from outside the earth (for eg, Mars) whereas numerous small and big
rocks circulating in between the planets Mars and Jupiter are known as
asteroids," said Prof Harish Chandra Verma of department of Physics of
IIT-K while talking to TOI, specifying the difference between a
meteorite and an asteroid.
Prof Verma ruled out the possibility of the stone being an
asteroid as reported in some newspapers and emphatically remarked that
the initial study of the piece of the rock done on Wednesday confirms
that it's a meteorite. Usually such pieces of rock (debris) come from
asteroid belt only but sometimes they may very well be a part of other
celestial bodies also.
Prof Verma was referring to the incident
of May 28, when a 1 kg stone resembling a meteorite fell down from the
sky about 12 noon and left the people of the Karimatti hamlet
in Hamirpur district amazed and puzzled. The stone which is ten inches
in length and five inches in width was put in water to bring down its
high temperature. Eyewitness to the entire incident, Mannu Lal, a
villager was the first to observe this heavenly body. In no time, the
news of the incident had spread like a wild fire in the entire village.
The matter was then referred to the administration, which took the
stone in its possession.
Prof Verma, travelled 200 km and brought the stone to IIT-K on
Tuesday last for detailed study. Visibly excited with the discovery of
the magnetic stone, Prof Verma shared his experience and said, "It's
confirmed now that it is a meteorite due to its properties. As it was
getting attracted towards a magnet and also the whole of the stone was
covered with a black layer it gave us an idea of it being a
"Genuine scientific tests done on this meteorite will help us
to know more about the secrets of the solar system like what was the
composition of the solar system when it was formed, what was the early
solar system like etc," he further said.
Prof Verma went on to say that the researchers from Physical
Research Lab, Ahmedabad, University of Jodhpur, Bhaba Atomic Research
Centre (BARC) and IIT-K will carry out tests in collaboration.
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports
Wed, 03 Jun 2009 06:50 UTC
astronomer Jose De Queiroz on Wednesday announced the discovery of two
new asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
According to the Mirasteilas Observatory, De Queiroz has located two new asteroids with a diameter of between 1 kilometer and 2 kilometers.
According to the Associated Press, the discovery of 2009FM1 and
2009FA1 was confirmed by the Minor Planet Center of the International
Astronomical Union in Cambridge, Massachusetts in March.
"They're perfectly ordinary objects and intrinsically very faint," said Bryan Marsden, of the Minor Planet Center.
Marsden added that De Queiroz would have to continue to observe the two
new asteroids for the next four years in order to confirm their
"They've only been observed this year," he said.
The newly discovered asteroids are just two out of hundreds of
thousands currently falling between the two planets. Marsden said many
of the asteroids around the main belt have been documented, but amateur
astronomers like De Queiroz continue to find new ones.
De Queiroz hopes to name the asteroids 'Falera,' after the site of his observatory, and 'Marcia,' after his daughter.
"If the observations are just over the course of a month or
two, that's not enough for us to accept the names that he's proposing,"
Sat, 06 Jun 2009 14:09 UTC
The annual Arietid meteor shower peaks this
weekend on Sunday, June 7th. The Arietids are unusual because they are
daytime meteors; the shower is most intense after sunrise. Early risers
could spot a small number of earthgrazing Arietids during the dark
hours before dawn on Sunday morning.
Every year in early June, hundreds of meteors streak across the sky.
Most are invisible, though, because the sun is above the horizon while
the shower is most intense. These daylight meteors are called the
Arietids. They stream from a radiant point in the constellation Aries,
which lies just 30 degrees from the Sun in June.
Arietid meteoroids hit Earth's atmosphere with a velocity of
39 km/s (87,000 mph). No one is sure where these meteoroids come from.
Possibilities include sungrazing asteroid 1566 Icarus, Comet
96P/Machholz, and the Kreutz family of sungrazing comets. The debris
stream is quite broad: Earth is inside it from late May until early
July. In most years, the shower peaks on June 7th or 8th.
If you want to see a few Arietids, try looking just
before sunrise. The Arietid radiant rises in the east about 45 minutes
before the sun. (This is true for observers in both of Earth's
hemispheres, north and south.) Pre-dawn Arietids tend to be
"Earthgrazers"--meteors that skim horizontally through the upper
atmosphere from radiants near the horizon. Spectacular Earthgrazers are
usually slow and bright, streaking far across the sky--worth waking up
After daybreak, you can listen to the shower by tuning into our online meteor radar.
Statesman News Service
Wed, 10 Jun 2009 02:15 UTC
Dhenkanal, India: Mr Anil Hota of Ichchbatipur, under Baruna gram
panchayat, in Kamakshanagar subdivision, was carrying a palm leaf sheet
over his head, while moving around in the village today.
Scorching heat, is not the only reason for such protective
measures adopted by Mr Anil and other villagers, as all of them resort
to leaf sheets or umbrellas, at the dead of the night, these days too.
Much to the disbelief of the outsiders, the villagers of Ichchbatipur
claim that, for last few days they have been witnessing bizarre and
mysterious incidents like dropping of stone pieces and splinters from
above and other directions.
Hence, it was no surprise that at the Pandua outpost and
Kamakshanagar police station police officers, were taken aback
yesterday when the villagers came in large numbers and narrated the
"disturbance" in the village, which is taking place from Saturday
night, while requesting them to take "necessary action". The police,
however, were helpless too and could do nothing except visiting the
village and starting an inquiry.
Saturday night was as like any other night for Mr
Hemant Mohapatra. But at about 12, his slumber was disturbed by a
strange sound. He woke up and realized that stone pieces were falling
on his roof. Though, he immediately could not figure out what exactly
had happened or who was doing it, he saw similar "attack" on the
verandah and roof of many neighbours. They too could not understand
what was happening and with utter disbelief, fear and confusion, all
started searching for any clue, but in vain.
Mr Srikant Hota, a fellow villager informed the curious and
confused neighbours that one big stone had fallen from above injuring
him. He showed the injuries marks on his body.
As the news spread in the morning, thousands of people from
nearby areas rushed to the village. Though the whole incident is still
wrapped in mystery, the villagers preferred to remain indoors.
"We searched extensively for the origin of the stones, but
found no answer for the mystery," said Mr Hemant Mohapatra, who has
Many villagers feel that it is a supernatural phenomenon, while
some maintain that this was the handwork of a sorcerer. Kamakshanagar
MLA, Mr Prafulla Mallick, visited the village and discussed with the
Meanwhile, the villagers are getting ready to offer mass
prayer before Lord Hanuman, seeking divine intervention to ward off the
Robert Roy Britt
Wed, 16 Jul 2003 18:39 UTC
asteroids fall through Earth's atmosphere, a variety of things can
happen. Large iron-heavy space rocks are almost sure to slam into the
planet. Their stony cousins, however, can't take the pressure and are
more likely to explode above the surface.
Either outcome can be dismal. But the consequences vary.
So scientists who study the potential threat of asteroids would
like to know more about which types and sizes of asteroids break apart
and which hold together. A new computer model helps to quantify whether
an asteroid composed mostly of stone will survive to create a crater or
A stony space rock must be about the size of two football
fields, or 720 feet (220 meters) in diameter, to endure the thickening
atmosphere and slam into the planet, according to the study, led by
Philip Bland of the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at
Imperial College London.
"Stones of that size are just at the border where they're
going to reach the surface -- a bit lower density and strength and
it'll be a low-level air burst, a bit higher and it'll hit as a load of
fragments and you'll get a crater," said Bland, who is also a Royal
Society Research Fellow.
The distinction would mean little to a person on the ground.
Two ways to destroy a city
"An airburst would be a blast somewhere in the region of 500-600
megatons," Bland said in an e-mail interview. "As a comparison, the
biggest-ever nuclear test was about 50 megatons."
A presumed airburst in 1908,
over a remote region of Siberia called Tunguska, flattened some 800
square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of forest. The object is
estimated to have been just 260 feet wide (80 meters). Bland said the
event was probably equal to about 10 megatons.
"If most of it made it to the ground you might actually be a
bit better off, because the damage would be a little more localized,"
he said. "A lot of energy would still get dumped in the atmosphere, but
you'd probably also have a ragged crater, or crater field, extending
over several kilometers, with the surrounding region flattened by the
Smaller stony asteroids, say those the size of the car, enter
the atmosphere more frequently but typically disintegrate higher up and
cause no damage. In fact, as many as two or three dozen objects ranging
from the size of a television to a studio apartment explode in the atmosphere every year, according to data from U.S. military satellites.
Separate research in recent years has shown that stony asteroids are
often mere rubble piles, somewhat loose agglomerations of material that
may have been shattered in previous collisions but remain
Pieces and parts
The new computer model is detailed in the July 17 issue of the journal Nature. It was created with the help of Natalia Artemieva at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Previous models treated the cascade of fragments from a
disintegrating asteroid as a continuous liquid "pancake." The new model
tracks individual forces acting on each fragment as the bunch descends.
The researchers can plug in asteroid size, density, strength,
speed and entry angle at the top of the atmosphere. With "reasonable
confidence" a computer program then details how that rock should behave
in the air and what will happen at the surface.
The model has implication not just for land-based impacts, but
also splashdowns in the ocean that can trigger devastating tsunamis. An
airburst is not likely to generate much of a tsunami, possibly lowering
that risk compared to what scientists had figured.
The results suggest rocks about 720 feet across (220 meters)
are likely to actually hit the surface every 170,000 years or so. Some
previous research has suggested a frequency of every 4,000 years or
The model can also "hindcast" what sort of rock might have generated a certain known crater.
"You see a crater field on Mars, we can tell you what sort of object caused it," Bland said.
In fact, he and Artemieva have done just that. In their most recent tests, which are not discussed in the Nature
paper, they plugged in the atmospheric details of Mars, as well as
Venus, and hurled some hypothetical space rocks at those planets.
"The simulated crater fields that the model produces look almost exactly like the real thing," Bland said.
For now, the model does not handle very large asteroids, those
that could cause widespread regional or even global damage, though
Bland said the flaw may be fixable. He is careful to point out that
computer models do not provide solid proof for what might happen.
"There are still a lot of unknowns in this," he said.
When Meteors Explode: Full Account of a Wild Chicago Night
Mon, 19 Apr 2004 18:07 UTC
Robert Roy Britt
You might think meteor expert Steven Simon knew exactly what was
happening one evening when the skies over his home were lit up by an
exploding, 2,000-pound space rock bigger than a refrigerator. But it
was only the next day, when nearby residents brought him chunks of the
extraterrestrial visitor that had landed in the street and punched
through their roofs, that Simon began to understand the true nature of the frightening event.
Now after a year of study, the University of Chicago researcher has
helped produce a full account of the giant rock that tore through the
atmosphere at 54 times the speed of sound.
Simon was in his Park Forest home about 30 miles south of Chicago with the drapes drawn near midnight on March 26, 2003.
"I saw the flash, and although it lasted longer than a
lightning flash, that's what I thought it was," he told SPACE.com last
week. "I knew it had rained that night, and thought maybe it was
multiple flashes, perhaps diffused by the clouds."
Lawrence Grossman, a geophysicist who oversees Simon's
research, got a different impression of the incoming object from his
home in nearby Flossmoor.
"I heard a detonation," Grossman said the morning after the event. "It was sharp enough to wake me up."
The fireball in the sky was witnessed across a wide area, from
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri. Simon and Grossman teamed up
with other researchers to gather rocks and eyewitness accounts and then
calculate the space rock's original size, composition and origin, and
to trace its fragmented path from space to Earth. Their findings are
detailed in the April issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
Several tons of space stuff rain down on the planet every day. Much of
it is dust. Objects no larger than sand grains generate typical
"shooting stars" when they vaporize.
Playing marble-sized objects can create dramatic fireballs
that prompt phone calls to local law enforcement. Asteroids bigger than
about 100 feet (30 meters) can mostly survive the plunge, possibly
hitting the surface or exploding devastatingly close to the ground. The
latter events are very rare.
Scientists call all these things meteors once they enter the
atmosphere. When in space, the same objects might be referred to as
asteroids if they are large, or meteoroids if they are small. If they
hit the ground, they're called meteorites.
Whether the things vaporize, break apart or reach the surface
intact depends in part on whether they are made mostly of fragile stone
or of more durable iron.
The Chicago rock was stony and about 6 feet in diameter, the researchers conclude.
About 10 objects of this size enter the atmosphere every year,
according Doug ReVelle of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which
uses satellites and other means to monitor the resulting explosions and
separate them from possible rogue-nation nuclear detonations.
Most of these in-air explosions are not noticed by eyewitnesses because
so much of the world, including the two-thirds that is water, is
Here's what happened over Chicago:
"It hit the atmosphere at about 40,000 mph," Simon said. "At
this great speed, air pressure builds up in front of the object and is
much greater than the pressure behind it. This will pull apart many
meteors, especially if they already had some cracks. This object
probably went though four fragmentation events as it passed through the
Tremendous heat created by the pressure lit much of the object in a fiery display.
Park Forest resident Noe Garza was asleep when a fragment burst
through his ceiling, sliced some window blinds, then bounced across the
room and broke a mirror. "I thought somebody was breaking in," Garza
told a new agency the next day. "It was a big bang. I can't really
Another resident whose home was hit said the room lit up and it sounded like a plane had crashed.
Simon's team examined hundreds of fragments -- 65 pounds worth
that were picked up and delivered to the scientists -- to estimate the
original rock's size and weight.
The measurements are difficult to pin down, he explained,
because a lot of fragments probably hit wooded areas and were not
found. And some of the original meteor was probably broken into
particles too small to notice. The scientists also analyzed the
fragments for a certain radioactive form of cobalt, which can reveal
the rock's minimum size. "If the object is too small [while in space
for eons] the cosmic rays will just pass through and not make 60
cobalt," Simon said.
He said the original rock weighed at least 1,980 pounds as it
entered the atmosphere. Long ago, the analysis shows, it was probably
heated for a long period of time inside a larger parent asteroid. That
asteroid then broke apart, again a long time ago, perhaps in a
collision with another asteroid.
The researchers found in the fragments a mineral called
shocked feldspar, which suggests the ancient collision between two
There are no records of a meteorite ever killing anyone. But there have been injuries. A dog was killed by a space rock in Egypt in 1911.
The Park Forest meteorite event is not totally unlike others
that have been reported in recent years. A similar meteorite shower rattled a village in India last September, apparently injuring three people. Other reports of fireballs in the sky are fairly common, and the occasional small rock slices through a home.
But Simon and his colleagues write in their report of an important
distinction with the Chicago event: "This is the most densely populated
region to be hit by a meteorite shower in modern times."
Exploding Asteroids; Satellites Monitor Threat to Earth
Robert Roy Britt
Wed, 20 Nov 2002 18:19 UTC
Researchers have determined, with the assistance of US military
satellites, that the risk of Earth being struck by a killer asteroid is
less likely than previously believed.
If you've ever gazed up and spotted a shooting star, you engaged in a
form of astronomy in which Earths atmosphere serves as a giant
detector: Space debris screams through the air, which heats the stuff
up and makes it visible.
By noting observations night after night, you could develop a
record of how frequently certain sized objects most no larger than a
pea meet their demise by running into our planet.
But if you want to know how often larger hunks of cosmic
rubble arrive, your job is far more difficult. It could take hundreds
or even thousands of years of continuous observations to arrive at a
The prospect was not an option for Peter Brown of the
University of Western Ontario. So he and some colleagues turned to a
higher-tech version of the same method, and then applied some fancy
extrapolations. The researchers studied observations by U.S. government
satellite sentinels that watch for potential nuclear detonations around
the globe, 24/7.
More than eight years of data reveal 300 in-air explosions of
space rocks ranging in size from large televisions to studio
Objects in this size range rarely reach the ground.
They disintegrate catastrophically but high up. While some of their
shards can hit the planet the burned remains of space debris add tons
of heft to Earth every day, astronomers say the damage potential is
"There will often be a shower of small stony objects," Brown
explained. "But theres essentially no significant amount of energy
thats imparted to the ground."
Because most of these events occur over remote regions or
oceans (Earth is about two-thirds water) the majority of them go
unnoticed except by satellites operated by the Department of Defense
and the Department of Energy. Brown and his colleagues used the power
output of the explosions to estimate how big each rock was.
The researchers were interested in larger objects, however,
those roughly as big as a football field that strike even less often
but can get real nasty down here on the ground. These large boulders
typically explode, too, but they do so closer to the surface. A shock
wave could kill millions of people if one exploded over a populated
The last known event like this was in 1908, over the remote
Tunguska region of Siberia. Mostly uninhabited forest was flattened for
hundreds of miles in every direction.
Until recently, experts thought events like this might occur
once per century. A perception had developed in some minds that Earth
was due for another mini-cataclysm.
When Brown extrapolated his data on relatively small rocks
upward to estimate Tunguska event frequency, he found they probably
occur every 1,000 years or so. The results will be reported in
tomorrows issue of the journal Nature.
He notes, however, that because his team had less than a
decade of data to work with, its possible the actual rate of events is
higher than observed. Other researchers have speculated that swarms or
streams of asteroids might generate flurries of impacts now and then.
No such events have been recorded in modern times. However, ancient tales and drawings hint at the possibility.
The new analysis dovetails with another recent study
that approached the question from the opposite direction. Alan Harris
of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, CO used actual tallies of
Tunguska-sized rocks discovered out in space to estimate the quantity
of smaller rocks that probably exist. He, too, found that Tunguska
events ought to occur only about once every 1,000 years.
"We can all worry a little less about the risk of the next
hazardous impact," said Robert Jedicke, a University of Arizona
researcher who was not involved in the new study but wrote an analysis
of it for Nature.
However, unlike the recent Leonid meteor shower,
which was well predicted, scientists dont yet have enough data on the
populations of large meteoroids and asteroids to say when the next one
is coming. They caution that statistics and odds cannot be converted to
precise timetables. A giant asteroid might explode disastrously above
San Francisco tomorrow, or none might arrive on the entire planet for
Nature does not deliver doom on any scientists schedule.
Comment: This article was written in 2002, obviously things have changed celestially since those days.....and changed legally too: Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified
Wed, 25 Mar 2009 18:45 UTC
Meteorite fragments of the first asteroid ever spotted in space before
it slammed into Earth's atmosphere last year were recovered by
scientists from the deserts of Sudan.
These precious pieces of space rock, described in a study detailed in the March 26 issue of the journal Nature, could be an important key to classifying meteorites and asteroids and determining exactly how they formed.
The asteroid was detected by the automated Catalina Sky Survey
telescope at Mount Lemmon , Ariz., on Oct. 6, 2008. Just 19 hours after
it was spotted, it collided with Earth's atmosphere and exploded 23 miles (37 kilometers) above the Nubian Desert of northern Sudan.
Because it exploded so high over Earth's surface, no chunks of it were
expected to have made it to the ground. Witnesses in Sudan described
seeing a fireball, which ended abruptly.
But Peter Jenniskens, a meteor astronomer with the SETI
Institute's Carl Sagan Center, thought it would be possible to find
some fragments of the bolide. Along with Muawia Shaddad of the
University of Khartoum and students and staff, Jenniskens followed the
asteroid's approach trajectory and found 47 meteorites strewn across an
18-mile (29-km) stretch of the Nubian Desert.
"This was an extraordinary opportunity, for the first
time, to bring into the lab actual pieces of an asteroid we had seen in
space," Jenniskens said.
Astronomers were able to detect the sunlight reflected off the car-sized asteroid (much smaller than the one thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs)
while it was still hurtling through space. Looking at the signature of
light, or spectra of space rocks is the only way scientists have had of
dividing asteroids into broad categories based on the limited
information the technique gives on composition.
However, layers of dust stuck to the surfaces of the asteroids
can scatter light in unpredictable ways and may not show what type of
rock lies underneath. This can also make it difficult to match up
asteroids with meteorites found on Earth - that's why this new
discovery comes in so handy.
Both the asteroid, dubbed 2008 TC3, and its meteoric fragments indicate that it could belong to the so-called F-class asteroids.
"F-class asteroids were long a mystery," said SETI planetary
spectroscopist Janice Bishop. "Astronomers have measured their unique
spectral properties with telescopes, but prior to 2008 TC3 there was no
corresponding meteorite class, no rocks we could look at in the lab."
The chemical makeup of the meteorite fragments, collectively known as
"Almahata Sitta," shows that they belong to a rare class of meteorites
called ureilites, which may all have come from the same original parent
body. Though what that parent body was, scientists do not know.
"The recovered meteorites were unlike anything in our meteorite collections up to that point," Jenniskens said.
The meteorites are made of very dark, porous material that is
highly fragile (which explains why the bolide exploded so high up in
The carbon content of the meteorites shows that at some point in the past, they were subjected to very high temperatures.
"Without a doubt, of all the meteorites that we've ever
studied, the carbon in this one has been cooked to the greatest
extent," said study team member Andrew Steele of the Carnegie
Institution in Washington, D.C. "Very cooked, graphite-like carbon is
the main constituent of the carbon in this meteorite."
Steele also found nanodiamonds in the meteorite, which could
provide clues as to whether heating was caused by impacts to the parent
asteroid or by some other process.
Having spectral and laboratory information on the meteorites
and their parent asteroid will help scientists better identify ureilite
asteroids still circling in space.
"2008 TC3 could serve as a Rosetta Stone, providing us with
essential clues to the processes that built Earth and its planetary
siblings," said study team member Rocco Mancinelli, also of SETI.
One known asteroid with a similar spectrum, the 2.6-km wide
1998 KU2, has already been identified as a possible source for the
smaller asteroid 2008 TC3 that impacted Earth.
With efforts such as the Pan-STARRS project sweeping the skies in search of other near-Earth asteroids, Jenniskens expects that more events like 2008 TC3 will happen.
"I look forward to getting the next call from the next person
to spot one of these," he said. "I would love to travel to the impact
area in time to see the fireball in the sky, study its breakup and
recover the pieces. If it's big enough, we may well find other fragile
materials not yet in our meteorite collections."
Tue, 13 Nov 2001 18:25 UTC
Robert Roy Britt
If you are fortunate enough to see the storm of shooting
"...and the seven judges of hell ... raised their torches, lighting the
land with their livid flame. A stupor of despair went up to heaven when
the god of the storm turned daylight into darkness, when he smashed the
land like a cup."
-- An account of the Deluge from the Epic of Gilgamesh, circa 2200 B.C.
stars predicted for the Nov. 18 peak of the Leonid meteor shower,
you'll be watching a similar but considerably less powerful version of
events which some scientists say brought down the world's first
The root of both: debris from a disintegrating comet.
Biblical stories, apocalyptic visions, ancient art and
scientific data all seem to intersect at around 2350 B.C., when one or
more catastrophic events wiped out several advanced societies in
Europe, Asia and Africa.
Increasingly, some scientists suspect comets and their associated meteor storms were the cause.
History and culture provide clues: Icons and myths surrounding the
alleged cataclysms persist in cults and religions today and even fuel
And a newly found 2-mile-wide crater in Iraq, spotted
serendipitously in a perusal of satellite images, could provide a
smoking gun. The crater's discovery, which was announced in a recent
issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, is a
preliminary finding. Scientists stress that a ground expedition is
needed to determine if the landform was actually carved out by an
Yet the crater has already added another chapter to an
intriguing overall story that is, at best, loosely bound. Many of the
pages are washed away or buried. But several plot lines converge in
Too many coincidences
Archeological findings show that in the space of a few
centuries, many of the first sophisticated civilizations disappeared.
The Old Kingdom in Egypt fell into ruin. The Akkadian culture of Iraq,
thought to be the world's first empire, collapsed. The settlements of
ancient Israel, gone. Mesopotamia, Earth's original breadbasket, dust.
Around the same time -- a period called the Early Bronze Age
-- apocalyptic writings appeared, fueling religious beliefs that
The Epic of Gilgamesh describes the fire, brimstone and flood
of possibly mythical events. Omens predicting the Akkadian collapse
preserve a record that "many stars were falling from the sky." The
"Curse of Akkad," dated to about 2200 B.C., speaks of "flaming
potsherds raining from the sky."
Roughly 2000 years later, the Jewish astronomer Rabbi bar
Nachmani created what could be considered the first impact theory: That
Noah's Flood was triggered by two "stars" that fell from the sky. "When
God decided to bring about the Flood, He took two stars from Khima,
threw them on Earth, and brought about the Flood."
Another thread was woven into the tale when, in 1650, the
Irish Archbishop James Ussher mapped out the chronology of the Bible --
a feat that included stringing together all the "begats" to count
generations -- and put Noah's great flood at 2349 B.C.
A number of scientists don't think so.
Mounting hard evidence collected from tree rings, soil layers
and even dust that long ago settled to the ocean floor indicates there
were widespread environmental nightmares in the Near East during the
Early Bronze Age: Abrupt cooling of the climate, sudden floods and
surges from the seas, huge earthquakes.
Comet as a culprit
In recent years, the fall of ancient civilizations has come to
be viewed not as a failure of social engineering or political might but
rather the product of climate change and, possibly, heavenly
happenstance. As this new thinking dawned, volcanoes and earthquakes
were blamed at first. More recently, a 300-year drought has been the
But now more than ever, it appears a comet could be the culprit.
One or more devastating impacts could have rocked the planet, chilled
the air, and created unthinkable tsunamis -- ocean waves hundreds of
feet high. Showers of debris wafting through space -- concentrated
versions of the dust trails that create the Leonids -- would have
blocked the Sun and delivered horrific rains of fire to Earth for
So far, the comet theory lacks firm evidence. Like a crater.
Now, though, there is this depression in Iraq. It was found
accidentally by Sharad Master, a geologist at the University of
Witwatersrand in South Africa, while studying satellite images. Master
says the crater bears the signature shape and look of an impact caused
by a space rock.
The finding has not been developed into a full-fledged
scientific paper, however, nor has it undergone peer review. Scientist
in several fields were excited by the possibility, but they expressed
caution about interpreting the preliminary analysis and said a full
scientific expedition to the site needs to be mounted to determine if
the landforms do in fact represent an impact crater.
Researchers would look for shards of melted sand and telltale
quartz that had been shocked into existence. If it were a comet, the
impact would have occurred on what was once a shallow sea, triggering
massive flooding following the fire generated by the object's partial
vaporization as it screamed through the atmosphere. The comet would
have plunged through the water and dug into the earth below.
If it proves to be an impact crater, there is a good chance it
was dug from the planet less than 6,000 years ago, Master said, because
shifting sediment in the region would have buried anything older.
Arriving at an exact date will be difficult, researchers said.
"It's an exciting crater if it really is of impact origin," said Bill Napier, an astronomer at the Armagh Observatory.
Napier said an impact that could carve a hole this large would
have packed the energy of several dozen nuclear bombs. The local
effect: utter devastation.
"But the cultural effect would be far greater," Napier said in
an e-mail interview. "The event would surely be incorporated into the
world view of people in the Near East at that time and be handed down
through the generations in the form of celestial myths."
Napier and others have also suggested that the swastika, a
symbol with roots in Asia stretching back to at least 1400 B.C., could
be an artist's rendering of a comet, with jets spewing material outward
as the head of the comet points earthward.
But could a single impact of this size take down civilizations on three continents? No way, most experts say.
Napier thinks multiple impacts, and possibly a rain of other
smaller meteors and dust, would have been required. He and his
colleagues have been arguing since 1982 that such events are possible.
And, he says, it might have happened right around the time the first
urban civilizations were crumbling.
Napier thinks a comet called Encke, discovered in 1786, is the
remnant of a larger comet that broke apart 5,000 years ago. Large
chunks and vast clouds of smaller debris were cast into space. Napier
said it's possible that Earth ran through that material during the
Early Bronze Age.
The night sky would have been lit up for years by a
fireworks-like display of comet fragments and dust vaporizing upon
impact with Earth's atmosphere. The Sun would have struggled to shine
through the debris. Napier has tied the possible event to a cooling of
the climate, measured in tree rings, that ran from 2354-2345 B.C.
Though no other craters have been found in the region and
precisely dated to this time, there is other evidence to suggest the
scenario is plausible. Two large impact craters in Argentina are
believed to have been created sometime in the past 5,000 years.
Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores
University in England, said roughly a dozen craters are known to have
been carved out during the past 10,000 years. Dating them precisely is
nearly impossible with current technology. And, Peiser said, whether
any of the impact craters thought to have been made in the past 10,000
years can be tied back to a single comet is still unknown.
But he did not discount Napier's scenario.
"There is no scientific reason to doubt that the break-up of a
giant comet might result in a shower of cosmic debris," Peiser said. He
also points out that because Earth is covered mostly by deep seas, each
visible crater represents more ominous statistical possibilities.
"For every crater discovered on land, we should expect two oceanic impacts with even worse consequences," he said.
Tsunamis generated in deep water can rise even taller when they reach a shore.
Peiser studies known craters for clues to the past. But he also
examines religions and cults, old and new, for signs of what might have
happened way back then.
"I would not be surprised if the notorious rituals of human
sacrifice were a direct consequence of attempts to overcome this
trauma," he says of the South American impact craters. "Interestingly,
the same deadly cults were also established in the Near East during the
The impact of comets on myth and religion has reverberated through the ages, in Peiser's view.
"One has to take into consideration apocalyptic religions [of
today] to understand the far-reaching consequences of historical
impacts," he says. "After all, the apocalyptic fear of the end of the
world is still very prevalent today and can often lead to fanaticism
An obsession with the end of the world provides the legs on
which modern-day terrorism stands, Peiser argues. Leaders of
fundamentalist terror groups drum into the minds of their followers
looming cataclysms inspired by ancient writings. Phrases run along
these lines: a rolling up of the sun, darkening of the stars, movement
of the mountains, splitting of the sky.
No smoking gun yet
Despite the excitement of the newfound hole in the ground in
Iraq, it is still far from clear why so many civilizations collapsed in
such a relatively short historical time frame. Few scientists, even
those who find evidence to support the idea, are ready to categorically
blame a comet.
French soil scientist Marie-Agnes Courty, who in 1997 found
material that could only have come from a meteorite and dated it to the
Early Bronze Age, urged caution on drawing any conclusions until a
smoking gun has been positively identified.
"Certain scientists and the popular press do prefer the idea
of linking natural catastrophes and societal collapse," Courty said.
Multiple cosmic impacts are an attractive culprit though,
because of the many effects they can have, including some found in real
climate and geologic data. The initial impact, if it is on land,
vaporizes life for miles around. Earthquakes devastate an even wider
area. A cloud of debris can block out the Sun and alter the climate.
The extent and duration of the climate effects is not known for sure,
because scientists have never witnessed such an event.
It might not have taken much. Ancient civilizations, which depended on farming and reliable rainfall, were precarious.
Mike Baillie, a professor of palaeoecology at Queens University
in Belfast, figures it would have taken just a few bad years to destroy
such a society.
Even a single comet impact large enough to have created the
Iraqi crater, "would have caused a mini nuclear winter with failed
harvests and famine, bringing down any agriculture based populations
which can survive only as long as their stored food reserves," Baillie
said. "So any environmental downturn lasting longer than about three
years tends to bring down civilizations."
Other scientists doubt that a single impact would have altered the climate for so long.
Lessons for tomorrow
Either way, there is a giant scar on the planet, near the
cradle of civilization, that could soon begin to provide some solid
answers, assuming geologists can get permission to enter Iraq and
conduct a study.
"If the crater dated from the 3rd Millennium B.C., it would be
almost impossible not to connect it directly with the demise of the
Early Bronze Age civilizations in the Near East," said Peiser.
Perhaps before long all the cometary traditions, myths and
scientific fact will be seen to converge at the Iraqi hole in the
ground for good purpose. Understanding what happened, and how frequent
and deadly such impacts might be, is an important tool for researchers
like Peiser who aim to estimate future risk and help modern society avoid the fate of the ancients.
"Paradoxically, the Hebrew Bible and other Near Eastern documents have
kept alive the memory of ancient catastrophes whose scientific analysis
and understanding might now be vital for the protection of our own
civilizations from future impacts," Peiser said.
Small Asteroids Pose Big New Threat
Charles Q. Choi
Wed, 19 Dec 2007 07:39 UTC
infamous Tunguska explosion, which mysteriously leveled an area of
Siberian forest nearly the size of Tokyo a century ago, might have been
caused by an impacting asteroid far smaller than previously thought.
The fact that a relatively small asteroid could still cause such a massive explosion
suggests "we should be making more efforts at detecting the smaller
ones than we have till now," said researcher Mark Boslough, a physicist
at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M.
The explosion near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River on June 30,
1908, flattened some 500,000 acres (2,000 square kilometers) of
Siberian forest. Scientists calculated the Tunguska explosion could
have been roughly as strong as 10 to 20 megatons of TNT - 1,000 times
more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Wild theories have been bandied about for a century regarding what caused the Tunguska explosion,
including a UFO crash, antimatter, a black hole and famed inventor
Nikola Tesla's "death ray." In the last decade, researchers have
conjectured the event was triggered by an asteroid exploding in Earth's
atmosphere that was roughly 100 feet wide (30 meters) and 560,000
metric tons in mass - more than 10 times that of the Titanic.
The space rock is thought to have blown up above the surface, only fragments possibly striking the ground.
Now new supercomputer simulations suggest "the asteroid that caused the extensive damage
was much smaller than we had thought," Boslough said. Specifically, he
and his colleagues say it would have been a factor of three or four
smaller in mass and perhaps 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter.
The simulations run on Sandia's Red Storm supercomputer - the third fastest in the world - detail how an asteroid
that explodes as it runs into Earth's atmosphere will generate a
supersonic jet of expanding superheated gas. This fireball would have
caused blast waves that were stronger at the surface than previously
At the same time, previous estimates seem to have overstated
the devastation the event caused. The forest back then was not healthy,
according to foresters, "and it doesn't take as much energy to blow
down a diseased tree than a healthy tree," Boslough said. In addition,
the winds from the explosion
would naturally get amplified above ridgelines, making the explosion
seem more powerful than it actually was. What scientists had thought to
be an explosion between 10 and 20 megatons was more likely only three
to five megatons, he explained.
All in all, the researchers suggest that smaller asteroids may
pose a greater danger than previously believed. Moreover, "there are a
lot more objects that size," Boslough told SPACE.com.
NASA Ames Research Center planetary scientist and astrobiologist David Morrison, who did not participate in this study, said, "If
he's right, we can expect more Tunguska-sized explosions - perhaps
every couple of centuries instead of every millennia or two."
He added, "It raises the bar in the long term - ultimately, we'd like
to have a survey system that can detect things this small."
Boslough and his colleagues detailed their findings at the
American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco on Dec. 11. A paper
on the phenomenon has been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Impact Engineering.
it appears that small asteroids or comets hit the earth far more often
than thought or reported. Read the latest SOTT focus: New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection to get the idea...
Thu, 11 Jun 2009 16:26 UTC
pebble-sized meteorite crashed and burned into Earth, grazing
14-year-old Gerritt Blank while on his way to catch the school bus.
"At first, I only saw a big, white ball of light. Then, my hand hurt, and then it slammed into the street," he told daily Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. "After I saw the white light, I felt something on my hand."
The result was a 10-centimetre burn on the back of his left hand, but Blank knew something special had happened to him.
"I thought the meteor struck me, but it could also be a result from the heat as it went by me," he said.
After the intial shock, Blank looked at the glowing rock that left a
sizable crater in Brakeler Wald Street. He then took the iced tea from
his school lunch and doused his glowing pebble and took it to school
"At school, I told the story. My classmates believed me," he
said. His parents didn't get to hear the story until the end of the
Once home, Blank, who plans to focus his studies in
science, tested the round, black object and already found some
confirmation the pebble is from outer space: like many meteorites, the
rock is magnetic.
Approximately 3,000 meteorites hit the Earth's surface daily.
National Geographic News
Thu, 11 Jun 2009 02:56 UTC
1,124-pound (510-kilogram) space probe will "collide" with our home
planet in June 2010 to simulate an approaching asteroid, Japanese
scientists have announced.
The Hayabusa spacecraft is currently on its way back to Earth
after a successful mission that landed on and hopefully collected
samples from the asteroid Itokawa.
Potential samples will be aboard a heat-resistant capsule that
will separate from Hayabusa shortly before re-entry into Earth's
atmosphere so they can be recovered. But experts say the main body of
the craft will most likely disintegrate during the trip through Earth's
Although the plan was not part of Hayabusa's original
mission, scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
recently decided to make the most of the doomed probe's return.
"Even though Hayabusa is not actually an asteroid, it will be
on a path that will cause it to collide with the Earth in the same way
as an asteroid," said JAXA spokesperson Akinori Hashimoto. "We will
monitor its movements, and the data will enable us to accurately
predict the future paths of asteroids that are on course to come close
to the Earth."
A Better Lookout
While other space agencies have programs for tracking asteroids
that might hit Earth, JAXA doesn't yet have the ability to monitor
these so-called near-Earth asteroids. So a team of researchers headed
by Makoto Yoshikawa has developed a prototype system to calculate the
trajectory, time, speed, and likelihood of an asteroid impact.
In October 2008, the team had a chance to test its system by
tracking asteroid 2008 TC3, an incoming space rock about 13 feet (4
meters) wide that astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona had
spotted a few hours before it became a fireball in the skies over
Fri, 12 Jun 2009 10:04 UTC
A schoolboy has survived a direct hit by a meteorite after it fell to earth at 30,000mph.
Gerrit Blank, 14, was on his way to school when he saw "ball of light" heading straight towards him from the sky.
A red hot, pea-sized piece of rock then hit his hand before bouncing off and causing a foot wide crater in the ground.
The teenager survived the strike, the chances of which are just 1 in a
million - but with a nasty three-inch long scar on his hand.
He said: "At first I just saw a large ball of light, and then I suddenly felt a pain in my hand.
"Then a split second after that there was an enormous bang like a crash of thunder."
"The noise that came after the flash of light was so loud that my ears were ringing for hours afterwards.
"When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself into the road," he explained.
Scientists are now studying the pea-sized meteorite which crashed to Earth in Essen, Germany.
"I am really keen on science and my teachers discovered that the fragment is really magnetic," said Gerrit.
Chemical tests on the rock have proved it had fallen from space.
Ansgar Kortem, director of Germany's Walter Hohmann Observatory, said:
"It's a real meteorite, therefore it is very valuable to collectors and
"Most don't actually make it to ground level because they
evaporate in the atmosphere. Of those that do get through, about six
out of every seven of them land in water," he added.
The only other known example of a human being surviving a
meteor strike happened in Alabama, USA, in November 1954 when a
grapefruit-sized fragment crashed through the roof of a house, bounced
off furniture and landed on a sleeping woman.
Comment: Actually, these incidents are not as rare as we are made to believe. From our Comets and Catastrophe installment, read: Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls
Tue, 16 Jun 2009 12:37 UTC
Reports of strange lights in the English Channel overnight have been put down to a meteor shower, coastguards said.
Calls were made to stations from Hampshire down to Brixham in Devon and
across to Jersey and France at about 9.30pm on Monday, with people
saying they were seeing white and green flares in the sky.
A Solent Coastguard spokesman said: "There were reports of
flares all down the coast which went on for about half an hour but
there was a forecast for a meteor shower."
Meteor showers are caused by debris from a comet burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
This can produce shooting stars across the night sky, particularly
visible on clear nights, which was the case over southern England on
Solent Coastguard said it could have been one of three showers forecast - the June Lyrids, the Ophruchids or the Zeta Pearseids.
Mon, 15 Jun 2009 15:48 UTC
Posted: June 15, 2009
Date: May 23, 2009
Time: Approx: 6:00 a.m.
Number of witnesses: 2
Number of Objects: 1
Shape of Objects: Round
Full Description of Event/Sighting: Saw
what looked like a really large bright star in the sky. We were looking
in a easterly direction. My husband left and I continued to look up at
the bright light. It suddenly started to fade away like it was
something flying away.
We also saw a meteor or something enter the atmosphere around
the time of the Lyrid meteor shower. It has a fireball tail. We both
saw it. It was around 3:00am in the morning on I think the 22 April
2009. These are most probably both natural phenomenon?
Sun, 14 Jun 2009 19:14 UTC
years ago-well, about 65 to 97 million years ago-a gigantic meteorite
struck the earth just east of present-day Kentland in northwestern
Indiana's Benton County.
How big was the meteorite? The best guess is that it or
perhaps it was a comet ice mass left a circular crater dome measuring
about 4 ½ miles in diameter. The entire "disturbed area" is about eight miles in diameter.
The meteorite hit with such force and velocity that, as it plunged into
the earth, it lifted Shakopee dolomite (rock resembling limestone from
the Ordovician period) up to the planet's surface from some 2,000 feet
below. Much of this rock then stood vertically rather than
horizontally. Eventually, over the eons, glaciers and water eroded away
much of the crater, but still leaving numerous stone outcroppings.
It became what modern-day meteorologists and
geologists call the Kentland Crater, the fourth largest known impact
site in the United States. They've been studying the crater for the
past 70 years.
Here's the time to explain that, despite the evidence, some
believe what happened was not a meteorite strike but rather an
earthquake or explosion of gases erupting up through the earth's
more modern times, rock from the site was quarried, beginning around
1880. Mostly its major product was crushed stone for road building. It
still is a large working quarry today, operated by Rogers Group, Inc.,
as Newton County Stone.
Interest in the crater remains so strong that Susan Daniel,
community relations coordinator for the company, spends considerable
time conducting tours and answering questions about the crater.
While school children show up by the bus loads and geologists
and meteorologists still beat a path to the crater site, interestingly
enough many Hoosiers never have heard of it. As a matter of fact, I've
mentioned it to perhaps as many as 50 persons and only one had any idea
what I was talking about.
Nor is visiting the crater site the easiest thing to do.
If the area has had recent rain, passage down into the quarry
becomes difficult. My friend Howie Snider and I had to cancel three
proposed trips because of rain. Certainly you want to call Susan Daniel
to make arrangements for your visit.
we had a good day. After showing us some rocks from the quarry and
explaining how the operation functions, Susan piled Howie and me into
her truck and away we went. First we traveled down in the quarry to the
raised platform where visitors usually are taken. It provides a
I'm not sure I can describe the other twists and turns we took
as we explored other parts of the quarry. I was especially looking for
photo possibilities showing the vertical rock structure still visible
in a number of quarry walls.
Hard to believe but two hours had passed by the time when we returned to the quarry office.
Wed, 17 Jun 2009 04:02 UTC
of strange lights in the sky and distress flares being fired in the
English Channel actually turned out to be a meteor shower, coastguards
Calls were made to coastguards across England's south coast,
including Cornwall, Devon and Hampshire, reporting white and green
Reports were also made to coastguards in Jersey and France for about 30 minutes from about 2130 BST on Monday.
Solent coastguards said three such showers had been forecast.
Meteor showers are caused by debris from a comet burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
This can produce shooting stars across the night sky, particularly
visible on clear nights, which was the case over southern England on
Such showers can be forecast because the earth follows the same path around the Sun every year.
This means it always crosses a comet trail at the same point in
its orbit and meteor showers can be seen at the same time every year.
A Solent Coastguard spokesman said: "There were reports of
flares all down the coast which went on for about half an hour but
there was a forecast for a meteor shower."
The spokesman said it could have been one of three showers forecast: the June Lyrids, the Ophruchids or the Zeta Perseids.
Round-the-world yachtswoman Dee Caffari and her all-women crew
were setting sail off the Isle of Wight at the time of the shower on an
attempt to break the round-Britain and Ireland record.
She said the display was "a real treat".
She said: "For a minute there last night I thought we had made such good progress that we were seeing the Northern Lights.
"We later learned that the pyrotechnic display was actually a meteor shower, which was an amazing sight."
Tue, 16 Jun 2009 22:46 UTC
Captains have reported distress signals in the sky
A number of captains, sailing their ships in the crowded waters of the
English Channel on Monday night, signaled to the coastguard services in
France and the United Kingdom, saying that they noticed warning flares
in the night sky. The lights, they reported, were either white or
bright green, and they urged authorities to take steps to save the
ships in distress. The cause of the strange phenomenon, which began at
around 21:30 BST (2030 GMT), was quickly found to be an expected meteor
shower, of which the boat captains in the area had no idea.
Three successive meteor showers were visible yesterday, all coming from the same comet passing near our planet.
Astronomers had predicted the shower in advance, and this was made
possible by the fact that our planet takes roughly the same course
around the Sun every year. Comets and other celestial bodies slamming
into our planet's atmosphere are the things that produce what are known
as "shooting stars," swarms of meteorites that plummet to the ground at
large speeds, which causes them to burn up.
"There were reports of flares all down the coast which went on
for about half an hour, but there was a forecast for a meteor shower,"
a Solent Coastguard spokesman explained to the BBC News. Because most
meteor showers are regular occurrences in the evening skies, and are
particularly visible when there are no clouds, some of them have names.
The spokesman said that the one seen the night before might be either
June Lyrids, or the Ophruchids, or maybe the Zeta Perseids.
"For a minute there last night I thought we had made such good
progress that we were seeing the Northern Lights. We later learned that
the pyrotechnic display was actually a meteor shower, which was an
amazing sight," the British news agency quoted Dee Caffari, a
yachtswoman, as saying. She was sailing in the English Channel last
night as well, along with her all-women crew, in an attempt to break
the record at sailing around England and Ireland.
New York Times
Tue, 29 May 2001 16:03 UTC
In the early darkness of April 23, as Washington was beginning to relax
after the spy plane crisis in China, alarm bells began to go off on the
military system that monitors the globe for nuclear blasts.
Orbiting satellites that keep watch for nuclear attack had
detected a blinding flash of light over the Pacific several hundred
miles southwest of Los Angeles. On the ground, shock waves were strong
enough to register halfway around the world.
Tension reignited until the Pentagon could reassure official
Washington that the flash was not a nuclear blast. It was a speeding
meteoroid from outer space that had crashed into the earth's
atmosphere, where it exploded in an intense fireball.
"There was a big flurry of activity," recalled Dr. Douglas O.
ReVelle, a federal scientist who helps run the military detectors.
"Events like this don't happen all the time."
Preliminary estimates, Dr. ReVelle said, are that the cosmic
intruder was the third largest since the Pentagon began making global
satellite observations a quarter century ago. Its explosion in the
atmosphere had nearly the force of the atomic bomb dropped on
The episode shows how the system that warns of missile
attack and clandestine nuclear blasts is fast evolving to detect
bomb-size meteors as well. Now, it finds them about once a month, on
average. But Dr. ReVelle, a scientist at the Los Alamos National
Laboratory in New Mexico, said in an interview that the developing
system was likely to find many more of the natural blasts in the years
"The real number is probably bigger," he said. "There's no doubt about that. But we don't know how much bigger."
Already, the system has shown that the planet is being
continually struck by large speeding rocks, and that the rate of
bombardment is higher than previously thought. The blasts light the sky
with brilliant fireballs but people seldom see the blasts because they
usually occur over the sea or uninhabited lands.
The rocky objects are anywhere from a few feet to about 80 feet wide.
They vanish in titanic explosions high in the atmosphere, their
enormous energy of motion converted almost instantly into vast amounts
of heat and light.
The Air Force did not publicly disclose its imaging of the
recent blast until late May, more than a month afterward. In a terse
release on May 25, its Technical Applications Center, at Patrick Air
Force Base in Florida, said the flash was "non- nuclear" and consistent
with past observed meteor explosions.
A Defense Department satellite, the Air Force said, detected bright flashes over a period of more than two seconds.
After that disclosure, Los Alamos got the military's permission to reveal its own detection of the April event. Its ground-based sensors are even more sensitive than orbiting satellites to the repercussions of meteor blasts.
The ground-based sensors work like sensitive ears to detect very
low-frequency sound waves, which radiate outward from an exploding rock
over hundreds and thousands of miles.
The sensors record sounds well below the range of human
hearing, including those from underground nuclear tests as well as
Dr. ReVelle said four arrays of the lab's sound sensors had
picked up the April blast. In addition, he said, sound detectors in Los
Angeles, Hawaii, Alaska, Canada and Germany had picked up its shock
waves. Two sensors in South America made tentative detections, he
"It was a big event," he said. "There are people worrying
about impacts on the earth, and these things are giving us a better
understanding of the impact rate. That's the real byproduct
The speeding boulder was perhaps 12 feet wide, he added.
An even more sensitive global ear is emerging as the world's
nations try to monitor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a tentative
accord that seeks to end the exploding of nuclear arms and to police
compliance. When finished in the next year or so, the global acoustic
system is to consist of 60 arrays that give complete global coverage,
increasing the odds that even more large meteor impacts will be
The disclosure of such intruders is seen as bolstering the idea
that the earth is periodically subjected to strikes by even larger
objects, including doomsday rocks a few miles wide. Objects
this size are predicted to hit once every 10 million years or so,
causing mayhem and death on a planetary scale.
The Infrasound Renaissance
Fri, 18 Jun 2004 17:10 UTC
On April 23, 2001, scientists manning a network designed to detect
covert nuclear tests noticed something unusual - a very "loud" sound
coming from above the Pacific Ocean. This global network, consisting of
sensitive sound-recording instruments, had picked up on a large meteor
slamming into the atmosphere several hundred miles west of Baja
California, and exploding with a force comparable to that of the
nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
On Feb. 1, 2003, these same instruments heard something else -
the Space Shuttle Columbia reentering Earth's atmosphere on its tragic
final mission. NASA subsequently used those recordings to rule out
potential causes of the mission's demise, including a bolide or missile
The sensitive instruments that recorded the meteor's entrance
and the end of the Columbia record a range of low-frequency sound that
is inaudible to the human ear called infrasound. "It's sort of like
infrared light, which is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum that
we can't see, in that it's the part of the sound spectrum that we can't
hear," says Michael Hedlin, a geophysicist and infrasound specialist at
the University of California, San Diego, and Scripps Institution of
The instruments detect atmospheric noise, such as storms,
winds, volcanic eruptions, ocean waves and airplane traffic, and they
help scientists understand "just what's going on out there," Hedlin
says. "Right now, we're just listening to the world," he says, but
soon, the researchers will begin to more fully comprehend the
interactions between solid earth, the oceans and the atmosphere.
An explosive history
When the Krakatoa volcano erupted in Indonesia in 1883, the eruption
was so explosive that it sent low-frequency sound waves around the
world several times. Scientists noticed the sound waves through air
pressure changes measured by barometers. That was the first recorded
instance of infrasound.
Around the turn of the 20th century, scientists recorded a
giant meteor exploding above Russia. During World War II, the
instruments recorded aircraft movement and munitions explosions. During
the Cold War, scientists and the U.S. Department of Defense used the
instruments to monitor nuclear bomb tests in the atmosphere.
Then in the late 1960s, the application of infrasound for
monitoring nuclear tests around the world became limited by the
development of reliable satellite technology, which could see
atmospheric nuclear explosions and the subsequent onset of underground
testing, which was monitored by seismic data. "So the field sort of
went away for 30 years," says Milton Garces, a volcanologist,
oceanographer and infrasound specialist at the University of Hawaii.
"But luckily, there were a few individuals who kept the knowledge
alive," he says. And then, in 1996, the world adopted the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty, which brought about "a renaissance for infrasound,"
To enforce compliance with the treaty, the United Nations
created the International Monitoring System (IMS), a network of
geophysical sensor stations located around the world that monitor
seismic signals, atmospheric radioactive material releases,
hydroacoustic signals and infrasound, Hedlin says (Geotimes, October 2002). Luckily, he says, so far they haven't heard any nuclear tests - only a plethora of atmospheric sounds.
The IMS infrasound network will eventually contain about 60
stations somewhat evenly distributed around the world, but it is only
about one-third complete right now, Garces says. "We hope it'll be all
up and running in the next couple of years," he says, "but that might
be a little optimistic." Nevertheless, the scientists are already
recording more information than they can comprehend, he says.
The infrasound instruments (microbarometers) work similarly to
basic barometers that meteorologists use to detect weather patterns
through atmospheric pressures. Resembling large thermos bottles, the
microbarometers contain sensitive electronic instruments that convert
atmospheric pressure to an electric signal. The sensors are connected
to white wagon-wheel spokes of PVC piping that filter "unimportant
sounds from important sounds," Garces says, and keep animals and debris
The instruments constantly measure ambient atmospheric sound
waves and transmit them to the International Data Center in Vienna,
Austria, which keeps all data related to the test ban treaty. The data
then go to a data center in McLean, Va., and also back to the lab that
operates the station, where the scientists do their own analysis
in-house, Garces says.
"Truthfully, most of the time we don't know what we're
listening to," says Henry Bass, a physicist and infrasound specialist
at the University of Mississippi. "We receive hundreds of thousands of
signals each year and we can only tell what a small fraction of them
are," he says. But the more the scientists listen, the better they get
at differentiating one sound from another and picking out the important
information from the clutter.
"Each station is kind of like your neighborhood," Garces says.
"You live there for a year and slowly begin to understand what's going
on, all of the idiosyncracies of your neighbors. You have that chatty
neighbor - you train yourself to cut out all the chatter and learn to
recognize what is important. That's what we do with each station."
After three years of continuous observation, the scientists
are now beginning to see patterns and differentiate the sounds
emanating from storm fronts, explosions, ocean waves, volcanoes and jet
airplanes. For example, Garces says, "the ocean is always singing in
this deep bass voice. Now we know what its tune is, so we can pick up
on swells and storms."
The researchers have also noticed strong seasonal patterns,
Hedlin says, which has been "really exciting." From the station nearest
San Diego, for example, the researchers hear a lot more signals from
the west in the winter and from the east in the summer, which is
related to seasonal wind patterns.
In general, stations will pick up atmospheric sounds from
hundreds to thousands of miles away, Hedlin says, but those data are
not well understood yet. The scientists monitoring the transmissions
can always tell the direction of the recording, but the distance is
harder to discern. Furthermore, depending on winds and the strength of
a signal, the stations can register waves from around the world.
Hedlin, Garces and Bass work on a number of applications in
concert, although each has their own pet project. Hedlin pays close
attention to storms in the Pacific. Garces concentrates on infrasound
emitted from the constantly erupting Hawaiian volcanoes as well as
sounds of the ocean. Bass focuses on using infrasound to create a 3-D
image of the internal structures of the atmosphere (tomography).
Together, all three scientists are developing a project that uses
infrasound to create a volcanic ash warning system for airplanes.
When volcanoes erupt, they frequently lift large plumes of ash
and dust thousands of feet into the atmosphere. To a pilot, the ash and
dust can resemble regular clouds; however, if a plane flies into that
ash plume, the engines will fail. "Especially in volcanically active
remote areas over which planes fly, we'd like to work out a system to
warn pilots of eruptions to divert them around the ash clouds," Bass
Seismic sensors note any rumbling in volcanoes. But rumbling
does not necessarily mean there is an ash release, Garces says.
Currently, scientists work with airline companies to divert planes
around any rumbling volcano, but diversions can be costly. "And much of
the time, those are false alarms," Bass says. If infrasound is in
place, the scientists think they can detect the atmospheric disruption
from the ash clouds and give the airlines precise rerouting
This project is in its infancy, Bass says, but the scientists
hope to have sensors in place near some active volcanoes to test their
theory by the end of this year. Right now, they are working with the
U.S. and Canadian volcanic ash warning centers to get the project off
the ground. It is an exciting application, Garces says, in which
scientists can contribute to society.
"All of these projects are fascinating," Garces concludes. "We
are just at the christening stage of infrasound, where we were with
seismic technology 30 years ago. By working with the existing seismic,
satellite and other observation networks, this technology has endless
possibilities for teaching us about the world."
Noisy end for meteor
Dr David Whitehouse
Fri, 19 Jan 2001 16:06 UTC
Belgian scientists have detected ultra-low frequency sound waves -
infrasound - from a meteor that exploded over Germany in November 1999.
They were picked up by an observatory more use to searching
for the particular infrasound signatures associated with nuclear
explosions. It is one of the ways scientists can monitor for compliance
with test ban treaties.
This particular meteor would have exploded with a force of 1.5 kilotons of TNT, equivalent to a small nuclear weapon.
The signals were detected by the seismology division of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
Too low to hear
The world is full of sounds that humans cannot hear. Infrasound
is too low for us but if we could hear it we would be deafened with the
noise produced by thunderstorms, ocean waves, creaking continents and
Belgian scientists operate an infrasound observatory, which
consists of an array of micro-barometers that detect very low-frequency
(0.002 to 40 hertz) sound waves.
The array is part of a global network of about 60 facilities
designed to "listen out" for nuclear weapon tests. The network keeps an
"ear" on signatories to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to see if
they are meeting their obligations.
Writing in the Geophysical Research Letters, researchers describe an event they detected on 8 November, 1999.
An intense burst of infrasound came from the northeast. It was
later identified as a meteor explosion in the atmosphere over northern
Germany. Several people provided eyewitness accounts of the flash in
From all the available data, it seems that the meteor exploded
with the force of a small nuclear weapon at an altitude of about 15 km
Some astronomers are taking a keen interest in the worldwide infrasound monitoring network.
They hope it could provide valuable sources of data for estimating the number of unseen meteor explosions in our atmosphere.
The Sound of One Rock Falling
Fri, 01 Feb 2002 17:18 UTC
Think of it as the extreme-sport version of listening for
songbirds: Atmospheric scientists Douglas ReVelle, Rodney Whitaker, and
Peter Brown are using microphone arrays to eavesdrop on the baritone
rumblings of interplanetary rocks slamming into Earth's atmosphere.
Most of the time nobody sees them hit, but hearing them is
much easier. A typical meteor arrives traveling 50 to 300 times the
speed of sound, fast enough to create a powerful sonic boom and, if the
object is large enough, an explosive flash. These disruptions stir up
persistent low-frequency infrasound, similar to the waves from a
nuclear test, which can travel thousands of miles without losing
significant energy. And infrasound monitoring stations, including four
arrays at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a network being built to
verify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, already exist to detect such
waves anywhere in the world.
Combining input from these stations, ReVelle and his
colleagues can figure out when and where meteors are striking; the
pitch of the waves also indicates the size of the incoming body. The
data show that a meteor as powerful as the Hiroshima A-bomb hits Earth
once a year, while major fireballs arrive a couple of times a month.
Overall, 500 tons of space debris rain down every day. One way or
another such information could help avert disaster. "Sooner or later,
Earth is going to get hit by a big object; we need to know how many of
them are out there," ReVelle says. "And during the Gulf war, there was
a big meteor event over the Pacific. Had it occurred over the Gulf,
some government could have thought someone was shooting at them."
Asteroid affirms prediction program
Sat, 18 Oct 2008 17:55 UTC
A project on Maui aims to detect potentially hazardous comets and asteroids
Asteroids routinely hit the Earth's atmosphere but the impact by one
over northern Africa Monday was the first time astronomers saw one
coming and accurately predicted the time and place it would hit, a
University of Hawaii astronomer said yesterday.
That successful prediction bodes well for a Maui-based system
in development to warn against potentially hazardous space rocks, David
The impact occurred at 4:46 p.m. Hawaii time Monday over
northern Sudan. A colleague compared the asteroid, called 2008 TC3,
with the size of a Volkswagen, he said.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., sent an
e-mail saying the impact occurred yesterday at 2:46 a.m. universal time
but provided no details, said Tholen, who hunts for hazardous
Tholen said more than 500 observations were made of the
asteroid approaching Earth by astronomers all over the world, primarily
in Europe and western Asia.
"It was the first opportunity to really test the whole
impact-prediction software system on a real object," he said, adding
that it was 100 percent accurate.
There was one report of a visual sighting by a KLM Airlines
pilot, but it was far from the impact location and merely saw "a streak
of light," he said.
The only other solid piece of data came from an infrasound
station in Kenya that listens for very low-frequency sound waves and
can detect the entry of fireballs, he said.
Asteroids create sonic booms, but a lot of the sound
energy is lower in pitch than the human ear can hear, he said. The
station detected sound waves at about the time the asteroid was
predicted and within a few degrees of the impact location, he said.
The Mount Lemon telescope of the NASA-funded Catalina Sky
Survey first observed the object early Monday. The Near Earth Object
Observation program, called Spaceguard, plots the orbits of these
objects to determine if any is a threat to Earth.
Calculations by the University of Pisa in Italy were reported
to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center, located
at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics - the worldwide
clearinghouse for asteroid and comet observations.
JPL and the University of Pisa have software for impact
calculations, but some amateurs did their own calculations, which were
"remarkably consistent" with professional groups, Tholen said.
Tholen said the episode "gives us a lot of confidence in the
whole system of predicting when and where an asteroid impact would
And when the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response
System under construction on Haleakala is up and running, "we should
see more events like this," he said. Pan-STARRS' mission will be to
detect potentially threatening asteroids and comets.
"These things happen every month or two and most of the time
just go unnoticed, except people on the ground who see the fireball,"
Tholen said. "This time, astronomers saw it first and could predict the
fireball. It was unique."
The Rumble Of Destruction
San Francisco Chronicle
Mon, 24 Feb 2003 17:58 UTC
Denver - In rumbling tones far lower than the sounds that human ears
can hear, a symphony of mysterious noises constantly assails the entire
globe, and scientists are learning to translate and even to exploit the
Avalanches rumbling down mountainsides, the seething magma inside
volcanoes as eruptions near, the violent twisting air of tornadoes and
even the crash of ocean waves -- all send out ultra-long-wave,
low-frequency vibrations known as infrasound.
Using sensitive instruments, scientists are studying whether
detection of infrasound can provide advance warning of these natural
disasters. They also are using infrasound to detect the nuclear weapon
tests of enemy nations.
Infrasound is the opposite of the extreme high-frequency
whistles that dogs can hear but humans can't, or the high-pitched
ultrasound echolocation that bats use home in on their prey or that
modern physicians use to create images of a fetus in the womb.
All sound waves are actually pulses of air pressure -- rapid
pulses in the case of high-frequency sounds, and very slow-moving
pressure waves with extremely long wavelengths in the infrasound
The frequency of sound waves are measured in hertz,
after the 19th century German physicist Heinrch R. Hertz, who first
measured them. The human ear can normally discern sounds ranging from a
low of 20 Hz to a high of 20,000 Hz. Infrasound signals start below 20
Hz, but can be detected at frequencies as low as a hundredth, or even a
thousandth of a hertz.
While ultrasound signals have a relatively short range and
last only briefly, the long-lasting pressure waves of infrasound can be
picked up by sensitive barometers at extraordinarily long distances.
When the giant Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883,
for example, its infrasound waves were detected traveling more than
three times around the globe. And two years ago, waves churned up by a
tropical storm off Mexico generated infrasound signals that were
detected by stations in Boulder, Colo.
At the annual meeting of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science last week, Alfred J. Bedard Jr. described how he
and his colleagues at the federal Environmental Technology Laboratory
in Boulder are trying to use a network of infrasound detectors to warn
of oncoming tornadoes.
The funnel-shaped columns twist powerfully and emit strong
infrasound signals as they race above the countryside, threatening
small towns and farms in the Midwest. Infrasound can signal their
approach many minutes before they reach the ground, Bedard said.
Bedard's laboratory is also contracting with commercial firms
to apply the technology at ski areas in the Rockies and the Sierra
Nevada where inaudible rumblings from early avalanche movements can
warn back-country skiers to stay away from the early buildup of
downslope snow movements.
Most recently, Bedard and his colleagues reviewed infrasound
data to see if they could detect anomalies in the infrasonic boom of
the doomed space shuttle Columbia during its re-entry into Earth's
atmosphere over California.
The most sensitive infrasound detection network is used to
listen for nuclear weapon tests around the world. As the threat of such
testing grows, more stations are being built, said Douglas Christie of
the United Nation's Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization,
known as the CTBTO.
Nearly 100 nations have ratified the treaty, and another 59
have signed it. Although the United States signed it during the Clinton
administration, the Senate has refused to ratify it.
More than 60 test ban monitoring stations operate on every
continent and even on small islands around the world, Christie said.
Another half-dozen are under construction. The stations include a
variety of instruments, including seismographs that can pick up signals
from nuclear weapon blasts underground.
The U.N. nuclear test ban agency has tested the sensitivity of
the infrasound detectors by recording the low-frequency rumbles of
exploding meteors, known as bolides, as they enter the Earth's
Bolides explode with enormous energy. Douglas O. ReVelle, a
meteorologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, estimates that every
year at least one bolide explodes over the Earth's surface with the
force of 15 kilotons, or 15, 000 tons of TNT. (The atomic bomb dropped
on Hiroshima in World War II was equivalent to about 12,500 tons of
Infrasound signals from at least five such bolides have been
detected and located nearly 5,000 miles away, Revelle said. Los Alamos
scientists have now installed low-frequency sound detectors to watch
for bolides exploding over Los Angeles, Utah, Wyoming and at the Nevada
nuclear weapon test site near Las Vegas.
Milton Garces, a physicist at the University of Hawaii, is
studying how infrasound detectors might be useful to warn when
volcanoes are ready to erupt -- because the lava moving up their
throats emits powerful bursts of infrasound.
Those signals could give as much as a 30-minute warning of an
eruption, Garces said. His group recently installed three detectors
near the smaller erupting volcanic vents on the flanks of Kilauea, on
the island of Hawaii.
"Each volcano has its own voice," Garces said. "A volcano
that's quiet is purring, but when it's really ready to go, its
infrasound voice gets louder and louder."
Of Elephants And Infrasound
One unusual but charming aspect of infrasound is that several species
of animals use it to communicate, particularly in environments where
visibility is difficult, as in the ocean or in dense forests.
Scientists have studied infrasound communication among whales
and, more recently, land animals including giraffes, rhinos and
elephants. Katy Payne, a Cornell University bioacoustics researcher,
recently described what she observed among a group of elephants in
Payne first suspected that elephants might be using infrasound
to communicate when she noticed "a throbbing in the air that I couldn't
attribute to anything around me." She was always near the elephant
cages when she felt the throbbing.
Biologists, she noted, had never studied the possibility of land animals making sounds below the frequencies people can hear.
"I thought maybe the elephants were generating that throbbing
by making really powerful calls that were so low pitched that people
couldn't hear them, " she said.
What she found is that elephants indeed have "an extensive
vocabulary, including lots of sounds that are very rich in infrasound."
Low frequency sound travels much farther than sounds humans
can hear. Perhaps, she wondered, infrasound is the basis for a
long-distance communication system. That would explain all kinds of
mysterious behaviors observed in elephants.
Payne and her colleagues are still investigating it, but she
has described some of her field research on elephant infrasound in
"Silent Thunder," a powerful plea for protecting the remarkable
Infrasound At A Glance
Infrasound is a low frequency sound below the range of human hearing.
It is produced by a variety of natural events - including earthquakes,
volcanoes, avalanches, severe weather, ocean waves - and some man-made
sources - including aircraft and explosions. It is also used by some
animal species to communicate.
How is it different from audible sound?
One of the most interesting properties of infrasound waves is
that they travel over global distances without losing their strength.
So an instrument in Colorado can detect the sound of ocean waves
hitting the coast in California or the roar of a typhoon halfway around
How is it detected?
Infrasound wavelengths are so long that they can be detected only by sensors that take up a large ground area.
What is it used for?
A global infrasound sensor system is being deployed to detect
nuclear weapons testing. Scientists are also studying ways to use
infrasound to provide advance warning of natural disasters.
Wed, 23 May 2001 18:10 UTC
scientists listening for covert nuclear blasts had their ears rattled
by other explosive sounds -- the detonation of meteors as they streaked
over the Pacific Ocean.
The Earth eavesdropping, conducted by researchers at the Los Alamos
National Laboratory in New Mexico, was intended to detect atomic
weapons tests by rogue nations or organizations in remote locations.
Instead, the Los Alamos listening stations picked up the sound
of two large meteors as they plunged into the atmosphere off the coast
of Mexico, the Los Alamos lab said this week.
The space rocks raced across the sky in April and August. But
the lab waited to announce its findings until other U.S. space
scientists last week confirmed the two objects.
The meteors were unusually big, between 6 and 10 feet in diameter. The
first one created an explosive pressure wave with as much energy as
2,000 to 3,000 tons of TNT, according to Los Alamos researchers. The
second, larger one could have produced a shock wave equivalent to 8,000
tons of TNT.
"Had anyone seen the April 23 event, they would have seen
quite a show. That meteor was one of the five brightest ever recorded,"
Los Alamos scientist Doug ReVelle said.
Each year, listening stations at the lab record an
average of 10 meteors 6 feet in diameter or greater. Those that appear
as huge fireballs in the sky, like the April and August specimens, are
known as bolides.
Bolides make dazzling displays dozens of miles above the
planet. Fortunately, most explode into thousands of pieces or burn up
entirely before they reach the surface. If these two survived, they
probably smacked into the ocean, well away from populated regions, the
The destructive capability of bolides that strike land is considerable.
An extremely large one blasted the huge Meteor Crater in Arizona.
The unaided human ear cannot detect the low frequency pressure
waves when at a great distance. But specialized microphones at four Los
Alamos monitoring stations in the United States can both detect the
infrasonic waves and help plot their locations.
The infrasonic information takes minutes or hours to reach the
stations, which therefore cannot provide advance warning about
approaching large meteors.
However, the Los Alamos scientists welcome the opportunity to monitor falling space rocks, which allows them to fine tune the instruments to use to detect nuclear blasts.
Fri, 12 Jun 2009 02:46 UTC
Satellite information on incoming meteors is blocked
US military has abruptly ended an informal arrangement that allowed
scientists access to data on incoming meteors from classified
The change is a blow to the astronomers and planetary
scientists who used the information to track space rocks, especially
those that burn up over the oceans or in other remote locations. "These
systems are extremely useful," says Peter Brown, an astronomer at the
University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. "I think the
scientific community benefited enormously."
When the policy changed is unclear. The website Space.com
reported the end of the relationship on 10 June, but Brown says that he
was told at the beginning of this year that there would be no further
data releases. Mark Boslough, a physicist at Sandia National
Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, says he was told this spring that he could no longer publicly discuss the classified data to which he had some access.
Neither scientist could give a reason for the end of the arrangement,
and the United States Air Force, which operates the satellites, did not
respond in time for Nature's deadline. The Air Force did issue a 16 March memo on the military classification of fireball data, but Nature could not confirm its contents.
The Defense Support Program satellite network is part of the Pentagon's
early-warning system. Since 1970, 23 infrared satellites in the series
have been launched into geosynchronous orbit to monitor the globe for
missile launches or atmospheric nuclear blasts.
But the same infrared sensors were perfect for spotting
fireballs as they streaked across the atmosphere, according to Brian
Weeden, a former Air Force captain who now works at the Secure World
Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Superior, Colorado. The
satellites could precisely detect the time, position, altitude and
brightness of meteors as they entered Earth's atmosphere. Weeden,
who left the Air Force in 2007, says that the military didn't consider
that information particularly useful, or classified. "It was being
dropped on the floor," he says.
Under an informal arrangement, at least some of the data seem
to have been provided on an ad-hoc basis to scientists studying
meteorites. Often it came in the form of an anonymous, tersely worded
e-mail describing the coordinates, altitude and size of a fireball.
Brown, who has collected the data since 1994, declined to specify who
sent the reports.
Even the short descriptions of events were enormously helpful.
In 2002, Brown and his colleagues used a larger data set from the
satellites to quantify the number of objects striking Earth each year
(P. Brown et al. Nature
420, 294-296; 2002). Last year, they were used to narrow the search for
remnants of the asteroid 2008 TC3 in the Sahara Desert in North Africa,
and they were also crucial in recovering a meteorite fragment in 2000
from Tagish Lake in northern Canada. "In both of those cases it's hard
to say whether this would have been picked up without
the satellite data," Boslough says.
The data also provide a useful check against ground-based instruments
monitoring low-frequency sound waves and dust from the fireball
explosions, says Brown.
Although the reason for ending the arrangement remains unclear, Weeden notes that it coincides with the launch of a new generation of surveillance satellites. The
US$10-billion-plus Space-Based Infrared System will provide a more
detailed infrared picture of Earth for battlefield surveillance,
early-warning alerts and the US missile defence programme.
The first of these satellites was launched in 2006 in a highly
elliptical orbit and entered operational service in November 2008, a
month after Brown received his last report. In its final configuration,
the system will include at least two satellites in highly elliptical
orbit and three or more geosynchronous satellites for a whole-Earth
Weeden speculates that the Pentagon may not want details of
the new satellites' capabilities to be made public, or it may simply
lack the expensive software needed to handle classified and
declassified data simultaneously. "The decision may have been made that
it was perhaps too difficult to disclose just these data," he says.
Brown says that whatever the reason, the end of the
relationship has left the tight-knit meteorite community smarting. The
global reach of the satellites and the data they supplied were
unparalleled, he says. "There's nothing else that even comes close," he
Comment: See Space.com's report: Best of the Web: Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified
We propose that the witholding of information is because key
authorities know that the risk of catastrophic impact from comet debris
recently took at sharp upturn from possible to probable:
What are they hiding? Flight 447 and Tunguska Type Events
All News Web
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 15:33 UTC
Something fell from the sky today and landed on a mountain near the
town of Gin-Gin in central Queensland in Australia. The object or UFO,
described by witnesses as a fireball, set nearby trees alight. A
subsequent search of the area failed to find any remains of whatever it
was that impacted the bush.
Most are declaring the object to be either space junk or a
very small meteor that had entered the earth's atmosphere, however
others are not sure. Is it possible that it was a UFO of
According to Australian ufologist Michael Cohen 'unmanned'
probes sent by an extra-terrestrial civilization to explore earth and
other planets are entering the atmosphere through specific UFO vortex
exits located at various points throughout the world. These vortex
exits are currently being studied by government scientists. No such
exits are believed to be located in the skies above Australia; however
the super-fast travelling probes that enter earth through them are
exploring all continents.
'This incident might well have been caused by one of
these UFO probes' Cohen noted 'It might have run out of energy, failed
for other reasons or been struck by lightning. Much about this incident
is similar to other confirmed UFO crashes that are known have occurred
on other continents, such as Asia and South America.'
'The probes generally disintegrate on impact, however thorough
forensic sifting of the exact location of the crash might yield debris.
Locals should keep an eye on who appears at the site over the next few
days searching for remains. If the event seems to be attracting more
attention than should a pebble from space, start suspecting something
more exotic' Cohen concluded.
Comment: Let's not downplay the catastrophic effect that a "pebble from space" could have on those of us living on this planet.
A meteor exploding above the planet just may be what brought down Flight 447.
Sat, 20 Jun 2009 03:03 UTC
Mon, 22 Jun 2009 23:36 UTC
While most of the Metroplex was asleep early Monday a fireball shot across the sky, startling those who were still awake.
"It was huge," said Austin Babek, 18, who observed the light show from
outside his south Arlington home. "It actually scared me it was so
Babek said he and a friend saw the fireball at 12:56 a.m. He
said it lasted about five seconds and was bright orange with a long
blue and green tail.
"I've seen shooting stars before but never anything like this," he said.
In an e-mail to the Star-Telegram,
Lynda Edwards of Fort Worth described it as "so bright I could see it
through the branches and leaves of my large pecan tree. It emerged on
the other side of the tree and burnt out in the northwest sky."
Ron Dilulio, planetarium and astronomy lab director at the
University of North Texas, is out of town on a field trip, but said
based on descriptions, it was "more than likely a meteor."
Mon, 22 Jun 2009 12:52 UTC
Posted: June 22, 2009
Date: May 30 2009
Time: 11pm round about
Number of witnesses: 4
Number of objects: 3
Shape of objects: Ball
Weather Conditions: No wind no cloud
Description: My neighbour called me up on
the phone to get me to look out in the sky from my back garden, she
thought it could be some sort of flare. When I had a look it looked
very much like a orange ball of fire. Thought maybe a meteor, none that
I have ever seen before. Too big to be a helicopter in the distance, no
flashing lights, def not a plane. It seemed to stop for a little while
as if hovering then changed its course, did a semi circle. No sooner
had it faded another one appeared doing the same thing. Although as
this one hovered, another one appeared. I would have took a pic but I
could not pull myself away from watching them. Any clue what they could
Mon, 22 Jun 2009 15:27 UTC
The mystery fire on Hazle Marland's Gaeta property is still burning - just like the questions about what started it.
On Friday emergency crews rushed to Mrs Marland's property after reports something had fallen from the sky and started a fire.
Crews were quick to rule out the possibility of a plane crash, but speculation about the cause goes on.
"It's still a mystery, there are a lot of rumours floating around but
because it is so inaccessible I really don't think that we're ever
going to get to the bottom of it," Mrs Marland said.
She said she had been inundated with phone calls on
Saturday from media organisations and spectators wanting to go up to
the site, as the news of the fallen object spread around the world.
"I was just astonished that they would show such interest," Mrs Marland said.
She said she hoped life would return to normal on the property, which is used for grazing cattle.
"I'm not encouraging anybody (to visit the site), because there is nothing to see," Mrs Marland said.
"We're just hoping it isn't anything to be worried about and we don't think it is."
Bundaberg Astronomical Society member Don Gray said he
suspected the mystery object was a meteor, and the lack of an impact
crater did not rule it out.
"It would be very small, depending on the weight of it or what
it was, whether it was metallic or just rock, whether when it hit the
ground it exploded and dug up a lot of earth," Mr Gray said.
"But it all burns, and that disguises things a bit."
He said tens of thousands of meteors, dust and space junk fell
to earth every year, from pieces of old satellites to tools dropped by
astronauts working on space stations.
"Most of it has never been found," he said.
"If they find it they'll be able to determine what it is - some
of these meteorites are made of a glass-like substance, some are made
A spokeswoman from UFO Research Queensland said her members
had heard reports of flashes of lights and falling objects, but there
was no clue what it may have been.
Comment: Here is the original report on this incident.
Tue, 09 Jun 2009 18:18 UTC
Occurred: 6/7/2009 02:00 (Entered as : 06/07.09 2:00)
Reported: 6/6/2009 11:45:44 PM 23:45
Location: Brooksville, Florida
Duration: 2-3 seconds
Blue fireball falling; disappears before reaching horizon
I was driving north of Highway 41 entering southern Brooksville. I saw
a large, bright blue fireball fall straight from the sky in the
distance to the north. It disappeared BEFORE reaching the horizon like
a comet fading. However, this thing moved much slower and was much
bigger than a comet. It looked like space debris but it was too large
and moved too fast.
It just looked... unnatural. I've seen many comets and
seen space debris but this was somewhere... in between. The people
driving in the next lane over were both pointing and looking in that
direction afterwards... I'm sure one of them saw it too.
It wasn't "messy" like a fireball, but more like a perfect blue sphere. No trail.