09 July 2009

July 2009

US: 2 See Large Fireball Break Up Into Smaller Fragments

Posted: July 4, 2009

Date of Sighting: July 2, 2009

Time of Sighting: 10 PM MDT

Location of Sighting: Longmont, Colorado (About 20 Miles North of Denver)

Description: My partner and I were
driving East to Longmont on Highway 66 (Ute Highway) from Lyons,
Colorado and saw a giant fireball in the sky, hiding behind a large
section of storm clouds. At first I thought it was the moon, but
suddenly it came out from behind the clouds and rapidly decreased in
altitude. Once it began decreasing in altitude, it starting breaking up
into smaller pieces-- two, then three and then four. As soon as it
began breaking up, they began flying in formation to the West (thus
eliminating the option of it being a meteor due to it's trajectory).
About 30 seconds later, 4 of the pieces began falling to the ground
(each piece also had very long tails, similar to a meteor). As they
were falling, two of the pieces jutted off to the left, while the other
two jutted to the right. One by one, they fell to the ground in a

My fiance and I smelled smoke as well around the area.
We estimated the distance between us and the phenomena to be roughly 3
miles or so to the South of us. It was certainly not fireworks due to
it's behavior. There has been nothing in the newspapers today in
reference to the occurrence.

Note: We received another similar report
from Longmont near the same time. Some of the above report suggests
space junk or a meteor breaking up, but the witnesses indicate that the
trajectory changed indicating the objects could have been under
intelligent control. The fact that smoke odor occurred could mean that
the object crashed. However, the odor could be due to fireworks
activity. Anyone else viewing these lights is urged to file a report.

Comets Seeded Earth's Early Atmosphere

ratio of nitrogen isotopes in several comets almost exactly matches the
ratio on Earth, implying that our early atmosphere probably came from a
cometary bombardment.

Astrobiologists have long puzzled over the origin of Earth's oceans.
But they've dwelt a little less long over a related question: where
does the nitrogen in our atmosphere come from? Now a new analysis by
Damien Hutsemekers and pals at the Universite de Liege, in Belgium,
suggests an answer to both questions.

One of the most attractive theories of the origin of our water
is that Earth was once bombarded by icy comets that left a watery
residue. The trouble is that the ratio of deuterium to hydrogen in
water on Earth is much lower than it is in the few comets we've been
able to measure it in (i.e., Halley, Hyakutake, Hale-Bopp, and C/2002
T7 LINEAR). So if these types of comets, which we know came from the
Oort Cloud, did supply Earth's water, it must have mixed with water
already on Earth that had a very low deuterium content.

Now Hutsemekers and co have put a different kind of
constraint on the cometary contribution by measuring nitrogen isotopes.
They say that comets must deliver water and nitrogen together (although
they don't say why), so a comparison of nitrogen isotopes can also
place limits on the amount of water that must have been delivered.

Their conclusion is that "no more than a few percent of Earth's water can be attributed to comets."

But that's not the end of the story. Interestingly, they say
that the ratio of nitrogen-14 to nitrogen-15 in cyanide and hydrogen
cyanide in comets almost exactly matches that on Earth. "A significant
part of Earth's atmospheric nitrogen might come from comets," they

That's any exciting result because it implies a dual origin for our oceans and atmosphere.

Of course, the huge fly in this hypothetical ointment is that
there may well be other types of comet out there that have hydrogen to
deuterium ratios as well as nitrogen isotope ratios that more closely
match our own.

But in the meantime, the idea that comets gave us our early atmosphere is cool enough to keep us a-wonderin' for a while.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/0906.5221: New Constraints on the Delivery of Cometary Water and Nitrogen to Earth from the 15N/14N Isotopic Ratio

Scotland: UFO spotted in skies over Whitehill

A strange object was seen in the skies above Whitehill in Hamilton on Tuesday night.

A young Hamilton woman captured this picture on her mobile phone of what she described to be a "fireball" at about 11pm.

Natalie Smith was dropping her friend back home in James Murdie Gardens
when she noticed the unusual-looking orange glow in the sky.

The 20-year-old South Lanarkshire Council clerical assistant
explained: "We were both sitting inside my car when we noticed
something in the sky.

"It looked like a fireball, like a big piece of ash,
but it was the size of a football. It had an orange glow. We sat and
watched it for a bit but when I went to drive away it disappeared
behind the trees at Whistleberry Road.

"I have no idea what it was it was just a strange sight to see."

Natalie, who lives in Burnbank, headed back in her car to drop
another friend off at Eddlewood before returning home that evening.

It is not known if atmospheric conditions could have been responsible for the light's sudden appearance.

Meteor shower, comet highlights in July

Summer is now upon us and this will be a good month to enjoy the sky in
spite of the short nights. The bright planets are evenly split this
month, with the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter visible in the evening
sky and our neighboring terrestrial planets, Venus and Mars, visible in
the morning sky.

There will be two more very exciting celestial events taking
place this month, but only one of them will be visible for us in New
England. The
annual Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower will peak during the morning hours
of July 28. This shower actually begins around the middle of July and
blends right into the famous Perseid Meteor Shower, which starts at the
end of July and peaks on August 12.

Caused by Comet Machholz, you can expect around 15 to 20 Delta Aquarids
per hour that morning. The moon will be first quarter and will set
around midnight. Meteor showers are usually better after midnight,
anyway, since that is when the earth is spinning directly into the
meteors, like snowflakes on the front windshield of your car during a
snowstorm. The whole earth can be seen as a little spaceship
continually orbiting the sun at 18.6 miles per second, or 67,000 miles
per hour.

I remember seeing Comet Machholz, the 10th comet
discovered by Don Machholz of California, in the morning sky with
binoculars near the Pleiades in January 1996. These meteors will appear
to originate from a point in the sky in Aquarius low on the
southeastern sky just above the 17th-brightest star in the sky named
Fomalhaut, located 25 light years from Earth.

When you look at that star this summer, remember that the very
first planet ever seen directly in visible light was just found
orbiting this star using the Hubble Space Telescope late last year. It
is a Jupiter-sized planet that orbits Fomalhaut at a much greater
distance than Jupiter is from our sun since it takes that planet,
called Fomalhaut B, about 872 years to orbit its parent star. It was
found just inside the edge of a huge disk of dust, and it was predicted
to exist there for a while, since they studied this star for eight
years before they finally found its planet in visible light.

The other major event will be a total eclipse of the sun. That will happen July 22 over India and China. The
narrow shadow cone of the moon will sweep across the earth that day
starting just north of Mumbai, India, continuing over Bhutan and across
southern China exiting in Shanghai, the biggest city in China with 20
million people.

Bhutan, located on the rooftop of the world next to Nepal, is
a very interesting country that has successfully balanced modernization
with preserving ancient culture and the environment under the guiding
philosophy of Gross National Happiness. It's the only country in the
world to actually measure this elusive human quality.

At least one member of our astronomy club, The Astronomical
Society of Northern New England, will be going to China for this
eclipse, so I will update you next month on what they experienced. Try
to catch this eclipse live on the NASA channel or a live feed on the

I remember seeing the last total solar eclipse live on the
NASA channel from Mongolia at 7 a.m. last Aug. 1. Actually being there
to experience a total eclipse of the sun and physically standing in the
shadow of the moon, our only natural satellite is one of the most
exciting and memorable experiences in astronomy anyone could ever have.
The next total solar eclipse happens on July 11, 2010, right over
Easter Island in the south Pacific, and the next one in this country
doesn't happen until Aug. 21, 2017.

Saturn is beginning to sink into the western horizon and will
be setting by 10 p.m. Through a telescope you will notice that the
angle of its rings is getting ever thinner, reaching just 2 degrees
from horizontal by the end of the month. Look for a slender waxing
crescent moon to glide under Regulus and Saturn about 30 minutes after
sunset from July 23 to 25.

Jupiter begins the month rising by 11 p.m. and ends the month
rising by 9 p.m., just after sunset. The King of the Planets will rise
at sunset by the middle of August, when it reaches opposition. Jupiter
continues to get a little brighter and closer each night until that
time. Notice that you can see its four large Galilean moons with just a
pair of good binoculars.

The rest of the planetary action takes place in our morning
sky about one hour before sunrise. Orange Mars can be seen just below
the Pleiades and brilliant Venus is below and to the left of our other
neighbor, and just to the left of Aldebaran, an orange star in Taurus.
Venus is 100 times brighter than Mars and over 3 times as large in our

However, Mars is slowly getting closer and brighter and Venus
is getting less bright and farther away, even though it is getting more
illuminated by the sun now, similar to a waxing gibbous moon. Watch the
drama in the morning sky between July 17 and 19 as a waning crescent
moon drifts through the Pleiades right above Mars and Venus.

Friday. The earth is at aphelion or farthest from the sun at
10 tonight. Our orbit around the sun traces an elliptical shape, but it
is not very different from a circle since we will be just 3.3 percent
farther from the sun now than we are in January. Our seasons are caused
by the 23.5-degree tilt of the earth and not our distance from the sun.
The waxing gibbous moon will pass very close to Antares tonight. If you
were in Hawaii, you would see the moon cover this bright star tonight
around midnight. Antares, a red supergiant star, is the 16th-brightest
star in the sky and one of the largest stars in our whole galaxy of 200
billion stars. Antares is 700 times the diameter of our sun and 10,000
times brighter than our sun. Antares is 600 light years away, but if
you could place it were our sun is in the sky, the orbit of Earth and
even Mars would be inside the star below the surface.

July 7. Full moon is at 5:21 a.m. This is also called the Hay or Thunder Moon.

July 9. Jupiter will be near the moon
tonight and the next night in the constellation of Capricornus. Through
a small telescope you can see Neptune just to the north-northwest.

July 15. Last quarter moon is at 5:53 p.m.

July 16. On this day in 1994, the first
fragment of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter. After that 20 more
mile-wide fragments plowed into Jupiter's gas surface during the next
six days, one hitting about every six hours. I watched through a
telescope as five of those 21 fragments hit Jupiter, but since they
actually hit on the far side of Jupiter, I could not see them until
about 30 minutes later as they rotated into view. One of many surprises
that these impacts created were the large and easily visible (even in a
small telescope) earth-sized black spots that remained visible for many
months after the original impacts.

July 21. New moon is at 10:35 p.m.

July 28. First quarter moon is at 6 p.m. and the Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks.

England: A50, Meir/Longton, Stoke-on-Trent - A Fireball-Like Object

Posted: July 5, 2009

Date: June 6 2009

Time: 11pm

Number of witnesses: 4

Number of objects: 1

Shape of objects: Fireball/bright light

Weather Conditions: Small amount of cloud

Description: A fast moving fireball like
object moving in direct path over the A50, seen on two occasions with a
full car of people with me. At first we thought it was an aircraft on
fire, it almost looked as though the light emitted from the object was
passing through and searching the clouds, I dunno. It was moving in a
straight line but the light appeared to flicker, but it's path did not
falter. Light was not coming from a direct source or visible light or
led, like a glowing ball almost.

Ireland: Drom, Leap, County Cork - A Luminous Oval Orange Light with Rays Radiating from It

Posted: July 5, 2009

Date: June 7 2009

Time: 12.20am

Number of witnesses: 1

Number of objects: 1

Shape of objects: Oval orange radiating orange light

Weather Conditions: Dark, with some cloud, but with the moon illuminating the sky behind thin cloud to the left of my field of vision.

Description: I live overlooking a bay, so
always have my curtains open. A light in the sky caught my eye as I got
up to go to another room. I looked more closely, as I once saw a
meteorite entering the atmosphere at around the same point a couple of
years ago (although that was in December). This light, however, was
luminously orange, and of an oval shape with rays of orange light
radiating from it. Its intensity was constant. It hovered, some
distance across the bay, and seemed to be still for some moments. I
then noticed that when it did move, the movements were purposeful, and
not at all random. It moved vertically, horizontally, and diagonally,
although slowly without any kind of jerking.

I picked up my phone and tried to take some video
footage, but at this point the light faded into the distance. I found
your web-site on Google, as I felt I really must tell someone. I've
never seen anything like this before.


Hi John

I just wanted to let you know another strange thing that
happened from Saturday's incident. I tried to film the UFO on my phone,
whilst talking, and was filming for about a minute as the object faded
to the left of my field of vision. When I played the film back it had
been condensed into 3 seconds, as had my speech. Is this something you
have ever heard of before?

Clues to origin of life revealed in Tagish Lake meteorite

tagish lake meteorite
© Photo by P.A. Hunt, Geological Survey of Canada, Natural Resources Canada.

2:Photomicrograph in crossed polars of a portion of a polished thin
section of the Tagish Lake Meteorite. The bright areas A-E are
preserved high temperature silicate (olivine, pyroxene) 'chondrules' in
a dark matrix of clay, serpentine, magnetite, sulphide, carbonate and
phosphate etc. Object 'D' is approximately 0.3mm across.

research into a meteorite that crashed into northern British Columbia
nine years ago is revealing startling clues that could help unravel the
origins of life on Earth.

Parts of the Tagish Lake meteorite were found on a frozen lake
near the Yukon border in January, 2000, after it fell to Earth in a
spectacular blue-green fireball that was seen for hundreds of

Researchers recovered parts of the still-frozen meteorite
after an extensive search. Since then, scientists have repeatedly tried
to unlock the clues that the rare 4.5 billion-year-old carbon and water
rich meteorite has long been suspected to contain.

Now, a team at the University of Alberta has found
some important material nestled inside the rock, formic acid - the key
ingredient in bee stings, ant venom and stinging nettles.

U of A scientist Chris Herd says similar molecules on much,
much earlier meteorites may have been instrumental in kick-starting
life on Earth, making the meteorite the most important rock ever found
on Earth.

"Four billion years ago, when the Earth had kind of cooled off
from its initial hot state, and there was liquid water on the surface,
we may have had an influx of meteorites like Tagish Lake [that]
delivered the right mix of molecules to the Earth's surface," he said.

How exactly that mix might have turned into actual life is
still a mystery, but Herd said the findings of formic acid on the
meteorite may provide important clues.

"It's a type of molecule known as a carboxylic acid. So it's
sort of like the shortest, smallest molecule in that group. The longer
molecules in this same group are actually what life uses in building
cell walls."

In 2001, U.S. exobiologist Sandra Pizzarello, who was studying
some of the fragments from the Tagish meteorite at Arizona State
University, said they contained almost no amino acids but did contain
high concentrations of hydrocarbon molecules, along with a type of clay
that forms in the presence of water.

In 2006, Mike Zolensky, a cosmic mineralogist at the NASA
Space Centre in Texas, said tiny bubbles in the rock were organic
globules where the universe's earliest life forms could have been able
to live.

US: Large meteor fireball creates sonic boom over Pennsylvania

number of viewers throughout the Susquehanna Valley have contacted News
8 about a bright light they saw in the night sky, and an explosion they
heard and felt early Monday morning.

"At approx. 1:05 a.m. my wife and I were outside enjoying the
cool evening and we saw a bright flash of light and a few seconds later
we heard a series of explosions. Do you have any information on that?"
read one.

"I just wanted to report something very strange. At about 1:10
AM while laying in bed. We heard and felt a deep rumble, the house
shook and we felt either an explosion shock wave or an earth quake,"
read another.

News 8 has been looking into the reports and contacted
a member of the American Meteor Society, Robert Lunsford, who said it
was likely a "fireball," a brighter than normal meteor. Lunsford also
said it was likely larger than a normal meteor.

"I now have 15 reports of this object," he said. "It is most
certainly a fireball, one that survived low enough to have produced a
sonic boom and produce possible fragments on the ground (meteorites)
near its end point."

Lunsford said he received reports from Pennsylvania, New York,
New Jersey, and Maryland. No confirmed impact site has yet been found,
according to Lunsford.

People in our u local forum have said they saw the fireball in
Adams County, Lancaster County, Lebanon County, York County, and even
in Chester County. Some say it lit the whole night sky. You can read
those reports here.

US: Meteor over Maryland and Pennsylvania

© flickr.com

have been receiving reports today of a likely meteor over north-central
Maryland and southern Pennsylvania early Monday morning. (Not the one
in the Flickr.com image seen here.)

Below are the first reports we have received. If you heard or saw
something similar, around the same time, please leave a comment.
Include the time, your location, which direction you saw the object or
flash, a description of what you saw, and note any boom or other sound
you heard, as well as the time lapse between flash and boom.

The York Dispatch: In York
County, Pa., police officers from Penn Township, Southwestern Regional
and Newberry Township reported seeing a flash and hearing a boom around
1:15 a.m. Monday, July 6, according to local 911 centers. Officials in
Harford County, Md. also reported seeing a flash and hearing a boom
near the Mason-Dixon Line.

Capital Gazette: An Annapolis
city police officer reported that she and her partner both saw what she
described as a "bright blue light in the sky" just after midnight. It
was followed by "a light with a tail, falling from the sky," according
to our informant. Annapolis police reported hearing a similar report on
Baltimore County police radio.

Gary Moon, reporting to The Sun's News Tips:
"I heard and felt a deep earth blast similar to an earthquake, which
shook my home in Glen Rock, Pa., early Monday morning. I thought I
would hear MUCH more about this one ... nothing."

Deborah Markow, Havre de Grace: "Last
night, couldn't sleep, went out on back deck, laid on lounge, eyes
closed and then it was like someone pointed a flash light in my eyes it
was so bright. I saw another one streak through the sky ... It was one
of the most thrilling sights to behold a ball of fire flying through
the sky."

I have not yet seen any meteor reports of this event on the American Meteor Society's Fireball Sightings
Log, but it's early yet, and this fireball, coming in the wee hours
after a long holiday, probably did not catch many people out and about.

Which makes reports like these, and yours, all the more important. If you saw this object, be sure to leave a report with the AMS, too.

But judging from the descriptions, it almost certainly was a
fireball, which is simply an especially bright meteor, vaporizing with
an impressive flash.

Here's a pretty good example on video.

They are sometimes followed by a sonic boom, which would
explain the booming noises in the reports. Some fireball observers -
though none yet for this event - also report a crackling or hissing
sound that is concurrent with the meteor's flash and which has never
been fully explained scientifically.

Although meteor rates begin to pick up in July, this is not
the peak time for any particular meteor shower. It seems likely this
was a "sporadic," or isolated meteor that just happened to be
especially big and bright. Big ones like this are always unexpected,
always startling to witness, and always a thrill.

England: Great Sankey, Warrington - Orange Glow Like a Flame Arcing Across the Sky

Date of Sighting: Saturday 4th July 2009

Time: 10:50pm

Witness Statement: We were watching the
tv on Saturday the 4th July 2009 when at 10.50pm we had a loud knock on
the door. It was our neighbour who said to come and have a look at the
sky. When we looked there was an orange glow, almost like a flame
arcing across the sky from West to East, at some speed but with no
noise. As this disappeared, another one would appear, in total 14, had
been seen by our neighbour, then later one was seen going South to
North exactly the same. This was over Great Sankey, Warrington. I took
a video on my camera, but not very good quality.

US: Video of Meteor shooting across Pennsylvania

If you saw a bright flash of light in the sky about 1 a.m. Monday, it wasn't a leftover firework. It was a meteor.

And a pretty impressive one at that.

Michael Gaines, who lives near the Costco on Hempstead Road, had gotten
home from the Long's Park Patriotic Concert a few hours earlier and saw
the flash from his porch.

With an interest in astronomy, Gaines knew that it wasn't a stray Fourth of July sparkler.

"It was a lot brighter than fireworks," said Gaines, who
realized he was seeing the fireball of a large meteor. "You could see
remnants, little fragments - something was moving from right to left
across the sky."

Mike Smith of the North Museum, who writes the Cosmic
Mike column for this newspaper, said Gaines was not alone in spotting
the sky show.

"There have been many reports of people sighting what can be called a fireball, a large (meteor)," he said.

According to a story in the Baltimore Sun, geologists said that
the object would have to be a few yards in diameter to have attracted
the attention it did.

Based on witness descriptions, the object appeared at
approximately 1:05 a.m. and flew south to north over central Maryland
and southern Pennsylvania before vaporizing at 1:10 a.m.

One man, camping on the Susquehanna River in Delta, wrote on
the Baltimore Sun's weather blog: "It was as if it were daylight
outside. ... Approximately
60 to 90 seconds after the sky had lit up, we heard a thunderous series
of sonic boom sounds accompanied by tremors

Gaines, along with a number of other people in Pennsylvania and Maryland, recorded what they saw on the Web site amsmeteors.org.

"For Lancastrians to be able to see a fireball, I'd say that's rare,"
Smith said. "The majority are really small and burn up before they
touch surface."

Meteors, which become meteorites once they hit the ground, are
leftover debris from comets and are scattered along the comet's orbit
around the sun.

Some meteor showers are predictable. For example, the Perseids
peaks in mid-August every year. Others, like the one spotted Monday,
are a surprise.

"Quite a few reports say it came down somewhere, but I don't
know if they'll find it," Gaines said. "That's a lot of land to cover
for something that was probably the size of a fist when it landed."

Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era

Video: Meteor fell east of York, Pennsylvania on Monday morning

Big fireball meteor
© baltimoresun.com

big fireball meteor that startled residents in Central Maryland and
southern Pennsylvania early Monday morning was captured on a security
camera video in York Pa.

Man" Steve Arnold is still looking for those key eyewitness reports
that could point him toward any remnants of the July 6 Mason-Dixon
Meteor that may have survived the fall to Earth.

Arnold has read through more than 100 comments from Weather
Blog readers who saw or heard the meteor, and he's singled out more
than 30 that were detailed enough to suggest that just a little more
information might help point him to the impact zone.

That's Arnold below on Wednesday, kneeling in front of
the Water Co. security apparatus that captured video of the meteor as
it fell east of York, Pa. Monday morning. (Click here to see the video.)

Security apparatus that captured video of the meteor
© baltimoresun.com / Frank D. Roylance

Steve Arnold kneeling in front of the Water Co. security apparatus that captured video of the meteor

camera itself is the dark gray object attached to the bottom of the
silver box. The videographer at right is TV producer Bob Melisso, who
is filming Arnold's search on behalf of the Science Channel program
"Meteorite Men."

Here's what he's asking for. And below his note are the names of the commenters he wants to hear from.

For those of you that saw the fireball, please reply with the following details:

  • The address (including city and zip code) where you saw it?

  • What direction you were facing when seeing it?

  • If you were indoors, and saw it through a window, what direction the window was facing?

  • What direction the fireball appeared to be heading from your perspective?

  • If you saw the fireball burn out, could you pinpoint exactly (or close to) the direction it extinguished?

  • Was there a landmark between you and the fireball that helped you
    positively pinpoint the direction it was from you when it quit burning?

  • If you heard a sonic boom, how long was it between seeing the light
    and hearing the sonic boom. What other details that are relevant.

Please send the details directly to Steve at MeteorHntr@aol.com

The WeatherBlog commenters he'd like to hear from are:

Siobhan, in West Chester, Pa.; M Gaines, in Lancaster, Pa.; Matt B, in
Bel Air; Melissa Tillery, who was driving on I-70 near Hagerstown; Sam
Luther, who was camping near Delta, Pa.; John, in rural northwest
Harford, Co.; Diane, in Port Deposit; Chuck and Nikki, in Port Deposit;

Raquel, in Bergen County, N.J.; Nicole Green, in Pikesville;
Myranda Warfield, in Jefferson; Mike and Julie, in Forest Hill; DJ, in
Bel Air; Kimberly, in Forest Hill; DCD, in Littlestown, Pa.; Lisa
Ewing, in Port Deposit; Karen Haney, in Hickory, north of Bel Air;
Jenny Gresock, in Seven Valleys, Pa.;

Frank Memmo, in Churchville; Ashley Simpson, in Arnold; Chris,
in Conowingo area of Cecil County; Kristen B., in Forest Hill; Dale, in
Forest Hill; Tom D., who was southbound on I-83 in York, Pa.; Matt
Bureau, in Greensburg, Pa.; Timothy Jones, in Philadelphia;

Chelsea, in Forest Hill; Terry, in Earlesville; Sue, in White Marsh; and HC, who was southbound on I-83 near Glen Rock, Pa.

Thanks. We'll keep you posted on any progress in the meteorite hunt.

And while we're on the topic, NBC on Sunday night will air yet
another movie about a meteor headed for the Earth, and beautiful
scientists racing to save the planet. It's called, "Meteor," of all
things, and it starts at 9 p.m. on WBAL Channel 11 in Baltimore.

Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld's" George Castanza) is among the cast.

Come back here after it's over and let's see how many scientific errors we can list.

England: Wootton, Northampton - Ball of Fire Spotted

Date of Sighting: 12th July 2009

Time: 10.14pm

Witness Statement: I popped out to the
back garden for a cigarette and there was a large object in the sky
traveling very fast. It looked like a ball of fire and was traveling
approx 3 x the speed of an aeroplane. I called my girlfriend who came
out and also saw it. She thought it was an aeroplane on fire! I asked
her to run and get the camera but she took ages, I watched it move
along the sky until it was completely out of sight. Considering how
bright it was and how clearly I could see it, it must have been really
moving! There was not a cloud in the sky, I have seen many planes and
helicopters and this was definitely something I have not seen before!!
Did anyone else see this or has anyone got an explanation??

Pluto's kin may have invaded asteroid belt

Millions of objects in the solar system's main asteroid belt may be icy
interlopers from beyond Neptune that were flung into their present
orbits after a violent migration of the giant planets, a new simulation

asteroid belt
© NASA/JPL-Caltech

About 20 per cent of the objects in the main asteroid belt may have gotten their start beyond Neptune, a new simulation suggests

solar system's main asteroid belt is a diverse mix of objects that
orbit between Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids are generally thought
to have formed close to their present locations, so their compositions
should reflect the original distribution of gas and dust that
surrounded the sun there and eventually condensed into solid bodies.

"People have just been assuming that what we see there, formed
there," says Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute in
Boulder, Colorado.

But Levison and others suspect some 20 per cent of the
asteroids in the belt may be comet-like objects that were born in
colder climes, beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Scattered objects

The results come from new simulations using a theory called the Nice
model, which suggests the solar system's giant planets were born closer
together and were surrounded by a vast disc of leftovers from the
planets' formation called planetesimals (see here).

According to the model, Jupiter and Saturn entered a tight orbital
dance about 700 million years after the solar system formed. Their
gravity then flung Uranus and Neptune out into the planetesimal disc
like bowling balls, causing the objects there to scatter like pins.

Past simulations have tracked the trajectories of these
planetesimals and showed they wind up forming the Kuiper belt of icy
debris where Pluto sits, some of the distant satellites of Jupiter and
Saturn, and Trojan asteroids, bodies that share Jupiter's orbit but are
centred at two points ahead of and behind the planet.

Outer belt

The new simulation fed planetesimals into the region
surrounding Jupiter and Saturn as the planets moved to see how many
would be captured as so-called Hilda asteroids, a group outside the
main asteroid belt that orbits the sun three times for each two orbits
of Jupiter.

While some of the objects became Hildas and Trojans, most of
the captured objects wound up in the outer portion of the solar
system's main asteroid belt.

Indeed, the outer asteroid belt boasts objects that are
thought to have ice, while the inner asteroid belt is dominated by
rocky bodies. "The interpretation has been that this represents a
change in the nebula or the disc from which the planets formed,"
Levison told New Scientist.

Partial simulation

But if these icy outer objects are newcomers, it would mean that
objects in the asteroid belt did not all form close to their present
locations. "It says to the community that the assumptions you've been
making don't necessarily have to be true," Levison says.

But Renu Malhotra of the University of Arizona in Tucson says
she's not convinced of the estimate that 20 per cent of the asteroids
in the main belt could come from the outer solar system.

That's because the new study didn't simulate the process that
knocked the planetesimals out of their original orbits - it only sent
objects from the outer solar system inwards to find out what fraction
would be captured.

"It's not clear how statistically probable this is," Malhotra
says. The simplest hypothesis, she adds, is that most of the asteroids
in the main belt are original residents.

Journal reference: Nature (vol 460, p 364)

Cosmic surprise: Many asteroids are comets

meteor streaking across the sky

November 2000 NASA file image shows a meteor streaking across the sky
during the Leonid meteor shower. Many of the primitive bodies wandering
the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter are former comets, tossed
out of orbit by a brutal ballet between the giant outer planets, say a
team of astrophysicists.

Many of the primitive bodies
wandering the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter are former comets,
tossed out of orbit by a brutal ballet between the giant outer planets,
say a team of astrophysicists.

A commonly accepted theory is that the asteroid belt is the
rubble left over from a "proto-planetary disk," the dense ring of gas
that surrounds a new-born star.

But the orbiting rocks have long been a source of deep
curiosity. They are remarkably varied, ranging from mixtures of ice and
rock to igneous rocks, which implies they have jumbled origins.

The answer to the mystery, according to a study published by the British journal Nature on Wednesday, is that a "significant fraction" of the asteroid population in fact comprises ex-comets.

Famously described as "dirty snowballs" of ice and dust, comets
are lonely, long-distance wanderers of the Solar System whose
elliptical swing around the Sun can take decades.

Researchers in France and the United States ran a mathematical
model of the development of the early Solar System, when the planets
were accreting from clustering masses of dust and gas.

According to this model, the nascent giant planets --
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- orbited at this time in a pretty
compact configuration, between five and 15 astronomical units (AUs)
from the Sun.

An AU is a standard unit of measurement for Solar System
distances. It equals the distance from the Earth to the Sun, or around
150 million kilometres (93 million miles).

Beyond the giant planets was a disk-shaped mass of comets, known as trans-Neptunian objects, between 16 and 30 AUs from the Sun.

As the giants became bigger and bigger, their orbits became unstable.

Eventually, after around 600 million years, Uranus and Neptune were kicked out by gravitational jousting.

They rammed into the disk of comets and scattered its members
throughout the Solar System, according to this model. Many of them were
captured by the weak gravitational force of the asteroid belt, where
they remain to this day.

"It's a paradigm shift," said Matthieu Gounelle of France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in a press release.

"The asteroid belt is not just a leftover from the formation of
the Solar System, but also that of violent phenomena" including the
great planetary migration.

If the model is right, it implies that the difference between
the most primitive asteroids and comets is even slimmer than thought.

It would also shed light on the controversial origin of
micrometeorites, or tiny extraterrestrial particles that survive the
fiery passage through Earth's atmosphere.

Micrometeorites are different from meteorites in composition
and texture, and this could be explained if they derive from comets,
which are richer in organic material and crumblier than native

Primitive Asteroids In Main Asteroid Belt May Have Formed Far From The Sun


Researchers collected this micrometeorite in the vicinity of CONCORDIA station in central Antarctica (Dome C, 73°S, 123°E)

of the objects found today in the asteroid belt located between the
orbits of Mars and Jupiter may have formed in the outermost reaches of
the solar system, according to an international team of astronomers led
by scientists from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The team used numerical simulations to show that some
comet-like objects residing in a disk outside the original orbit of the
planets were scattered across the solar system and into the outer
asteroid belt during a violent phase of planetary evolution.

Usually, the solar system is considered a place of relative
permanence, with changes occurring gradually over hundreds of millions
to billions of years. New models of planet formation indicate, however,
that at specific times, the architecture of the solar system
experienced dramatic upheaval.

In particular, it now seems probable that approximately 3.9
billion years ago, the giant planets of our solar system -- Jupiter,
Saturn, Uranus and Neptune -- rearranged themselves in a tumultuous
spasm. "This last major event of planet formation appears to have
affected nearly every nook and cranny of the solar system," says lead
author Dr. Hal Levison of SwRI.

Key evidence for this event was first identified in the samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts. They tell us about an ancient cataclysmic bombardment where large asteroids and comets rained down on the Moon.

Scientists now recognize that this event was not limited solely to the
Moon; it also affected the Earth and many other solar system bodies.

"The existence of life on Earth, as well as the conditions that made
our world habitable for us, are strongly linked to what happened at
this distant time," states Dr. David Nesvorny of SwRI.

The same dynamical conditions that devastated the planets also
led to the capture of some would-be impactors in the asteroid belt. "In
the classic movie Casablanca,
everybody comes to Rick's. Apparently throughout the solar system, the
cool hangout for small objects is the asteroid belt," says Dr. William
Bottke of SwRI.

Once in the asteroid belt, the embedded comet-like objects
began to beat up both themselves and the asteroids. "Our model shows
that comets are relatively easy to break up when hit by something, at
least when compared to typical asteroids. It is unavoidable that some
of the debris went on to land on asteroids, the Moon and the Earth. In
fact, some of the leftovers may still be arriving today," says Dr. Alessandro Morbidelli of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur in Nice, France.

The team believes the surprising similarities between some
micrometeorites landing on Earth and comet samples returned by NASA's
Stardust mission are no accident. "There has been lots of debate about
the nature of micrometeorites reaching the Earth," says Dr. Matthieu
Gounelle of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. "Some
believe they are asteroidal, while others argue they are cometary. Our
work suggests that in a sense, both camps may be right."

"Some of the meteorites that once resided in the asteroid belt
show signs they were hit by 3.5 to 3.9 billion years ago. Our model
allows us to make the case they were hit by captured comets or perhaps
their fragments," adds Dr. Kleomenis Tsiganis of Aristotle University
of Thessaloniki, Greece. "If so, they are telling us the same
intriguing story as the lunar samples, namely that the solar system
apparently went berserk and reconfigured itself about 4 billion years

Overall, the main asteroid belt contains a surprising
diversity of objects ranging from primitive ice/rock mixtures to
igneous rocks. The standard model used to explain this assumes that
most asteroids formed in place from a primordial disk that experienced
radical chemical changes within this zone. This model shows, however,
that the observed diversity of the asteroid belt is not a direct
reflection of the intrinsic compositional variation of the
proto-planetary disk. These results fundamentally change our view of
the asteroid belt.

Additional tests of this model will come from studies of
meteorites, the asteroid belt, planet formation and the Moon. "The Moon
and the asteroid belt may be the best and most accessible places in the
solar system to understand this critical part of solar system history,"
says Levison. "We believe key evidence from these cold airless bodies
may help us unlock the biggest 'cold case' of all time."

Funding for this research was provided by NASA's Outer Planets
Research and Origins of Solar Systems programs. Additional support was
provided by NASA's Lunar Science Institute.

Journal reference:

1. Levison et al. Contamination of the asteroid belt by primordial trans-Neptunian objects. Nature, 2009; 460 (7253): 364 DOI: 10.1038/nature08094

Possible Impact Event On Jupiter

© Anthony Wesley

something just hit Jupiter? On July 19th, a black "scar" appeared in
Jupiter's clouds similar to the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts of 1994.
Veteran Jupiter observer Anthony Wesley photographed the feature from
his observatory in Murrumbateman, Australia.

"The jet-black mark is near Jupiter's south pole (south is up
in the image)," says Wesley. "I have imagery of that same location from
two nights earlier without the impact mark, so this is a very recent
event. The material has already begun to spread out in a fan shape on
one side, and should be rapidly pulled apart by the fast jetstream
winds. I recorded a lot of footage, and will be generating more images
and a rotation animation soon."

Amateur astronomers around the world should train
their telescopes on Jupiter tonight to monitor the progress of this
possible impact event: sky map. Stay tuned for more images and updates.

California's Channel Islands Hold Evidence of Clovis-Age Comets

© NOAA and UC Santa Barbara

map shows California's Channel Islands with the islands of the
previously combined islands of Santarosae encircled at the top.

17-member team has found what may be the smoking gun of a much-debated
proposal that a cosmic impact about 12,900 years ago ripped through
North America and drove multiple species into extinction.

In a paper appearing online ahead of regular publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
University of Oregon archaeologist Douglas J. Kennett and colleagues
from nine institutions and three private research companies report the
presence of shock-synthesized hexagonal diamonds in 12,900-year-old
sediments on the Northern Channel Islands off the southern California

These tiny diamonds and diamond clusters were buried deeply
below four meters of sediment. They date to the end of Clovis -- a
Paleoindian culture long thought to be North America's first human
inhabitants. The nano-sized diamonds were pulled from Arlington Canyon
on the island of Santa Rosa that had once been joined with three other
Northern Channel Islands in a landmass known as Santarosae.

The diamonds were found in association with soot,
which forms in extremely hot fires, and they suggest associated
regional wildfires, based on nearby environmental records.

Such soot and diamonds are rare in the geological record. They
were found in sediment dating to massive asteroid impacts 65 million
years ago in a layer widely known as the K-T Boundary. The thin layer
of iridium-and-quartz-rich sediment dates to the transition of the
Cretaceous and Tertiary periods, which mark the end of the Mesozoic Era
and the beginning of the Cenozoic Era.

"The type of diamond we have found -- Lonsdaleite -- is a
shock-synthesized mineral defined by its hexagonal crystalline
structure. It forms under very high temperatures and pressures
consistent with a cosmic impact," Kennett said. "These diamonds have
only been found thus far in meteorites and impact craters on Earth and
appear to be the strongest indicator yet of a significant cosmic impact
[during Clovis]."

© University of Oregon

This transmission electron microscopy close-up shows a single lonsdaleite crystal, left, and associated diffraction pattern.

age of this event also matches the extinction of the pygmy mammoth on
the Northern Channel Islands, as well as numerous other North American
mammals, including the horse, which Europeans later reintroduced. In
all, an estimated 35 mammal and 19 bird genera became extinct near the
end of the Pleistocene with some of them occurring very close in time
to the proposed cosmic impact, first reported in October 2007 in PNAS.

In the Jan. 2, 2009, issue of the journal Science, a
team led by Kennett reported the discovery of billions of
nanometer-sized diamonds concentrated in sediments -- weighing from
about 10 to 2,700 parts per billion -- in six North American locations.

"This site, this layer with hexagonal diamonds, is also
associated with other types of diamonds and with dramatic environmental
changes and wildfires," said James Kennett, paleoceanographer and
professor emeritus in the Department of Earth Science at the University
of California, Santa Barbara.

"There was a major event 12,900 years ago," he said. "It is
hard to explain this assemblage of materials without a cosmic impact
event and associated extensive wildfires. This hypothesis fits with the
abrupt cooling of the atmosphere as shown in the record of ocean
drilling of the Santa Barbara Channel. The cooling resulted when dust
from the high-pressure, high-temperature, multiple impacts was lofted
into the atmosphere, causing a dramatic drop in solar radiation."

The hexagonal diamonds from Arlington Canyon were analyzed at
the UO's Lorry I. Lokey Laboratories, a world-class nanotechnology
facility built deep in bedrock to allow for sensitive microscopy and
other high-tech analyses of materials. The analyses were done in
collaboration with FEI, a Hillsboro, Ore., company that distributes the
high-resolution Titan microscope used to characterize the hexagonal
diamonds in this study.

Transmission electron microscopy and scanning electron
microscopes were used in the extensive analyses of the sediment that
contained clusters of Lonsdaleite ranging in size from 20 to 1,800
nanometers. These diamonds were inside or attached to carbon particles
found in the sediments.

These findings are inconsistent with the alternative and
already hotly debated theory that overhunting by Clovis people led to
the rapid extinction of large mammals at the end of the ice age, the
research team argues in the PNAS
paper. An alternative theory has held that climate change was to blame
for these mass extinctions. The cosmic-event theory suggests that rapid
climate change at this time was possibly triggered by a series of small
and widely dispersed comet strikes across much of North America.

Jupiter struck by something leaving an Earth-sized impact mark


by NASA: A large impact on the left on Jupiter's south polar region
captured on July 20, 2009, by NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility in
Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Jupiter was slammed by an Earth-sized object exactly
15 years after Comet Schumacher-Levy did the same in 1994.

amateur Australian astronomer has set the space-watching world on fire
after discovering that a rare comet or asteroid had crashed into
Jupiter, leaving an impact the size of Earth.

Anthony Wesley, 44, a computer programmer from Murrumbateman, a village north of Canberra, made the discovery about 1am yesterday using his backyard 14.5-inch reflecting telescope.

The impact would have occurred no more than two days earlier and will only be visible for another few days.

Within hours, his images had spread across the internet on science websites.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the discovery at 9pm yesterday using its large infrared telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

only other time astronomers have discovered evidence of a space object
having hit Jupiter was when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet collided with
the giant planet in July, 1994.

That event was also the first direct observation of two objects colliding in space.

Glenn Orton, the NASA scientist who confirmed Wesley's discovery, said:
"We are extremely lucky to be seeing Jupiter at exactly the right time,
the right hour, the right side of Jupiter to witness the event. We couldn't have planned it better."

Orton said he was not yet sure whether the object that hit Jupiter was a comet, asteroid or some other piece of space junk. But the impact mark is about the size of the Earth.

"It's been a whirlwind of a day and this, on the anniversary of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 and Apollo anniversaries, is amazing," he said.

To most people the image is unremarkable and appears as little more than a scar on Jupiter's vast gas surface.

Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer who worked with Orton on confirming the
discovery last night, said: "These are the most exciting observations
I've seen in my five years of observing the outer planets."

Wesley said in a phone interview that documenting these sorts
of impacts was the only way to get new data on how the solar system
formed and what planets such as Jupiter are made of, as the impact
throws up debris that would otherwise be invisible when looking through
a telescope from Earth.

The collision also allows astronomers to examine Jupiter's role in cleaning up space debris in the solar system.

"If anything like that had hit the Earth it would have been curtains for us,
so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is doing its vacuum-cleaner job
and hoovering up all these large pieces before they come for us," he

"An impact event like this, even just knowing how often they
happen, gives you some idea of how much debris is left over from the
solar system when it formed and how quickly Jupiter is vacuuming up the
remains of the bits and pieces floating around in the solar system."

Mike Salway, who runs the Australian amateur astronomy
community website iceinspace.com.au, said astronomers around the world
were raving about the discovery.

"Amateur astronomers are all over it at the moment - they all had their telescopes out last night looking for it," he said.

Wesley, who has been keen on astronomy since he was a child,
said telescopes and other astronomy equipment were so inexpensive now
that the hobby had become a viable pastime for just about anybody. His
own equipment cost about $10,000.

In many cases, particularly with planets such as Jupiter,
professional space watchers were turning to amateurs to provide them
with new discoveries.

"A lot of the professional astronomers have access to large
scopes but those scopes are in demand for all sorts of other jobs and
you just can't afford to tie up a large telescope worth millions of
dollars looking at Jupiter every night," Wesley said.

"These large telescopes only get built because of the
interests of the consortium parties, and those interests need to be
attended to, so it's really left to amateurs who've got no fixed agenda
to image whatever they find interesting."

Jupiter sports new 'bruise' from impact

© Paul Kalas/Michael Fitzgerald/Franck Marchis/LLNL/UCLA/UC Berkeley/SETI Institute

observations taken at the Keck II telescope in Hawaii reveal a bright
spot where the impact occurred. The spot looks black at visible

Something has smashed into Jupiter, leaving behind a black spot in the planet's atmosphere, scientists confirmed on Monday.

This is only the second time such an impact has been observed. The
first was almost exactly 15 years ago, when more than 20 fragments of
comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with the gas giant.

"This has all the hallmarks of an impact event, very similar
to Shoemaker-Levy 9," said Leigh Fletcher, an astronomer at NASA's Jet
Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. "We're all extremely excited."

The impact was discovered by amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley
in Murrumbateman, Australia at about 1330 GMT on Sunday. Wesley noticed
a black spot in Jupiter's south polar region - but he very nearly
stopped observing before he saw it.

"By 1am I was ready to quit ... then changed my mind and
decided to carry on for another half hour or so," he wrote in his
observation report. Initially he suspected he was seeing one of
Jupiter's moons or a moon's shadow on the planet, but the location,
size and speed of the spot ruled out that possibility.

'Stroke of luck'

After checking images taken two nights earlier and not seeing the spot,
he realised he had found something new and began emailing others.

Among the people he contacted were Fletcher and Glenn Orton,
also at JPL. They had serendipitously scheduled observing time on
NASA's InfraRed Telescope Facility in Hawaii for that night.

"It was a fantastic stroke of luck," Orton told New Scientist.

Their team began observations at about 1000 GMT on 20 July, and
after six hours of observing confirmed that the spot was an impact and
not a weather event.

"It's completely unlike any of the weather phenomena that we observe on Jupiter," Orton says.


The first clue was a near-infrared image of the upper
atmosphere above the impact site. An impact would make a splash like a
stone thrown into a pool, scattering material in the atmosphere
upwards. This material would then reflect sunlight, appearing as a
bright spot at near-infrared wavelengths.

And that's exactly what the team saw. "Our first image showed
a really bright object right where that black scar was, and immediately
we knew this was an impact," Orton says. "There's no natural phenomenon
that creates a black spot and bright particles like that."

Supporting evidence came from measurements of Jupiter's
temperature. Thermal images also showed a bright spot where the impact
took place, meaning the impact warmed up the lower atmosphere in that

The researchers have also found hints of higher-than-normal
amounts of ammonia in the upper atmosphere. Extra ammonia had been
churned up by the previous Shoemaker-Levy comet impact.

Exotic chemistry

The Shoemaker-Levy impact also introduced some exotic chemistry
into Jupiter's atmosphere. The energy from the collision fused some of
the original atmospheric components into new molecules, such as
hydrogen cyanide.

Scientists hope this new impact has done the same thing, since
that would allow them to follow the new materials and learn how the
atmosphere moves with time.

So what was the impactor? "Not a clue," Orton says. He
speculates that it could have been a block of ice from somewhere in
Jupiter's neighborhood, or a wandering comet that was too faint for
astronomers to detect before the impact.

Without having seen it, scientists can't tell how large the
object was. "But the impact scar we're seeing is about the same size as
one of Jupiter's big storms, Oval BA, Fletcher told New Scientist. "That, I believe, is about the size of the Earth."

Tiny diamonds on Santa Rosa Island give evidence of cosmic impact


This is James Kennett (left) and Douglas J. Kennett.

Barbara, Calif. - - Nanosized diamonds found just a few meters below
the surface of Santa Rosa Island off the coast of Santa Barbara provide strong evidence of a cosmic impact event in North America approximately 12,900 years ago,
according to a new study by scientists. Their hypothesis holds that
fragments of a comet struck across North America at that time.

The research, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(PNAS), was led by James Kennett, professor emeritus at UC Santa
Barbara, and Douglas J. Kennett, first author, of the University of
Oregon. The two are a father-son team. They were joined by 15 other

"The pygmy mammoth, the tiny island version of the
North American mammoth, died off at this time," said James Kennett.
"Since it coincides with this event, we suggest it is related." He
explained that this site, with its layer containing hexagonal diamonds,
is also associated with other types of diamonds and with dramatic
environmental changes and wildfires. They are part of a sedimentary
layer known as the Younger Dryas Boundary.

© James C. Weaver

Here are hexagonal nanodiamonds discovered on Santa Rosa Island.

"There was a major event 12,900 years ago," said
James Kennett. "It is hard to explain this assemblage of materials
without a cosmic impact event and associated extensive wildfires. This
hypothesis fits with the abrupt climatic cooling as recorded in
ocean-drilled sediments beneath the Santa Barbara Channel. The cooling
resulted when dust from the high-pressure, high-temperature, multiple
impacts was lofted into the atmosphere, causing a dramatic drop in
solar radiation."

The tiny diamonds were buried below four meters of sediment and they
correspond with the disappearance of the Clovis culture - - the first
well-established and distributed North American peoples. An estimated
35 types of mammals and 19 types of birds also became extinct in North
America about this time.

"The type of diamond we have found - - lonsdaleite - - is a
shock-synthesized mineral defined by its hexagonal crystalline
structure," said Douglas Kennett, associate professor of anthropology
at the University of Oregon. "It forms under very high temperatures and
pressures consistent with a cosmic impact. These diamonds have only
been found thus far in meteorites and impact craters on earth, and
appear to be the strongest indicator yet of a significant cosmic impact
[during Clovis]."

© James Kennett

This image shows a dark layer of sediment is exposed in Arlington Canyon on Santa Rosa Island.

diamonds were found in association with soot, which forms in extremely
hot fires, and they suggest associated regional wildfires, based on
nearby environmental records. Such soot and diamonds are rare in the
geological record. They were found in sediment dating to massive
asteroid impacts 65 million years ago in a layer widely known as the
K-T Boundary, known to be associated with the extinction of dinosaurs
and many other types of organisms.

James Kennett, former director of the Marine Science Institute
at UCSB, is considered by some of his peers to be the "father" of
marine geology and paleoceanography. The native of New Zealand notes
that the sedimentary layers beneath the Santa Barbara Channel provide a
unique window on the history of the world's climate and ocean changes.
The area is one of the best locations in the world for this type of
geological research.

Douglas Kennett received his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D in anthropology at UCSB.

Co-authors on the PNAS paper are Jon M. Erlandson and Brendan
J. Culleton, of the University of Oregon; Allen West of GeoScience
Consulting in Arizona; G. James West of UC Davis; Ted E. Bunch and
James H. Wittke, of Northern Arizona University; Shane S. Que Hee of
UCLA; John R. Johnson of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History;
Chris Mercer of UCSB and National Institute of Materials Science in
Japan; Feng Shen of the FEI Company; Thomas W. Stafford of Stafford
Research Inc. of Colorado; Wendy S. Wolbach and Adrienne Stich, of
DePaul University in Chicago; and James C. Weaver of UC Riverside.

The National Science Foundation provided primary funding for this research.

US: Granbury, Texas - Fireball seen during daylight hours

Posted: July 22, 2009

Date: June 24th 2009

Time: Daylight hour 6:57pm CDST

Number of witnesses: One

Number of objects: One

Shape of objects: Round, Ball shaped

Weather Conditions: Clear

Description: Small fireball traveling
from Northeast to Southwest north of Granbury Texas. Not so spectacular
with the exception that it was still during bright daylight. I suspect
it was a meteorite.

TV/Radio: I won't report but if someone else does I would like to be informed.

[Note: This fireball/meteor report is included for reference purposes - John @ UFOINFO.]

Jupiter collision a warning call to Earth

Jupiter's scar
© NASA/Reuters

This detail image shows a large impact shown on the bottom left on
Jupiter's south polar region captured on July 20, by NASA's Infrared
Telescope Facility in Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The list
of cosmic objects that could hit Earth is growing. Scientists study
satellite 'tractors' and nuclear weapons as ways to divert asteroids
headed our way.

When an object smacked into Jupiter over the weekend, giving
astronomers their best cosmic-collision show since the comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994, the giant gas ball of a planet took the poke
like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

For all its scientific interest, however, the
collision also serves as a stark reminder that the solar system remains
a shooting gallery - with Earth, as well as Jupiter, on the wrong side
of the firing line.

The object's signature on Jupiter's cloud tops initially was discovered
by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley as he gathered digital
images of the giant planet through his 14.5-inch telescope. After
alerting other astronomers to what appeared to be a "scar" in the cloud
tops similar to those generated by the pieces of Shoemaker-Levy 9, NASA
scientists trained a 3-meter (9.8-foot) infrared telescope on the
planet and got a good look at the scar.

"It could be the impact of a comet," according to
Glenn Orton, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in
Pasadena, Calif., in a statement yesterday. "But we don't know for sure

When it comes to objects Earthlings should keep an eye on, the catalog scientists have amassed is swelling.

Since 1995, astronomers associated with 10 search projects have discovered more than 6,200 near-Earth asteroids of all sizes, according to data from JPL. Some
784 are at least a kilometer (0.62 miles) across or larger. Just over
1,000 of the total have been deemed "potentially hazardous"
- those that pass Earth at a distance of less than 4.7 million miles.

And while the biggest ones have the potential to inflict the most damage, scientists are gaining a new appreciation of the punch even small ones can deliver.

Two and a half years ago, scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in
Albuquerque, N.M., conducted advanced supercomputer simulations of the
June 1908 event over Siberia that flattened and scorched trees over a
region 30 miles across. Estimates put the explosive clout of the air
burst from either a meteor or comet fragment at between 10 and 20

The good news: Calculations on Sandia's supercomputer, in 3-D,
push that explosive yield down to between three and five megatons. The
bad news: The calculations also indicated that the
asteroid or comet fragment was much smaller than previously estimated.
There are more small asteroids hurtling around us than large ones.

Sometimes they can seem to come out of nowhere.

Last October, astronomers detected an asteroid an estimated two to five
meters across. Some 21 hours later, it entered the atmosphere over
northern Sudan sprinkling the Nubian desert with meteorites. The
object's blast was estimated at roughly 1,000 tons of TNT.

For asteroid specialists, this was a live-fire test of
protocols they'd developed to alert astronomers to monitor the object
to refine orbital and impact-location estimates - and to alert national
authorities that a direct hit was on the way.

The incident "underscored the successful evolution of the
Near-Earth Object Program's discovery and orbit-prediction process,"
wrote JPL scientists Steve Chesley, Paul Chodas, and Don Yeomans in a
post-event report on the incident.

The goal, of course, is to spot these objects and produce
highly refined orbit estimates in time to take defensive action, if

And what might that action look like?

In a lengthy analysis of options that earned him a newly-minted
PhD in aeronautical engineering from the University of Glasgow, Joan
Pau Sanchez Cuartielles sorts through several approaches ranging from
detonating a small nuclear bomb near an asteroid to using a
modest-sized satellite as a kind of tractor that tugs the asteroid into
a less dangerous orbit, connected to the asteroid by their mutual

The stand-off nuclear option (with an explosive yield tailored
to the mass and density of the asteroid) turned out to be the most
effective, although politically troublesome. The gravity tug could be
effective with long lead times, or if the goal is to nudge an asteroid
just enough to ensure it avoids a gravitational sweet spot, or keyhole,
that would put it on a collision course with Earth decades into the

Comment: The reader might also want to read Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets: Damages, Disasters, Injuries, Deaths, and Very Close Calls.

New Image of Jupiter Impact in Infrared

© Gemini Observatory / AURA

getting whacked unexpectedly by a small comet or asteroid, Jupiter is
sporting a "bruise," which has been big news this week. In visible
wavelengths, the impact site appears as a black spot. But in a new
image taken in near infrared by the Gemini North telescope on Mauna
Kea, Hawai'i, the spot shows up in spectacular glowing yellow.

"We utilized the powerful mid-infrared capabilities of the Gemini
telescope to record the impact's effect on Jupiter's upper atmosphere,"
said Imke de Pater from the University of California, Berkeley. "At
these wavelengths we receive thermal radiation (heat) from the planet's
upper atmosphere. The impact site is clearly much warmer than its
surroundings, as shown by our image taken at an infrared wavelength of
18 microns."

As Universe Today reported earlier, this new spot on
Jupiter was first seen by Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley
on July 19th. This set off a flurry of activity as the large ground
based observatories have imaged Jupiter in attempt to learn more about
the impact and the object that struck Jupiter. Astronomers now say the
object was likely a small comet or asteroid, just a few hundreds of meters in diameter.
Such small bodies are nearly impossible to detect near or beyond
Jupiter unless they reveal cometary activity, or, as in this case, make
their presence known by impacting a giant planet.

In infrared, the impact site shows up in remarkable detail. "The structure of the impact site is eerily reminiscent of the larger Shoemaker-Levy 9 sites 15 years ago,"
remarked Heidi Hammel (Space Science Institute), who was part of the
team that supported the effort at Gemini. In 1994, Hammel led the
Hubble Space Telescope team that imaged Jupiter when it was pummeled by
a shattered comet. "The morphology is suggestive of an arc-like
structure in the feature's debris field," Hammel noted.

The Gemini images were obtained with the MICHELLE spectrograph/imager,
yielding a series of images at 7 different mid-infrared wavelengths.
Two of the images (8.7 and 9.7 microns) were combined into a color
composite image by Travis Rector at the University of Alaska, Anchorage
to create the final false-color image. By using the full set of Gemini
images taken over a range of wavelengths from 8 to 18 microns, the team
will be able to disentangle the effects of temperature, ammonia
abundance, and upper atmospheric aerosol content. Comparing these
Gemini observations with past and future images will permit the team to
study the evolution of features as Jupiter's strong winds disperse

"The Gemini support staff made a heroic effort to get these data," said
de Pater. "We were on the telescope observing within 24 hours of
contacting the observatory." Because of the transient nature of this
event, the telescope was scheduled as a "Target of Opportunity" and
required staff to react quickly to the request."

Comment: Have you read Stephen Hawking: Space debris represents biggest natural threat to humanity?

Stephen Hawking: Space debris represents biggest natural threat to humanity

© Space Telescope Science Institute

Something wicked this way comes

Hawking believes that one of the major factors in the possible scarcity
of intelligent life in our galaxy is the high probability of an
asteroid or comet colliding with inhabited planets. "We have observed,"
Hawking points out in Life in the Universe, "the collision of a comet,
Schumacher-Levi, with Jupiter (below), which produced a series of
enormous fireballs, plumes many thousands of kilometers high, hot
"bubbles" of gas in the atmosphere, and large dark "scars" on the
atmosphere which had lifetimes on the order of weeks."

It is thought the collision of a rather smaller body with the
Earth, about 70 million years ago, was responsible for the extinction
of the dinosaurs. A few small early mammals survived, but anything as
large as a human, would have almost certainly been wiped out.

Through Earth's history such collisions occur, on the
average every one million year. If this figure is correct, it would
mean that intelligent life on Earth has developed only because of the
lucky chance that there have been no major collisions in the last 70
million years. Other planets in the galaxy, Hawking believes, on which
life has developed, may not have had a long enough collision free
period to evolve intelligent beings.

"The threat of the Earth being hit by an asteroid is
increasingly being accepted as the single greatest natural disaster
hazard faced by humanity,"
according to Nick Bailey of the
University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences team, who
has developed a threat identifying program.

The team used raw data from multiple impact simulations to
rank each country based on the number of times and how severely they
would be affected by each impact. The software, called NEOimpactor
(from NASA's "NEO" or Near Earth Object program), has been specifically
developed for measuring the impact of 'small' asteroids under one
kilometer in diameter.

Early results indicate that in terms of population lost,
China, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States face the greatest
overall threat; while the United States, China, Sweden, Canada and
Japan face the most severe economic effects due to the infrastructure

The top ten countries most at risk are China, Indonesia,
India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United
Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.

"The consequences for human populations and infrastructure as
a result of an impact are enormous," says Bailey. "Nearly one hundred
years ago a remote region near the Tunguska River witnessed the largest
asteroid impact event in living memory when a relatively small object
(approximately 50 meters in diameter) exploded in mid-air. While it
only flattened unpopulated forest, had it exploded over London it could
have devastated everything within the M25. Our results highlight those
countries that face the greatest risk from this most global of natural
hazards and thus indicate which nations need to be involved in
mitigating the threat."

What would happen to the human species and life on Earth in
general if an asteroid the size of the one that created the famous K/T
Event of 65 million years ago at the end of the Mesozoic Era that
resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs impacted our planet.

As Stephen Hawking says, the general consensus is that any comet or
asteroid greater than 20 kilometers in diameter that strikes the Earth
will result in the complete annihilation of complex life - animals and
higher plants. (The asteroid Vesta, for example, one of the
destinations of the Dawn Mission, is the size of Arizona).

How many times in our galaxy alone has life finally evolved to
the equivalent of our plants and animals on some far distant planet,
only to be utterly destroyed by an impact?
Galactic history suggests it might be a common occurrence.

The first thing to understand about the KT event is that it was
absolutely enormous: an asteroid (or comet) six to 10 miles in diameter
streaked through the Earth's atmosphere at 25,000 miles an hour and
struck the Yucatan region of Mexico with the force of 100 megatons -
the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb for every person alive on Earth
today. Not a pretty scenario!

Recent calculations show that our planet would go into another
"Snowball Earth" event like the one that occurred 600 million years
ago, when it is believed the oceans froze over
(although some scientists dispute this hypothesis -see link below).

While microbial bacteria might readily survive such calamitous impacts,
our new understanding from the record of the Earth's mass extinctions
clearly shows that plants and animals are very susceptible to
extinction in the wake of an impact.

Impact rates depend on how many comets and asteroids exist in
a particular planetary system. In general there is one major impact
every million years - a mere blink of the eye in geological time. It
also depends on how often those objects are perturbed from safe orbits
that parallel the Earth's orbit to new, Earth-crossing orbits that
might, sooner or later, result in a catastrophic K/T or Permian-type
mass extinction.

The asteroid that hit Vredefort located in the Free State
Province of South Africa is one of the largest to ever impact Earth,
estimated at over 10 km (6 miles) wide, although it is believed by many
that the original size of the impact structure could have been 250 km
in diameter, or possibly larger (though the Wilkes Land crater in
Antarctica, if confirmed to have been the result of an impact event, is
even larger at 500 kilometers across). The town of Vredefort is
situated in the crater (image).

Dating back 2,023 million years, it is the oldest astrobleme
found on earth so far, with a radius of 190km, it is also the most
deeply eroded. Vredefort Dome Vredefort bears witness to the world's
greatest known single energy release event, which caused devastating
global change, including, according to many scientists, major
evolutionary changes.

What has kept the Earth "safe" at least the past 65 million
years, other than blind luck is the massive gravitational field of
Jupiter, our cosmic guardian, with its stable circular orbit far from
the sun, which assures a low number of impacts resulting in mass
extinctions by sweeping up and scatters away most of the dangerous
Earth-orbit-crossing comets and asteroids


Scientists Still At Odds On Tunguska After 100 Years

© Unknown

professors from the University of Bologna, Carlo Stanghellini, Maurizio
Serrazanetti, Romano Serra, and Marco Cocchi, believe Lake Cheko was
created by a meteorite impact due to its shape and tree growth in the
area. The lake is elliptical (approximately 100 meters by 300 meters)
rather than round, which is consistent with other lakes and swamps in
the area. However, no impact ring or rim residue has been discovered at
the lake, which would be noticeable had a meteorite created the lake.
The native Evenki say that the lake has always been there and the name
comes from the Evenki language meaning "dark waters."

than 100 years have passed since the Tunguska Meteorite Event and the
mystery of its occurrence remains unsolved, but scientists have not
given up on solving the riddle. This July, an international research
group from Italy and the United States ventured into deepest Siberia to
investigate the most likely explanations of the mysterious event, and RIA Novosti correspondent David Burghardt joined them.

On June 30, 1908, Eastern Siberia was hit by an explosion equal to
2,000 times the nuclear bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of
Hiroshima in 1945, destroying 2,200 square kilometers of taiga and
flattening tens of millions of trees. If this impact had occurred four
hours later, the city of St. Petersburg and other nearby villages would
have been wiped off the face of the earth.

Travel to epicenter

Some 15 hours after the devastating impact, the skies throughout Europe
were lit up for several nights and white nights were noted in places
that had never experienced such a phenomenon. Witnesses at the time in
Britain, Denmark and Germany said they were able to read a newspaper in
the middle of the night without using any artificial light.

It was not until the winter of 1927-1928 that the first
expedition was organized to investigate reports from witnesses of the
event. The expedition was led by Russian scientist Leonid Kulik, who
headed for the epicenter in search for the meteorite he believed was
the only possible explanation for the event.

Travel back then to such a remote area was a very expensive
and grueling affair, taking first a train to Krasnoyarsk in Eastern
Siberia, and then traveling north on foot for hundreds of kilometers.
Kulik's first expedition 19 years after the event enlisted numerous
native Evenki guides and dozens of reindeer. Kulik, like hundreds of
scientists after him, found no traces of a meteorite.

Travel to the area today is much easier than in Kulik's time,
taking an airplane from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk, then a small prop plane
to the village of Vanavara, and finally a Russian Mi-8 cargo helicopter
into the region of the epicenter.

The two-week expedition included six professors from the
University of Bologna, the University of Florence, and Cornell

There are some 100 theories of the Tunguska Event, including
some of the more bizarre ones of a UFO crash site, a WWII bomber caught
in a time warp and returning to 1908, Earth crossing through a black
hole, and a cloud of mosquitoes that spontaneously combusted due to
heat created by flying too densely.

The first theory was created in 1908 by native Evenki tribes
in Eastern Siberia who were the actual witnesses of the event.
According to their legend, the fire god, Agdy, became angered and
destroyed all that was living in the area. Witnesses said there were
several deafening explosions and trees were heard falling thousands of
miles away.

The researchers looked at two of the most probable theories:
meteorite impact and volcanic gas vent explosion. The scientific
expedition was divided into two camps, one at Lake Cheko, where they
were researching the meteorite theory, and the other at Kulik's Cabin
near the epicenter (some 10 kilometers from the first group), where
they were researching geological explanations for the blast.

Meteorite Impact Theory (Lake Cheko)

Of the hundreds of expeditions into the epicenter or impact
area, not one has found any evidence that a meteorite struck the
Earth's surface. Pieces of a meteorite have never been discovered and
no crater has been confirmed anywhere in the area.

Four professors from the University of Bologna, Carlo
Stanghellini, Maurizio Serrazanetti, Romano Serra, and Marco Cocchi,
believe Lake Cheko was created by a meteorite impact due to its shape
and tree growth in the area. The lake is elliptical (approximately 100
meters by 300 meters) rather than round, which is consistent with other
lakes and swamps in the area.

However, no impact ring or rim residue has been discovered at
the lake, which would be noticeable had a meteorite created the lake.
The native Evenki say that the lake has always been there and the name
comes from the Evenki language meaning "dark waters."

Professors Stanghellini and Serrazanetti focused their
research on the lake bottom using both technical and not so technical
equipment, including a magnetometer, radar, underwater camera and
grappling hooks.

The scientists used a magnetometer to locate magnetic elements
on the floor of the lake such as iron or other metallic elements, which
would indicate that a meteorite or its fragments were on the bottom.
Stanghellini described a magnetometer as a sophisticated compass that
will show peaks on a monitor if it finds something metal.

He said that just like a regular compass, if you set a piece
of metal near it, the arrow will point to the metal piece and not to
the magnetic North. Because of the magnetometer's sensitivity, the
scientists did their research on an inflatable rubber raft using wooden
oars so as not spike the instrument. Before the process, they flagged

the entire lake in 10-meter swaths. They discovered a small
anomaly in the center of the lake on one of the passes and said they
would study the data more thoroughly on their return to Italy. On the
following day, however, the magnetic anomaly was not detected on the
screen and the scientists did not collect any other substantial
evidence to support their theory that there are meteorite fragments on
the bottom of the lake.

They also conducted radar soundings and underwater filming, but again came up with no substantial evidence.

Grappling hooks were dragged along the lake bottom to recover
debris. They recovered mostly small branches and roots, which may or
may not have been from 1908. The scientists said that the debris could
have been under a thick layer of silt that would have preserved the
debris, though they may have been recently deposited by the stream
flowing into the lake. These samples were packed and sent to the
university to define their age and find any proof of impact damage to

Stanghellini said further research of the lake's bottom was
necessary, especially in drilling a core sample beneath the lake,
though this would require international support and financing.

On shore, professors Serra and Cocchi cut down several trees
and collected slabs as well as core samples of trees that survived the
1908 event, trees that were destroyed after the event and younger trees
that appeared after the event. Samples were taken on the North and
South side of Lake Cheko.

According to their preliminary studies, the samples showed
that the trees had tight rings prior to the 1908 event, which means the
trees grew very slowly due to competition with other trees and were
growing densely together. Serra said that in 1908, the trees show scars
with resin deposits (pitch) and then a very slow growth rate for two
years due to shock. After 1910, the trees show much wider rings, which
indicate there was less competition with other trees, more sunlight and

He also said that the coniferous trees in the area should be
associated with trees from the taiga and not lakeside forests, where
there is usually heavy underbrush. Serra said that tree samples taken
4-50 meters from the lake are similar in growth patterns of trees 2-3
kilometers away from the lake prior to 1908, indicating that all of the
trees are native to a taiga environment and not a lake.

He added that a significant growth change occurred in the
trees located by the lake after 1908; whereas, those trees kilometers
away from the lake continued to have tight rings due to slow growth and

Serra noted that the survivor trees were much smaller during
the 1908 event, meaning that they were bent over or twisted during the
impact. All of the large trees, on the other hand, were uprooted. He
said this is similar to what happens to trees during a hurricane. He
also noted that the tree samples taken near Lake Cheko were similar to
those taken after the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown site in
Ukraine in 1986.

Evidence collected in previous expeditions by Serra showed
that tree limbs from 1908 contained deposits of magnesium, titanium,
sulfurs, and several undefined elements, which would support the
theories of a meteorite or even volcanic activity.

All four of the Italian researchers at Lake Cheko believe the
lake was created by one of three impacts in 1908: the first exploded in
the atmosphere, the second struck the ground, creating Lake Cheko and
changing the direction of the creek, and the third struck the ground
further North at the epicenter, presumably creating several deep bogs.
They agreed that the meteorite that created the lake would have been
1-5 meters in diameter and the tree growth around the lake proved that
it was created in 1908.

Cocchi did much research on an old creek bed that the
scientists assume was cut off or rerouted after the 1908 event.
Difficulties in researching the creek bed arise due to the fact that 20
centimeters under the surface there is permafrost that cannot be dug
up. Drilling the creek bed is also planned to get a core sample in
order to estimate when the creek changed its course and began flowing
into the lake after it was created by the meteorite, according to the

Volcanic Gas Vent Explosion Theory (Tunguska Epicenter)

Jason Phipps Morgan, a geophysicist from Cornell University,
and Paola Vanucchi, a geologist and geophysicist from the University of
Florence, believe that the 1908 event was the result of a gas vent
explosion created from the center of the earth. They did much
investigation around the epicenter, especially what is called John's
Rock, which is a 10-12 ton rock formation that is free-standing.

According to Morgan, this rock was actually "burped up" when
the gas vent exploded, pushing the rock to the surface through a
funnel. Morgan named the still unconfirmed funnel after his colleague,
Paola's Funnel. He noted that this rock is the only one of its kind in
the area and is definitely of volcanic nature. The scientists collected
some 30 kilograms of rock samples, especially quartz and quartzite,
from and around John's Rock, in search of shocked quartz, which would
indicate that there was volcanic activity in the area.

Vanucchi said that some of the rock samples showed traces of
being shocked, or fractured, and further research on the samples would
be completed in both Italy and the United States. She also said that
they believe they have found the main vent of the volcanic gas
explosion very near to John's Rock.

The researchers revealed that the Russian geological mineral
map they were supplied with was incorrect in many places in regard to
the elements found in the area, as well as to the depth of some of the
quartz deposits. Vanucchi said that they had started updating the
existing map, but further research would be needed to perfect it.

The scientists were also interested in Churgym Waterfall which
showed one of the largest samples of volcanic basalt in the world,
indicating millions of years of volcanic activity in the area. There
was a constant flow of lava, which is visible in layers around the
falls and stream. Only some 30 meters of the basalt is above the
surface, which is visible due to erosion by the stream and there is no
estimate of how deep the volcanic rock extends beneath the earth.

Morgan said the amount of basalt in the area is so great that
it proves the existence of constant volcanic activity for millions of
years. Samples from the waterfall area were also taken for comparison
with those from the John's Rock location. Though lava has ceased to
reach the surface, lava vents still exist and can build up pressure and
blow, thus creating a blast like that in the epicenter.

Comet Theory

One of the most commonly acceptable theories today is that of a
comet or a piece from the tail of a comet hitting the Earth's surface.
Upon returning to Moscow, RIA Novosti spoke with two Russian scientists
on the comet theory.

Vitaly Romeiko, the director of the Department of Astrophysics
at Zvenigorod Observatory, said in an interview in Moscow that the 1908
event was caused by a fragment of the Encke Comet's tail that entered
the Earth's atmosphere as a ball of ice with small interplanetary
fragments (dust particles) and, upon entrance, exploded due to the
negative ions in the comet and the positive ions found on Earth. He
pointed out that the Encke Comet also revolves around the sun and comes
near Earth every 3.3 years.

Romeiko has participated in 23 expeditions into the Tunguska region.

Olga Gladysheva, a senior fellow at the A.F. Ioffe Physics and
Technical Institute in St. Petersburg, supported Romeiko's theory in a
separate interview with RIA Novosti,
adding that the part of the comet's tail separated and created a giant
ice ball that was created in a vacuum, and, therefore, made several
explosions as the particles inside expanded and the ball disintegrated.

The Russian scientists base their theory on the fact on the
absence of any meteorite material in the area, no rock fragments, or no
impact areas that would create a crater.

Gladysheva said part of the comet's tail entered the Earth's
ionosphere at more than 80 kilometers above ground, which is an intense
area of atmospheric electricity. She said a major blast occurred over
the epicenter at an altitude of 7-10 kilometers above the Earth's
surface. The significance of the blast was due to the overly charged
ions and differences in the positive and negative poles in the comet
and Earth.

Romeiko said the ice ball that formed around the comet's dust
particles before striking Earth would explain the absence of a crater
or meteorite particles. The particles from the comet would be very
minute and could most likely be found in the lower layers of peat moss
in the area, which is frozen in permafrost.

101 Years Of An Unsolved Mystery

In separate conversations with the researchers during the
expedition into the Tunguska epicenter, they all shared the same idea
that the mystery will never be solved because scientists with their own
theories and hypotheses will never agree on one single explanation. In
regard to this, Romeiko said: "No one will back down on a theory that
he has defended his entire life because that would mean failure."

Although the researchers returned without any substantial
explanations for the event, they plan on returning to Tunguska to
continue their research and prove their theories. Serra said there
would be interest in the Tunguska Event far into the future, because
the best scientists from around the world have been there and no one
has come up with an explanation, which scientists simply cannot accept.

When the Italian and American research group left the
epicenter, a new group of Russian "scientists" arrived. One of the
group members said that she had worked with a psychic to identify which
swamp a UFO had collided into in 1908.

Upon returning to the town of Vanavara, some 65 kilometers to
the South of the epicenter, the Tunguska Reserve director, Ludmila
Logunova, said that they know where the meteorite is located, but if
they reveal its location, people would stop visiting the region.

Comment: For an in-depth review, read Tunguska, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction.

Smashing days! New bright spot observed on Venus

An intense bright spot has appeared in the clouds of Venus. Could it be associated with volcanic activity on the surface?

The Solar System is breaking out in spots. First Jupiter took a smack
from a passing asteroid or comet, manifesting as a dark scar in the
Jovian atmosphere, and now Venus is sporting a brilliant white spot in
its southern polar region.

In an alert to fellow amateur astronomers, Venus observer
Frank Melillo reports on his images captured on 19 July: "I have seen
bright spots before but this one is an exceptional bright and quite intense area."

He suggests that it could be explained as an atmospheric effect, but
could it be a sign of volcanic activity at the planet's surface? Venus
is covered in a thick cloak of clouds which prevents any visible
observation of the surface. Instead, radar is used to map the surface,
but volcanic activity has never been observed directly.

"A volcanic eruption would be nice, but let's wait and find
out!" says Venus specialist Dr Sanjay Limaye of the University of
Wisconsin. "An eruption would have to be quite energetic to get a cloud this high." Furthermore, at a latitude of 50 degrees south, the spot lies outside the region of known volcanoes on Venus.

Melillo comments that the spot will not be seen again as intense as it
is now, thanks to the rapid rotation of the planet's atmosphere. "I
hope that someone will image Venus on Thursday when this part of the
atmosphere is facing us again," he says.

Further observations will help shed light on the genesis of the bright spot and how it evolves as the atmosphere churns over.

Comment: Volcanic eruptions? Somebody knows what's really going on . . .

Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified

Nothing to see here folks, please move along . . .

Dramatic Fireball over Southern Arizona

A bright fireball was spotted by several observers Tuesday, June 23
over Tucson and other parts of southern Arizona. It was a space rock
that broke apart dramatically as it streaked into Earth's atmosphere -
a "shooting star" on steroids. Such
events are not uncommon, but most are not seen because they occur over
the oceans, or late at night when few people are watching, or during
the day when they are not visible

One observer compared it to a memorable 1992 event known as the Peekskill Fireball.

The Arizona fireball "looked very similar to the Peekskill one," writes Carl Hergenrother on the Transient Sky
blog. "The colors are a close match with the head of the main fireball
and pieces a brilliant blue-green while the long tails appeared
reddish. Birth fireballs also produced many fragments which broke off
the main body and quickly fell behind."

A "series of loud sonic booms heard from Tucson southward,"
Hergenrother writes, based on the accounts of others. He does not think
the Arizona fireball lasted as long as the Peekskill event, however.

The Peekskill fireball was recorded by many observers along
the East Coast of the United States - some of whom were out with their
video cameras watching football games - around 7:50 pm, on Friday, Oct.
9, 1992. Check it out:

Comment: From the Transient Sky blog:

From KOLD, Tucson's local CBS affiliate, a video of the fireball taken
by a security camera in Marana (just north of Tucson). The video shows
what appears to be 2 fainter pieces below and to the right of the main
fireball. I believe those 2 fainter objects are just reflections caused
by the optics of the camera and are not actually real. What is real is
the main fireball appearing in 3 or more pieces right before it faded
from view.

Colorado: July 13, 2009 Fireball

This slow, bright fireball occurred at 2:28 AM MDT over central Colorado. I have not received any witness reports.

Data has been recovered from the following cameras:

* Cloudbait (details, video)

* Tom Ashcraft's camera in New Mexico.

© Cloudbait Observatory

image at left is from the Cloudbait camera. The meteor produced a long
trail, gradually brightening to about magnitude -10 (the Moon, seen at
the bottom, is about magnitude -11). Several small flares of light are
also seen along the path. The fireball lasted over 5.5 seconds.

Based on the camera data, I have determined that the
meteor began over south central Colorado, and descended to the
northeast, ending near northwest Colorado Springs. It reached its peak
brightness at a height of about 50 km (31 miles) near Cripple Creek. I
don't currently have sufficient camera data to determine the descent

The fairly low altitude and low velocity (16 km/s) mean this
fireball might have produced meteorites. However, the brightness
profile is suggestive of a meteor which simply burned up.

© Cloudbait Observatory

This chart shows the light curve of the fireball, peaking around mag -10.

Cyprus: Strange sighting of UFO near Paphos

Four residents spotted a strange light zipping across the coast off
Paphos on Thursday night in the latest in a series of incidents of
unidentified objects in our skies.

The UFO was clearly seen by John Knowles, a research specialist with Mutual UFO Network, he told the Cyprus Mail the sighting took place near Coral Bay and is appealing for more witnesses.

It was heading towards Paphos just off the coast, slow moving
and a very bright fireball, so there may very well have been other

"We had been watching the crescent moon set in Coral Bay. In
the darkened skies, as we looked out to sea, an unknown object flying
in a north-south direction crossed the sky in front of us. Altitude was
about 300 feet, speed about 200 mph or less.

"The object that appeared like a fireball, extremely
bright red-orange in colour, it maintained the same altitude as it
passed to the south in the direction of Paphos."

Knowles added the object, which he saw at around 20.55pm on Thursday, finally vanished from the sky without trace.

His account was backed up by his next door neighbours, who also
witnessed the bizarre sight and rushed to the phone to alert him.

Annie Davidson of Tala said: "I was out walking my dog and I
saw a brilliant ball of light traveling very slowly close to the
coastline. It was clearly visible for a while and then disappeared. I
have never seen anything like it before."

On Monday, several sightings of five bright red lights
hovering in the night sky near Cape Greco were observed. According to
witness accounts, the lights moved creating several different shapes
for around 8 minutes before disappearing.

Some suggest that Chinese lanterns could to be the most likely
culprit, as they are often released into the skies at weddings and

Recently Cyprus has been flooded with UFO reports from all
parts of the island; last month a pilot approaching the illegal Tymbou
airport in the north reported being followed by what he described as a
"bright object which resembled a big man or a big garbage bag".

The UFO followed the aircraft until it landed and then disappeared.

England: What was mysterious fireball in the night sky?

Fireball over England
© Unknown

Fireball: A photo of the mysterious fiery object.

Pictures taken by a Worcester family show what they claim is a "fireball" streaking across the Worcester night sky.

The object which had "orange flames coming from its top and sides" was spotted in Worcester at 10.15pm on Thursday.

Rob Giles, aged 59, was driving his daughter and niece home when he
looked up to see the bright object up above in the clear sky.

He said: "It just came right over the top of us heading
towards the north east. I just stopped the car and got out. I was
telling my daughter to take a photo."

Mr Giles' 24-year-old daughter Sharon managed to snap
the fiery object, as did his niece Kate Skibinski, also of Holly Mount
Road, Tolladine.

"It was totally bizarre. I'm not sure what it was," said the 27-year-old.

"It wasn't an aeroplane because they have flashing lights. It could have been a meteorite."

In another twist, when Miss Skibinski phoned her father in
Bristol, he claimed a similar object had streaked across the city's sky
at about 10.30pm the same evening.

The three, who were all sober at the time of the sighting, lost site of the 'fireball' in Warndon Villages.

Space expert Kevin Yates, space communications manager at the
Government's Earth Object Information Centre, in Leicester, said it was
likely the object was a meteorite.

"From past experience, these things can be no bigger than a
grain of sand and still give a good show. They're spectacular and
fascinating to watch," he said.

He said there had been no reports from the RAF radar net at Fylingdales about any large objects falling.

Canada: Kingston, Ontario - Glow in the Sky Turns into an Hourglass-Shaped Fireball and Then into a Dimly-Lit Object

Posted: July 25, 2009

Date: June 30 2009

Time: 12:00 midnight

Number of witnesses: 2

Number of objects: 1

Shape of objects: Circular.

Weather Conditions: Clear Skies, great night. Maybe some clouds to the west. Moon low in the sky, crescent.

Description: Started out as a glow in the
distance towards the south. It looked like a plane head light coming
towards us, It got brighter and brighter so I asked my mate, look at
this what do you think, as we watched it turned into what looked like a
fireball the shape of an hour glass, then it went out and became a
dimly lit object in the sky. As I watched it looked as if the sun was
lighting up the object, sort of a vague outline. More grey then
glowing. As I watched I noticed a red light on what looked like one
edge of the object. If it had an edge it looked like the lower right
corner, as it did not resemble a circle at this time, more like a chunk
of something.

But the light was very odd, as I continued to watch
the object moved over head from 10 o'clock position to the 11 o'clock
position I noticed that the light seemed to be moving. The object moved
to the 12 o'clock position about 15 seconds had elapsed since first
spotting it in the sky, as I watched the red light traveled around what
looked like a very large circle. No sound was heard what so ever. The
red light traveled counter clockwise around and around making a
complete circle about every 5 seconds. Just then I noticed that it
looked like on top of the object was a red glow, the bottom was
perfectly dark, other then the red light. As I noticed the faint red
pinkish glow at I what I consider the rear of the object a small object
caught my eye. It looked like an amber from a hot fire. It did a few
loops behind the object then disappeared from my sight.

It also had the red pinkish glow, the object traveled off into
the distance and faded from view (North) it was not bright at all just
sort of a glow from the top and the red light. It took about 30 to 40
seconds for the whole event to take place. My mate said it had a
different shape then I stated but that's where its good to have 2
points of view.

I hope to get my mate to write in as well what she saw that
night. Keep watching you never know what you might see! I have never
seen anything like this in 35 years of sky watching, I am 45 now.

Southwestern France: "I saw an intense flash of light"

Yesterday, at 5.50 a.m. ... in Tarn-et-Garonne sky ... a bright trail of light.

Robert Sauby of Albefeuille Largade is not a compulsive liar, Even if,
lately, people tend to look up at the sky, recalling the first steps of
Armstrong on the moon...and perhaps seeing things that are not there.
But we can trust the reports of Robert Sauby, who like other witnesses
from Southwestern France, alerted the media. According to Sauby: "it
was 5.50 a.m. I was driving towards Castelsarrasin. I was on the
Tourron slope when I noticed a fireball... Actually, it was a long
white trail preceding a very bright and intense white light. It lasted
two or three seconds"...

The Perseids

According to scientists there is an explanation for this
phenomenon. At Jolimont Observatory in Toulouse, a member of the
astronomy society points out that we are about to enter the Perseids
period... also called the "night of shooting stars". This phenomenon is
the result of the entrance into the atmosphere of cometary debris that
crosses the Earth trajectory every summer in its orbit around the Sun.

Probably a Meteorite

Pic du Midi Observatory astrophysicist, Joël Dolez, agrees, more or less: "it was probably a meteorite or chondrites".

Chondrites are a kind of stone meteorite composed of at least 35%
metal. "This phenomenon, which occurs at a height of 20 or 30 km is
easily visible from the surface of the globe. You can observe such
phenomena every day. These space rocks usually disintegrate when
entering the atmosphere." It is unlikely therefore that any fragments
would be found on the ground. Concerning yesterday morning's sighting,
Mr. Dolez also suggests the less likely possibility that it was an
atmospheric phenomenon due to an electrically-charged fireball. Was it
a meteorite? Was it an atmospheric phenomenon? Whatever the case, the
witnesses were not dreaming yesterday morning; and, if in the coming
days you look to the skies, you should see many similar sights.

[Translator's note: Tarn-et-Garonne, Castelsarrasin, Toulouse and Pic du Midi Observatory are located in Southwestern France.]

Comment: According to the interviewed scientists, meteorites are very usual and almost fun though data shows that it is a growing and dangerous phenomenon... damage control?

Jupiter increases risk of comet strike on Earth

© Julian Baum

Earth experienced an especially heavy bombardment of asteroids and comets early in the solar system's history.

to prevailing wisdom, Jupiter does not protect Earth from comet
strikes. In fact, Earth would suffer fewer impacts without the
influence of Jupiter's gravity, a new study says. It could have
implications for determining which solar systems are most hospitable to

A 1994 study showed that replacing Jupiter with a much smaller
planet like Uranus or Neptune would lead to 1000 times as many
long-period comets hitting Earth. This led to speculation that complex
life would have a hard time developing in solar systems without a
Jupiter-like planet because of more intense bombardment by comets.

But a new study by Jonathan Horner and Barrie Jones of Open
University in Milton Keynes, UK, shows that if there were no planet at
all in Jupiter's orbit, Earth would actually be safer from impacts.

The contradictory results arise because Jupiter affects comets
in two different, competing ways. Its gravity helps pull comets into
the inner solar system, where they have a chance of hitting Earth, but
can also clear away Earth-threatening comets by ejecting them from the
solar system altogether, via a gravitational slingshot effect.

Tripled impacts

According to the new study, the worst scenario for Earth is when
Jupiter is replaced by a planet with about the mass of Saturn. "[Such a
planet] is fairly capable of putting things into an Earth-crossing
orbit, but still has some difficulty ejecting them, so they will stay
on an Earth-crossing orbit for a much longer time," Horner told New Scientist. The projected result was more than three times as many impacts as in the real solar system.

So both the new study and the one from 1994 suggest that a smaller
planet in Jupiter's orbit would leave Earth worse off, although they
disagree about how much worse.

That may be because they differ on the source of the comets
they examine. Horner looked at objects coming from the Kuiper belt, a
region just beyond Neptune's orbit where many dormant comets reside.
The previous study, meanwhile, looked at the Oort cloud, a vast
collection of dormant comets extending hundreds of times further from
the Sun.

Ultimately, knowing what kinds of solar systems are safest
from bombardment could help in the search for alien life. But, despite
the latest work, it is still unclear where we should be looking.

Asteroid threat

Alessandro Morbidelli of Nice Observatory in France, who
studies solar system dynamics, says neither Horner's analyis nor the
earlier study included the most important source of impacts - the
asteroid belt. About 95% of the impacts on Earth are due to asteroids,
he says.

He suspects that a smaller planet in place of Jupiter may lead
to fewer asteroid impacts. "Given that near-Earth asteroids dominate
the impact rate, decreasing asteroid impacts might cause a decrease in
the overall bombardment rate of the Earth," he told New Scientist.

Horner and Jones plan to extend their study to include asteroids, but
Morbidelli says there are even more factors to examine. "You can
imagine solar systems where a much more massive and broader asteroid
belt is preserved - it would be difficult to live in that solar
system," he says. "You can imagine giant planets migrating and
destroying an asteroid belt. There are so many factors it is difficult
to handle them all."

The results were presented Friday at the European Planetary Science Congress 2007 in Potsdam, Germany.

Jupiter - Our Cosmic Protector? No!

Jupiter took a bullet for us last weekend.

An object, probably a comet that nobody saw coming,
plowed into the giant planet's colorful cloud tops sometime Sunday,
splashing up debris and leaving a black eye the size of the Pacific
Ocean. This was the second time in 15 years that this had happened. The
whole world was watching when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fell apart and its
pieces crashed into Jupiter in 1994, leaving Earth-size marks that
persisted up to a year.

That's Jupiter doing its cosmic job, astronomers like to say.
Better it than us. Part of what makes the Earth such a nice place to
live, the story goes, is that Jupiter's overbearing gravity acts as a
gravitational shield deflecting incoming space junk, mainly comets,
away from the inner solar system where it could do for us what an
asteroid apparently did for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Indeed,
astronomers look for similar configurations - a giant outer planet with
room for smaller planets in closer to the home stars - in other
planetary systems as an indication of their hospitableness to life.

Anthony Wesley, the Australian amateur astronomer who
first noticed the mark on Jupiter and sounded the alarm on Sunday, paid
homage to that notion when he told The Sydney Morning Herald,
"If anything like that had hit the Earth it would have been curtains
for us, so we can feel very happy that Jupiter is doing its
vacuum-cleaner job and hoovering up all these large pieces before they
come for us."

But is this warm and fuzzy image of the King of Planets as father-protector really true?

"I really question this idea," said Brian G.
Marsden of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, referring
to Jupiter as our guardian planet. As the former director of the
International Astronomical Union's Central Bureau for Astronomical
Telegrams, he has spent his career keeping track of wayward objects,
particularly comets, in the solar system.

Jupiter is just as much a menace as a savior, he said. The big
planet throws a lot of comets out of the solar system, but it also
throws them in

Take, for example, Comet Lexell, named after the Swedish astronomer
Anders Lexell. In 1770 it whizzed only a million miles from the Earth,
missing us by a cosmic whisker, Dr. Marsden said. That comet had come
streaking in from the outer solar system three years earlier and passed
close to Jupiter, which diverted it into a new orbit and straight
toward Earth.

The comet made two passes around the Sun and in 1779 again
passed very close to Jupiter, which then threw it back out of the solar

"It was as if Jupiter aimed at us and missed," said Dr.
Marsden, who complained that the comet would never have come anywhere
near the Earth if Jupiter hadn't thrown it at us in the first place.

Hal Levison, an astronomer at the Southwest Research
Institute, in Boulder, Colo., who studies the evolution of the solar
system, said that whether Jupiter was menace or protector depended on
where the comets came from. Lexell, like Shoemaker Levy 9 and probably
the truck that just hit Jupiter, most likely came from an icy zone of
debris known as the Kuiper Belt, which lies just outside the orbit of
Neptune, he explained. Jupiter probably does increase our exposure to
those comets, he said.

But Jupiter helps protect us, he said, from an even more dangerous band of comets coming from the so-called Oort Cloud,
a vast spherical deep-freeze surrounding the solar system as far as a
light-year from the Sun. Every once in a while, in response to
gravitational nudges from a passing star or gas cloud, a comet is
unleashed from storage and comes crashing inward.

Jupiter's benign influence here comes in two forms. The cloud
was initially populated in the early days of the solar system by the
gravity of Uranus and Neptune sweeping up debris and flinging it
outward, but Jupiter and Saturn are so strong, Dr. Levison said, that,
first of all, they threw a lot of the junk out of the solar system
altogether, lessening the size of this cosmic arsenal. Second, Jupiter
deflects some of the comets that get dislodged and fall back in, Dr.
Levison said.

"It's a double anti-whammy," he said.

Asteroids pose the greatest danger of all to Earth, however,
astronomers say, and here Jupiter's influence is hardly assuring.
Mostly asteroids live peacefully in the asteroid belt between Mars and
Jupiter, whose gravity, so the standard story goes, keeps them too
stirred to coalesce into a planet but can cause them to collide and
rebound in the direction of Earth.

That's what happened, Greg Laughlin of the University of
California at Santa Cruz, said, to a chunk of iron and nickel about 50
yards across roughly 10 million to 100 million years ago. The result is
a hole in the desert almost a mile wide and 500 feet deep in northern
Arizona, called Barringer Crater. A gift, perhaps, from our friend and
lord, Jupiter.

Comment: Regarding
the claim that Jupiter "protects us from an even more dangerous band of
comets coming from the so-called Oort Cloud", let's see what Clube and
Napier, British astronomers and writers of The Cosmic Serpent, have to say:
The giant comets normally reside far beyond the planets, in a spherical
cloud surrounding the Sun, called the Oort cloud. There is also
evidence for a flattened disk of comets closer to the inner solar
system, called the Edgeworth/Kuiper belt. What prompts members of
either of these comet repositories to enter the realm of the planets? Clube
and Napier suggest a galactic influence. The solar system periodically
passes through the plane of the galaxy as the Sun (and the solar system
with it) orbits the galactic center. Each passage may dislodge giant
comets and divert them closer to the Sun. The outer planets,
particularly Jupiter, may then perturb some of these giant comets into
orbits which enter the inner solar system. These comets, stressed both
by gravity and by heat from the sun, may fragment into a cloud of
smaller objects with dynamically similar orbits

Chiron offers a good example of a giant comet as called for by Clube
and Napier's giant comet hypothesis. Chiron is somewhere between 148
and 208 kilometers in diameter. Currently Chiron's unstable "parking
orbit" lies mostly between Saturn and Uranus. Chiron may end up
injected into the inner solar system within a hundred thousand years,
or ejected from the solar system on a similar time scale. It is also
possible that Chiron has already visited the inner solar system.

The Taurid complex and the Kreutz sungrazer group are two
families of objects which most likely represent the fragmented remains
of two giant comets in the current era. SOHO has recently discovered
many new members of the Kreutz group which were previously unknown.

The Kreutz progenitor was injected into a retrograde orbit and
attained the sungrazing state at a high inclination to the ecliptic.
Hence the debris of its "children" does not pose a threat to the Earth.
The Taurid progenitor on the other hand ended up in a short-period
low-inclination prograde orbit. This is why the Earth can encounter its
debris with potentially calamitous results.

What would happen should the Earth pass through the orbit of a
disintegrating giant comet just before or after the comet passes that
same point? Since larger fragments tend to cluster close to the nucleus
of the comet, chances would increase that the Earth would be bombarded
by these larger fragments. The severity of this comet fragment shower
would far exceed any ordinary meteor shower. Not only would "shooting
stars" and bright fireballs caused by small debris appear, but so too
would large airbursts and possibly ground impacts. These would result
in significant destruction should they occur over an inhabited area. If
a large enough fragment struck in the ocean -- say, 200 meters or so in
diameter -- it would raise tsunamis even at a great distance that would
sweep away coastal habitations.

Duncan Steel, a colleague of Clube and Napier, refers to this process as coherent catastrophism. Widespread
destruction derives from the coherent arrival of many impactors within
a few days, as opposed to the sporadic arrival of objects spread
randomly in space. The shower repeats for a period of years until the
cometary orbit precesses so that the Earth no longer encounters the
dense part of the debris field.
(Of course, sporadic debris unrelated to the disintegrating comet may impact at any time as well.)

Mexico: The Xochitepec Fireball - UFO or Meteorite?

Mexico ufo
© Unknown

Date: July 26, 2009

Residents of Xochitepec were treated to the sight of a "ball of fire"
over Avenida Aeropuerto in the Miguel Hidalgo section of town. The
witnesses fixed their eyes on a brilliant object in the sky for five
minutes, before the sighting ended in a lightning-like flash and

The unidentified object's presence drew the attention of many:
some took out their camcorders, others photographed the "ball of fire"
that seemed to fall very slowly from the heavens under clear skies.

Some claimed having heard a buzzing sound, stating
unequivocally that it was not an airplane or anything known.
Furthermore, its descent was slow and perpendicular. Several minutes
into the sighting, people were shocked to see the object fire a bright
light, resembling a beam or a bolt of lightning.

After this, the object commenced its slow ascent until it vanished from sight.

Whatever it was, it certainly captivated the locals. Some were
astonished and others frightened; there were even those who spoke of
the object as "an ill omen" signaling the arrival of plagues and
diseases. They do not think that it was a meteorite, as these fall in
seconds and are high in the sky -- but this object was at the same
height as the clouds, of which there were none at the time.

The spectacle took place at 22:15 hours on Thursday, July 23
2009. The photos taken by a local resident were forwarded to this
newsroom and are published here for everyone to draw their own

Note from Prof. Ana Luisa Cid: According
to eyewitness accounts, the alleged UFO fired a sort of beam, a
situation that has been documented in other sightings, such as the
Gabriel Hernandez case in Mexico City and the Bocovna UFO sighting in

Source: El Sol de Cuernavaca

Canada: Mystery crash in Ottawa River?

David Pescovitz


Tue, 28 Jul 2009 22:31 UTC

Last night, dozens of witnesses reported seeing lights and hearing an
explosion as something crashed into the Ottawa River. Search-and-rescue
crews from Ottawa and Gatineau showed up but so far, haven't found
anything. Was it an airplane? According to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper, no planes are missing. Maybe it was a meteorite?

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Dr. Dirk Keenan was sailing with some friends out of the Nepean Yacht
Club when they saw the light of what looked like a small aircraft to
the east, close to the Quebec shore.

"I noticed the light coming down. It was like a headlight,
very bright," Keenan said Tuesday morning. "It descended very rapidly,
levelled off, then disappeared."

Keenan, a student pilot himself, thought it looked like the
pilot had lost control and gone into a dive, then briefly recovered
before going down. Keenan steered his boat toward the position, but
didn't dare get too close to the rapids in the dark. The lights appeared to vanish into the river or into the forest on the Quebec side.

England: Long Eaton, Nottingham - Multiple 'Fireballs' seen over 40 minute period

Posted: July 28, 2009

Date of Sighting: Saturday/Sunday 25th/26th July 2009

Time: 11.50pm-1.10am

Witness Statement: Saturday/Sunday 25th/26th July

After a night out we arrived back in Long Eaton & dropped my
daughter at her house at about 11.50pm. She signaled to us to get out
of the car and my wife & I looked to where she was pointing and saw
about 4, what can only be described as fireballs traveling at a lowish
altitude in a north easterly direction. They were followed by another
2. We watched them disappear from view and went to our house a couple
of streets away. On the journey we saw at least 2 more of the objects.
On arriving home, we got out our binoculars and after a time at about
12.15 another one came past over head. Then about 12.30 the final one?
(We watched for about another 40 minutes but saw no others.)

Although there was a certain amount of breeze, the
objects were flying faster than that. I don't know how big Chinese
lanterns are, but these must have been the size of a hot air balloon
and surely being aflame as they appeared to be, would have burned
themselves out in a short space of time. There must have been lots of
people who witnessed this, and although we are in close proximity to EM
airport, I do not think it was aeroplanes or other normal flying craft.
I would like to here what others make of it. In my excitement I never
thought to use my mobile phone to capture the images. Sorry.

Comets, Not Asteroids, to Blame for Moon's Scarred Face


A new study suggests comets gouged out the vast majority of craters on the moon.

comets - not rocky asteroids - launched a dramatic assault on the Earth
and moon around 3.85 billion years ago, a new study of ancient rocks in
Greenland suggests. The work suggests much of Earth's water could have
been brought to the planet by comets.

"We can see craters on the moon's surface with the naked eye,
but nobody actually knew what caused them - was it rocks, was it iron,
was it ice?" says Uffe Gråe Jørgensen, an astronomer at the Niels Bohr
Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. "It's exciting to find signs that it
was actually ice."

Evidence suggests that the Earth and moon had both formed
around 4.5 billion years ago. But almost all the craters on the moon
date to a later period, the "Late Heavy Bombardment" 3.8 to 3.9 billion
years ago, when around 100 million billion tonnes of rock or ice
crashed onto the lunar surface. The Earth would have been pummelled by
debris at the same time, although plate tectonics on our restless
planet have since erased the scars.

To find out whether asteroids or comets were the main
culprits for the bombardment, Jørgensen decided to measure levels of
the element iridium in ancient terrestrial rocks. Iridium is rare on
the Earth's surface because almost all of it bound to iron and sank
into the Earth's core soon after the planet had formed. But iridium is
relatively common in comets and meteorites.

Rock or ice

His team calculated the amount of iridium that asteroids would
leave on the Earth and moon compared to comets. Because comets have
more volatile elements and higher impact speeds due to their more
elongated orbits around the sun, they would create giant plumes on
impact, allowing more iridium to escape into space than during asteroid

The team predicted that asteroid bombardment would leave
iridium levels of 18,000 and 10,000 parts per trillion in rocks on the
Earth and moon respectively, while the same figures for comet
bombardment would be about 130 and 10.

Ancient moon rocks returned by NASA's Apollo missions have
already confirmed that the lunar iridium levels are 10 parts per
trillion or less. To find out the terrestrial value, Jørgensen's team
sampled some of the world's oldest rocks from Greenland, aged 3.8
billion years, and asked a Japanese laboratory to assess their iridium
levels more accurately than ever before. They contained iridium levels
of 150 parts per trillion.

That strongly suggests comets, rather than asteroids, caused the violent bombardment.

Giant plumes

If so, Jørgensen's team calculates that around 3400 tonnes of
icy comet material fell on each square metre of the Earth. About half
the comet material would ricochet back into space in giant plumes,
leaving behind roughly a billion cubic kilometres of cometary water in

That is a similar amount to that in the Earth's oceans today,
although it is not clear whether there was already water on the planet
due to chemical reactions on the early Earth (see Earth's water brewed at home, not in space).

Michael Mumma, a comet expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Maryland who was not involved in the research, says the new report is
interesting: "The paper is certain to stimulate lively debate."

Journal reference: Icarus

Mysterious bright spot found on Venus

© Melillo/Maxson/ESA/University of Wisconsin-Madison/ALPO

A new, bright spot in the clouds of Venus was found by amateur astronomer Frank Melillo on 19 July

strange spot emerged on Venus last week, and astronomers are not sure
what caused it. They hope future observations will reveal whether
volcanic activity, turbulence in the planet's atmosphere, or charged
particles from the sun are to blame.

Amateur astronomer Frank Melillo of Holtsville, New York,
first spotted the new feature, which is brighter than its surroundings
at ultraviolet wavelengths, on the planet's southern hemisphere on 19
July. That same day, an amateur observer in Australia found a dark spot
on Jupiter that had been caused by a meteoroid impact.

The Venus spot was confirmed by other observers, and images
from Europe's Venus Express, the only spacecraft in orbit around the
planet, later revealed that the spot had appeared at least four days
before Melillo saw it.

Observations show that the spot had already spread out
somewhat by the end of last week, and astronomers are awaiting more
recent observations from Venus Express.

The spot is bright at ultraviolet wavelengths, which may argue
against a meteoroid impact as a cause. That's because rocky bodies,
with the exception of objects very rich in water ice, should cause an
impact site to darken at ultraviolet wavelengths as it fills with
debris that absorbs such light, says Sanjay Limaye of the University of
Wisconsin-Madison and a member of the Venus Express team.

Powerful eruption?

Another possibility is that a gust of charged particles from the sun
could have created the glow by energising a patch of the upper
atmosphere. Alternatively, waves in the atmosphere, which trigger
turbulence and are thought to carry material up and down, could have
concentrated bright material to create the spot.

A volcanic eruption is another suspect. Venus boasts the most
volcanoes of any planet in the solar system, and nearly 90% of its
surface is covered by basaltic lava flows, although no 'smoking gun'
has yet been found for current volcanic activity. But an eruption would
have had to be very powerful to punch through a dense layer in Venus's
atmosphere to create the spot some 65 to 70 kilometres above the
planet's surface.

"It's fair to say something unusual happened on Venus. Unfortunately, we don't know what happened," Limaye told New Scientist.

Volcanic gases

Two spectrometers on board Venus Express might help reveal the
culprit. One directly measures the spectrum of light emanating from the
planet, while the other can measure trace constituents in the
atmosphere by measuring how gases there absorb sunlight.

These instruments could reveal changes in the size
distribution of particles in the atmosphere and higher concentrations
of molecules, such as sulphur dioxide, that could suggest a volcanic

If a volcano is to blame, proving it will be difficult. Even
if Venus Express finds higher-than-average levels of sulphur dioxide in
the atmosphere, the observation could be explained by non-volcanic
processes, cautions Limaye. Sunlight can break down sulphuric acid in
Venus's clouds to create sulphur dioxide, which may not be evenly
circulated in the planet's atmosphere.

Mystery world

This is not the first time astronomers have spotted bright
features in Venus's atmosphere. Bright spots have been seen from Earth
for decades, although they have not been clearly explained, Limaye

The most recent dramatic brightening occurred in January 2007,
when areas in both the northern and southern hemispheres of the planet
brightened. Because it is localised in a spot, this new feature looks
different, but it is equally mysterious.

"This shows how much we don't know about Venus," Limaye says.
In some ways, Venus is a simpler planet than Earth - it has no oceans
and because of its nearly vertical spin axis, practically no seasons,
he adds. But planetary scientists still do not understand what causes
the planet's atmosphere to rotate 60 times faster than the planet

Comment: These are possibilities, of course. One may want to consider this as well: Military Hush-Up: Incoming Space Rocks Now Classified

Jupiter's cosmic smash: what does it mean for Earth?


The Apollo 11 moon landing is not the only significant space anniversary that falls this week. It is also 15 years since fragments of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet smashed into Jupiter, in July 1994, giving astronomers a first-hand look at the devastation that follows such cosmic collisions.

With uncanny timing, a similar impact event seems to have happened again. On Sunday, an amateur astronomer named Anthony Wesley observed a strange black blob on the surface of Jupiter. When he alerted Nasa professionals, they confirmed that it indeed appears to have been caused by another impact event.

The resulting debris cloud has been reported as covering an area with roughly the same diameter as the Earth.
Astronomers have told me today that the likely cause is the impact of a
comet, or comet fragment, between 500m and 2km in diameter. It all
raises a potentially terrifying question. What might have happened had
such an object struck not Jupiter, but the Earth?

The good news is that the devastation would not have
been quite as bad as it seems to have been on Jupiter. The mass of the
gas giant is so much greater than that of the Earth, that when objects
collide with it they do so at much faster speeds, releasing much more
energy. So even though Jupiter is sporting an Earth-sized bruise, that
doesn't mean that a similar impact would engulf the Earth entirely in

It's also the case that such impact events are probably a lot
more common on Jupiter than they are in our neck of the planetary
woods. For a start, Jupiter is a much bigger target. And secondly, as
Matthew Genge, of Imperial College, London, put it to me today, its
vast gravity means it often;"soaks up" comets approaching the inner
solar system from the Kuiper belt. This phenomenon, indeed, may
actually have helped to make the Earth a more hospitable place for life
-- though any benefits are double-edged, as Jupiter's gravity can also
perturb the orbits of asteroids and fling them our way.

That, though, is where the good news ends. According to the UK's Near-Earth Object Taskforce report,
asteroids 700m in diameter strike the Earth every 10,000 to 100,000
years, and would devastate an area the size of Virginia if they hit
land. An ocean impact would cause a hemisphere-wide tsunami. Objects on
the 1km to 2km scale would cause wider destruction, and also affect the
climate through a "nuclear winter" effect. Still larger objects could
cause a mass extinction -- as did the 10km-plus object that landed at Chicxulub,
now in Mexico, 65 million years ago. Though some scientists dispute it,
the prevailing consensus is that it's no coincidence that that's also
the date for the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction, and the demise of the dinosaurs.

If you want an idea of the effects any given asteroid or comet might have, the University of Arizona has an online calculator here. Just fill in your parameters and go.

The Jupiter impact should make it perfectly clear that, for all the fun
that's been poked at Lembit Opik when he's raised the issue, near-Earth
object defence is not a laughing matter. It's something the world needs
to take extremely seriously -- as Opik says again today.
We need to think creatively about how we might divert an asteroid or
comet that is found to be on collision course with Earth. Simply
blowing it up, as Bruce Willis and Co. did in Armageddon,
will probably be the worst solution of all, creating a shower of
fragments that would pepper us like Shoemaker-Levy 9 bombarded Jupiter.
But there are other options worth trying, such as nudging it away from
us with rockets, or even painting it to change its albedo, and hence
its speed.

Technical fixes, however, will be only one element of a
workable planetary defence plan. Professor Richard Crowther, who chairs
the UN's working group on near-Earth objects, made an interesting point
about this when I spoke to him this afternoon. If an asteroid is on
collision course with, say, the UK, then nudging it away from Earth
will first involve nudging it onto a collision course with other
countries -- who might not like that prospect. We're going to need
international agreement on the steps we would have to take to protect
ourselves, as well as the technology to do so.

England: Runcorn - Several Massive White Flashes in Sky with No Thunder

Posted: July 30, 2009

Location of Sighting: The Glen Palacefields Runcorn

Date of Sighting: 30th July 2009

Time: 12.00am

Witness Statement: 12:00AM 30th July 09.
Left my house in the Glen Palacefields Runcorn with a friend to drop
him off when entering my car a MASSIVE white flash lit up the sky and
the carpark, looked like a powerful camera flash but NO NOISE. Both me
and my friend commented as thinking someone was in the close or the
police helicopter was overhead. When driving on the expressway again a
massive flash over the Hallwood estate to my right above again no noise
when only being about 500 yrds away from where it looked like it
originated in the estate or above.

Took left exit for Castlefields then again Large flash
but over Halton Brook estate to my left just over the tree's coming
down the slipway to the bottom of Boston Avenue. Both commented no
noise at any point and little to no cloud cover with large breaks and
able to see starlight in between. When dropped of friend at lower
Castlefields on Warrington road joked that he would be taken away
before he got to his door. When reversing out of close rear end towards
new flats near Peva garage Brightest flash about 400-600yrd behind me
close to Runcorn castle. Called partner to inform of this persistent
bright flash when again another flash over Halton Brook. Took same
journey home checking the sky as you do in Runcorn but no flashes on
this part traveling on the expressway. When got home took partner into
back garden backing onto rural woods and advised of what we have just
seen when again large white flash from the Hallwood - Halton Brook
direction from the Glen Palacefields. On every occasion no noise no
rumble no clap with little to no cloud cover and starlight between
brakes 3 witnesses at 2 separate times and all confirming no noise but
such close proximity that if was lightning there would have been a gap
of light and thunder of less than 1 second and all coming from the area
between the housing estates of Palacefields Hallwood Halton Brook and
Castlefields, with the brightest being when stationary in the Glen and
Castlefields. Any clues? I haven't.

Comment: You can read of another witness to bright, white flashes in the sky here.

England: Whitchurch, Shropshire - 2 Large 'fireballs' seen, one resembling a comet without a tail

Posted: July 30, 2009

Location of Sighting: Blackpark Road, Whitchurch, Shropshire

Date of Sighting: Saturday 4th July 2009

Time: 11.20-11.30

Witness Statement: Whilst sitting in the
hot tub, looking up at the stars, we both noticed a bright light, which
looked similar to a large Chinese lantern, it sort of drifted across
the sky in a northerly direction, it suddenly changed direction and
headed south east and upwards quite quickly, the light appeared to be a
ball of fire, and we watched it for about 4-5 minutes.

Approximately 10 minutes later, we spotted a much
bigger fireball in the east, traveling northwards. This object was
moving at some considerable speed, and disappeared behind the trees on
the horizon. It resembled a large comet, but without a tail. Neither
sighting was accompanied by any discernible sound. As we live on the
very outskirts of town, we are able to get a good clear view of the
night sky with very little distortion from street lighting.

US: Large Flash Lights Up Sky. Object Seen Moving Upward

Posted: July 30, 2009

Date of Sighting: July 26, 2009

Time of Sighting: 2 AM PDT

Location of Sighting: Seattle, Washington (White Center Area)

Description: A large flash momentarily
lit up the whole of my neighborhood and I quickly looked up to see what
looked like an object burning up in the atmosphere, except at an angle
moving AWAY from our atmosphere. There was no "burn trail" and the
object was completely silent. It took about a second and was gone
without a trace.

Note: The sighting
couldn't be a meteor if the object was moving upward. Bright brief
flashes in the sky can have other explanations (lightning, electrical
power stations, etc). No thunderstorms were known to be in the area at
the time of the sighting.

Go Back To Sleep - Comet Collisions Won't Spark The End Of The World

Hale Bopp
© Unknown

Comet Hale-Bopp.

indicates that it is highly unlikely that a comet crash would result in
Earth's demise, researchers at the University of Washington said on

Writing in Science Express, the online edition of the journal Science,
researchers acknowledged that while most scientists agree that an
asteroid collision 65 million years ago caused the mass extinction of
the dinosaurs, they tend to differ in opinion on how many other mass
extinctions have resulted from similar events.

Researchers used computer models to simulate the formation of
comet clouds in the solar system for 1.2 billion years. They pinpointed
a body called the Oort Cloud as the source for many long-period comets
that find their way into Earth's path.

Formed 4.5 billion years ago from the nebula that formed our
solar system, the Oort Cloud spans from about 93 billion miles from the
sun to about three light years away. Scientist said the Oort Cloud
could contain literally billions of comets, many of which are so small
and distant to be seen.

"It was thought the long-period comets we see just
tell us about the outer Oort Cloud, but they really give us a murky
picture of the entire Oort Cloud," said Nathan Kaib, a University of
Washington doctoral student in astronomy and lead author.

Kaib worked alongside Thomas Quinn, astronomy professor at the
University of Washington. They found that only two or three significant
comet collisions are likely to have occurred on Earth for 500 million

They based their calculations on the assumption that the inner
Oort Cloud was the primary source of long-period comets, although they admit that the actual number of comets is indefinable.

"For the past 25 years, the inner Oort Cloud has been considered a
mysterious, unobserved region of the solar system capable of providing
bursts of bodies that occasionally wipe out life on Earth," Quinn said.

"We have shown that comets already discovered can actually be
used to estimate an upper limit on the number of bodies in this

Their findings could explain a minor event known as the late
Eocene extinction 40 million years ago, although Kaib and Quinn noted:
"if that relatively minor extinction event was caused by a comet
shower, then that was probably the most-intense comet shower since the
fossil record began."

"That tells you that the most powerful comet showers caused
minor extinctions and other showers should have been less severe, so
comet showers are probably not likely causes of mass extinction
events," Kaib said.

He added that the Earth has benefited from the gravitational pulls of Jupiter and Saturn, which act as comet deflectors.

"We show that Jupiter and Saturn are not perfect and some of
the comets from the inner Oort Cloud are able to leak through. But most
don't," Kaib said.

The study was funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Comment: Regarding
the claim that "the gravitational pulls of Jupiter and Saturn act as
comet deflectors", let's see what Clube and Napier, British astronomers
and writers of The Cosmic Serpent, have to say:

The giant comets normally reside far beyond the planets, in a spherical
cloud surrounding the Sun, called the Oort cloud. There is also
evidence for a flattened disk of comets closer to the inner solar
system, called the Edgeworth/Kuiper belt. What prompts members of
either of these comet repositories to enter the realm of the planets? Clube
and Napier suggest a galactic influence. The solar system periodically
passes through the plane of the galaxy as the Sun (and the solar system
with it) orbits the galactic center. Each passage may dislodge giant
comets and divert them closer to the Sun. The outer planets,
particularly Jupiter, may then perturb some of these giant comets into
orbits which enter the inner solar system. These comets, stressed both
by gravity and by heat from the sun, may fragment into a cloud of
smaller objects with dynamically similar orbits

Chiron offers a good example of a giant comet as called for by Clube
and Napier's giant comet hypothesis. Chiron is somewhere between 148
and 208 kilometers in diameter. Currently Chiron's unstable "parking
orbit" lies mostly between Saturn and Uranus. Chiron may end up
injected into the inner solar system within a hundred thousand years,
or ejected from the solar system on a similar time scale. It is also
possible that Chiron has already visited the inner solar system.

The Taurid complex and the Kreutz sungrazer group are two
families of objects which most likely represent the fragmented remains
of two giant comets in the current era. SOHO has recently discovered
many new members of the Kreutz group which were previously unknown.

The Kreutz progenitor was injected into a retrograde orbit and
attained the sungrazing state at a high inclination to the ecliptic.
Hence the debris of its "children" does not pose a threat to the Earth.
The Taurid progenitor on the other hand ended up in a short-period
low-inclination prograde orbit. This is why the Earth can encounter its
debris with potentially calamitous results.

What would happen should the Earth pass through the orbit of a
disintegrating giant comet just before or after the comet passes that
same point? Since larger fragments tend to cluster close to the nucleus
of the comet, chances would increase that the Earth would be bombarded
by these larger fragments. The severity of this comet fragment shower
would far exceed any ordinary meteor shower. Not only would "shooting
stars" and bright fireballs caused by small debris appear, but so too
would large airbursts and possibly ground impacts. These would result
in significant destruction should they occur over an inhabited area. If
a large enough fragment struck in the ocean -- say, 200 meters or so in
diameter -- it would raise tsunamis even at a great distance that would
sweep away coastal habitations.

Duncan Steel, a colleague of Clube and Napier, refers to this process as coherent catastrophism. Widespread
destruction derives from the coherent arrival of many impactors within
a few days, as opposed to the sporadic arrival of objects spread
randomly in space. The shower repeats for a period of years until the
cometary orbit precesses so that the Earth no longer encounters the
dense part of the debris field.
(Of course, sporadic debris unrelated to the disintegrating comet may impact at any time as well.)

Shuttle Plumes Hint at Comet Crash in Siberia


Night-Shining Clouds

plumes from space shuttle launches provided researchers with one of the
strongest pieces of evidence that a comet crash was responsible for
flattening a Siberian forest in 1908.

The crash, which leveled trees for hundreds of miles in
Siberia, was followed by the appearance of extremely bright clouds,
visible by night.

Similar clouds triggered by the flights of space shuttles
through atmosphere were found over the planet's poles two days after a
launch from Florida, research published in last week's Geophysical Research Letters shows.

The creation of so-called noctilucent, or night-shining clouds from
water vapor in shuttle rocket plumes buttresses the theory that the
clouds spotted after the 1908 impact were triggered by similar
atmospheric dynamics, with the water vapor coming from a comet, lead
researcher Michael Kelley told Discovery News.

"The shuttles put 300 metric tons of water vapor at the same region
that a comet would," said Kelley, a professor at Cornell University.

The cause of what has been referred to as the "Great Siberian
Impact Event," or the "Tunguska Event," has been debated for decades.
No meteorite remains have ever been found and the appearance of the
mysterious night-shining clouds led many scientists to suspect a comet
was responsible.

"It's kind of important that the world got hit by a comet, since Jupiter just got hit again," Kelley said.

Astronomers have been watching an Earth-sized gouge in Jupiter's atmosphere believed to be caused by a comet impact on July 19.

Noctilucent clouds, which form at the edge of space 62 to 68
miles above the planet, are about 10 million times brighter than
ordinary clouds. They contain electrically charged ice.

"It's a very difficult region to access," said Clemson University's Miguel Larsen.

The shuttle plumes, which are laced with iron atoms and iron
ions, provided researches with a way to track how water vapor is
transported by winds and other dynamics of the upper atmosphere.

Noctilucent clouds, which have been increasing in appearance,
also can serve to gauge if efforts to mitigate global climate changes
are successful, Kelley added.

"It's thought that these clouds are like a miner's canary of
global change," he said. "The atmosphere there is so tenuous its
responsiveness to a mitigation technology would be easy to detect."

Comment: For more in-depth reading on Tunguska read: Tunguska, Psychopathy and the Sixth Extinction

US: What's causing the mysterious booming sounds? No one seems to know

The cause of loud booming sounds that have shaken houses in and around
Port Angeles, Washington over the past week remains a mystery.

Possible explanations range from naval exercises in the Strait of Juan de Fuca to thunderstorms in the Olympic Mountains.

The Canadian Navy confirmed that the HMCS Edmonton was
conducting gunnery exercises with a .50-caliber machine gun in the
Strait on Thursday -- but not any other day of the week -- from 10 a.m.
to 4 p.m.

But that wouldn't explain why people, such as Marie Barclay of
Port Angeles, had her house shaken by loud booms Tuesday and Wednesday.

"It was pretty loud, like a sonic boom," she said.

"All you heard was the boom, and I didn't hear an airplane or nothing like that."

Canadian Navy spokeswoman Lt. Commander Natalie Garcia said
that the gun used in Thursday's exercises would sound like a rifle and
not an explosion.

The sound wouldn't shake a house on the North Olympic Peninsula, she said.

Garcia said no other Canadian naval exercises have occurred in the Strait this week.

She said U.S. Coast Guard Sector Seattle had the joint-naval exercise
area about 3 nautical miles south of Vancouver Island and north of Twin
and Pysht reserved from July 24 through Wednesday for gunnery

But a spokeswoman for Coast Guard Sector Seattle said no such exercises took place this week.

"That's really bizarre, actually," said spokeswoman Tara Molle.

"As far as the on the Coast Guard side, for us, we don't have any training going on up there."

Mike Allen, operations unit controller at Coast Guard Group/Air Station
Port Angeles, said the station has not conducted any exercises that
would explain the sound.

Allen said he also has heard the loud booms this week.

The Canadian Coast Guard also said it's not the cause.

National Weather Service meteorologist Brent Bower said there were thunderstorms in the Olympic Mountains on Wednesday.

Seven to 10 days

But Georgia Wawro, who lives near Port Angeles High School,
said she has heard the loud booms for the past seven to 10 days,
including on Thursday.

"It doesn't sound like thunder" or fireworks, she said.

Wawro said she has heard the booms once or twice a day, possibly originating from across the Strait.

"It's not shaky enough to be a sonic boom, but it still rattles my windows," she said.

Clallam County Planning Manager Steve Gray said there has been no quarry blasting or any other permitted explosions this week.

Navy spokesman Sean Hughes said the Navy has not conducted any exercises in the area this week.

A spokesman for McChord Air Force base in Tacoma said he
couldn't provide information on flight records in the area without
knowing the exact time when loud noises were heard.

But he said the Air Force is not allowed to break the sound barrier, which would create a sonic boom, over populated areas.

The Navy's Blue Angels are in Seattle this week for Seafair,
but spokesman Petty Officer Peter Carnicelli said they fly only over
Lake Washington and, like the Air Force, the planes not allowed to
break the sound barrier.

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