domingo, 29 de abril de 2012

If You Got Video of Falling Meteor, NASA Wants You

Remember those mysterious booms that were heard around Novato on a sporadic basis, prompting residents to call police?

Maybe it was falling meteors. It's possible.

Get this: NASA and the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute are asking for the public's help finding footage photos and video of a daylight meteor that fell over Northern California on Sunday, the NASA Ames Research Center announced Wednesday.

The meteor was sighted over the Sierra Nevada range shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday, causing a sonic boom heard throughout the area, researchers said. Through more photos and videos of the meteor, NASA and SETI researchers hope to analyze the trajectory of the meteor as it fell, lending insight into its orbit in space and where fragments of it may have landed on Earth.

Astronomer Peter Jenniskens of NASA Ames and the SETI Institute found a four-gram fragment of the meteor in a parking lot in the of Lotus, a Gold Country hamlet on the American River.

"This appears to be a rare type of primitive meteorite rich in organic compounds," Jenniskens said.

Anyone who took photos or video of the meteor has been asked to contact Jenniskens at


sábado, 28 de abril de 2012

Scientists: Mars 'egg' proof of life

SCIENTISTS claim this egg-shaped object is the final proof of life on Mars after finding it inside a meteorite from the Red Planet.

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe said the globule from the rock named Tissint is rich in carbon and oxygen and insisted they could only have been produced by living organisms.

He added that they could not have been caused by contamination when they fell to Earth.

Prof Wickramasinghe, 72 — famous for controversial ideas such as that the flu virus and even life itself was brought to our planet by comets — said: "It is impossible to understand how carbon-rich particles of such uniform sizes and shapes got inside a rocky matrix if they are not relics of some algal species.

"Tissint was collected weeks after it fell, and terrestrial contamination seems unlikely. In any case the structures we found were on newly fractured surfaces, from the interior of the meteorite."

The meteorite was named after the village where it came down in the Sahara desert in Morocco last July.

It was probably blasted from Mars when it was hit by an asteroid millions of years ago.

A piece of it was examined at the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology and Cardiff University.

PhD student Jamie Wallis, who was working with Dr Wickramasinghe, said: "All the indications are that structures such as we have found are evidence of life on Mars.

“The spheres are probably remnants of polysaccharide shells surrounding algal type cells."

In 2009, a NASA team claimed they had photographed Martian organisms inside another meteorite that is kept in London's Natural History Museum.

Their electron microscope showed a bumpy surface resembling a fossilised colony of microbacteria in a rock that fell from the sky in Nakhla, Egypt, in 1911.

The team from NASA's Johnson Space Centre examined the space rock to support their claims in 1996 that Martian bugs had been found in a meteorite, ALH84001, found in Antarctica where it had been lying for thousands of years.

That discovery, which NASA later officially backtracked from, was considered so important that President Clinton addressed the nation on TV.

Earlier this month, another group of scientists claimed that the first two Viking probes that NASA landed on Mars in 1976 discovered life but failed to recognise it.


quinta-feira, 26 de abril de 2012

Rare meteorites found in California along path of fireball

Robert Ward has been hunting and collecting meteorites for more than 20 years, so he knew he’d found something special in the Sierra foothills along the path of a flaming fireball that shook parts of Northern California and Nevada with a sonic boom over the weekend.

And scientists have confirmed his suspicions: it’s one of the more primitive types of space rocks out there, dating to the early formation of the solar system 4 to 5 billion years ago.

“It was just, needless to say, a thrilling moment,” Ward of Prescott, Ariz., told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday as he walked through an old cemetery in search of more meteorites about 35 miles northeast of Sacramento.

He found the first piece on Tuesday along a road between a baseball field and park on the edge of Lotus near Coloma, where James W. Marshall first discovered gold in California, at Sutter’s Mill in 1848.

Ward, who has found meteorites in every continent but Antarctica and goes by “AstroBob” on his website, said he “instantly knew” it was a rare meteorite known as “CM” — carbonaceous chondrite — based in part on the “fusion crusts from atmospheric entry” on one side of the rock.

“It is one of the oldest things known to man and one of the rarest types of meteorites there is,” he said. “It contains amino acids and organic compounds that are extremely important to science.”

Ward actually has two rocks but suspects they were part of the same small meteorite that broke on impact. Each weighs about 10 grams — about the same as two nickels. He said his only previous finds that rival this one were three lunar meteorites he found years ago in the Middle East.

Experts say the flaming meteor was probably about the size of a minivan when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere with a loud boom and about one-third of the explosive force of the atomic bomb. It was seen from Sacramento, Calif., to Las Vegas and parts of northern Nevada.

An event of that size might happen once a year around the world, said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “But most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area, he said.

“Getting to see one is something special,” he said. He added, “most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand, and their trail lasts all of a second or two.”

The meteor probably weighed about 154,300 pounds, said Bill Cooke, a specialist in meteors at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. At the time of disintegration, he said, it probably released energy equivalent to a 5-kiloton explosion — the Hiroshima bomb was 15 kilotons.

“You don’t often have kiloton rocks flying over your head,” he said.

The boom, another expert said, was caused by the speed with which the space rock entered the atmosphere. Meteorites enter Earth’s upper atmosphere at somewhere between 22,000 mph and 44,000 mph — faster than the speed of sound, thus creating a sonic boom.

The friction between the rock and the air is so intense that “it doesn’t even burn it up, it vaporizes,” said Tim Spahr, director of the Minor Planet Center at Harvard University.

John T. Wasson, a longtime professor and expert in meteorites at UCLA’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, said he understood that in addition to Lotus, another small meteorite had been in nearby Coloma,

Bits of the meteor could be strewn over an area as long as 10 miles, most likely stretching west from Coloma, he said.

“I’m sure more will be found, I’m hoping, including some fairly big pieces,” Wasson said. “The fact that two pieces already have been found means one knows where to look.”

Wasson suspected hundreds of dealers and collectors already have joined the search. He said it was important to recover the meteorites soon because any rain will cause them to degrade, losing their sodium and potassium.

“From my viewpoint as a meteorite researcher,” he said, “I’m hopeful some big pieces are found right away.”

Yeomens confirmed this type of meteorite is one of the oldest, dating to the origin of the solar system 4 to 5 billion years ago. And it’s “actually kind of unusual,” he said.

Yeomens said it’s got two of the most important chemicals that scientists look for: carbon and a form of water. In fact, this type of space rock is likely full of water and would have made a good candidate for the new space company announced Tuesday that plans to mine asteroids, he said.

“And this one landed in their backyard for a lot less than they planned to spend,” he said.

The mini-van sized asteroid wasn’t on NASA’s lengthy list of near Earth objects that they track coming close to the planet, so it took scientists by surprise. “There are millions of objects of that size that we don’t know about,” he said. “They’re too small to image unless they’re right up on top of you.”


quarta-feira, 25 de abril de 2012

Meteor Produces Sound and Fury

A fiery meteor created a thundering explosion and traced a rare daylight fireball seen for about 600 miles across Nevada and California on Sunday, before apparently breaking up harmlessly at high altitude, astronomers said.

NASA researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said the midair explosion, centered over California's Central Valley east of the San Francisco Bay area, was the equivalent of the detonation of about 3.8 kilotons of TNT—about one quarter the energy released by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.

"The meteor was probably about the size of an SUV," said Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. "This was a big one. An event of this size might happen about once a year, but most of them occur over the ocean or an uninhabited area."

There were no reports Monday that any fragments of the object had reached the ground or caused any damage. No major telescope in the region tracked the early-morning fireball. NASA astronomers said the explosion might have been five to 10 miles high, which was high enough to let the sound spread widely.

Each day, countless meteors reach Earth's atmosphere. Most are smaller than a grain of sand, according to the American Meteor Society, and usually burn up before they hit Earth's surface.

Sunday's eye-catching event occurred at the height of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, which happens every April as Earth plows through the dust and debris trailing a comet called Thatcher. People have been observing its annual shower of shooting stars for more than 2,600 years. Astronomers usually expect about 20 meteors per hour during the Lyrid shower, with outbursts as high as 100 meteors per hour.

Generally, comet debris can hit Earth's atmosphere at speeds as fast as 110,000 miles per hour. The heat from the friction of its descent into the denser air can ignite the dust and debris in a display of astronomical fireworks. Skywatchers have reported dazzling fireballs, like Sunday's, during Lyrid showers in previous years.

In the far distant past, immense meteorites—meteors that slam into Earth—likely contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs. The largest meteorite found weighs nearly 60 tons. Called Hoba, it is an iron boulder thought to have landed about 80,000 years ago, in present-day Namibia.

On rare occasions, the falling bits of space debris do hit now-populated areas. There is no record of anyone ever having been killed by a meteorite, but in recent years, there have been verified accounts of a meteorite hitting a bedroom in Alabama, a dining room in Connecticut and a parked car in Peekskill, N.Y.


sexta-feira, 20 de abril de 2012

Conheça o meteorito que vale mais de Mil Milhões de Euros e tem uma beleza de tirar a respiração

Chamado de Fukang, peça única é uma das maiores descobertas do século 21

O meteorito Funkang, encontrado na superfície da Terra, chama a atenção pela sua beleza de tirar o fôlego. Foram encontrados cristais dourados de um mineral chamado olivina.
Ao cortar o meteorito, os pedaços criam um efeito de vidro colorido quando exposto ao sol.
Um colecionador anônimo tem em mãos a maior parte do meteorito, chegando a pesar quase 420 kg.
Em 2008, essa peça estava no Leilão de Bonham, Nova York, na expectativa de ser vendido por R$ 3,7 milhões (1.26 milhões de libras), o que não ocorreu.
Segundo o Laboratório de Meteorito do Sudoeste do Arizona, que possui 32 Kg da peça, ele será uma das maiores descobertas do século 21.
Meteorito é a denominação dada quando um meteoroide, formado por fragmentos de asteroides ou cometas ou ainda restos de planetas desintegrados, alcançam a superfície da Terra.


quarta-feira, 18 de abril de 2012

Michael Callahan finds meteorites might seed Earth life

New evidence from meteorites supports the ongoing speculation that life on Earth might have been seeded from space.

New evidence from meteorites supports the ongoing speculation that life on Earth might have been seeded from space.

Research published in August, 2011 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – suggests that meteorites are likely the source of certain nucleobases – the building blocks of our genetic material on Earth – in greater diversity and quantity than scientists previously thought.

Meteorite found in Saudi Arabia. Via Wikipedia

EarthSky spoke with research physical scientist Michael Callahan of the NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, lead author of the August 2011 study. He said:

Our research results have shown the nucelobases, which are the building blocks of your genetic material, DNA, are found in meteorites. That result wasn’t so new, in that people have known this for actually the last 50 years or so. But no one’s been able to prove definitively if these building blocks of DNA were extraterrestrial in origin or if they were the remnants of terrestrial contamination in the meteorite.

The evidence, said Callahan, comes from 12 meteorites, nine of which landed on Antarctica. They contain not only the chemical building blocks of DNA, but other molecules produced from simple ingredients found in space, such as water and ammonia. He said:

Now if those components can be used later on, which is what the idea is of why this would be so important, these meteorites could have brought in some important ingredients that may have assisted the origin of life.

Because they moved in space, remaining pristine, until they fell to Earth, meteorites hold a record of chemicals that existed in the early solar system. Some of these chemicals might have been a crucial source of the organic compounds that gave rise to life on Earth. Since the 1960s, scientists have been trying to find proof that nucleobases came to Earth on meteorites.

Extensive research has shown that amino acids, which string together to form proteins, exist in space and have arrived on our planet piggybacked on a type of organic-rich meteorite called carbonaceous chondrites. But it has been difficult to prove that the nucleobases found on meteorite samples are not due to contamination from sources on Earth.

Examples of carbonaceous chondrites. Via Wikimedia

The research team, which included Jim Cleaves of the Carnegie Institution for Science Geophysical Laboratory, used advanced spectroscopy techniques to purify and analyze samples from 11 different carbonaceous chondrites and one ureilite, a very rare type of meteorite with a different chemical composition. This was the first time all but two of these meteorites had been examined for nucleobases.

Two of the carbonaceous chondrites contained a diverse array of nucleobases and compounds that are structurally similar, so-called nucleobase analogs. Especially telling was the fact that three of these nucleobase analogs are very rare in terrestrial biology. What’s more, significant concentrations of these nucleobases were not found in soil and ice samples from the areas near where the meteorites were collected.

A slice of the 4.5-billion-year-old Allende meteorite, pictured on the left in the image above. Via Wikimedia

Cleaves said:

Finding nucleobase compounds not typically found in Earth’s biochemistry strongly supports an extraterrestrial origin.

The team tested their conclusion with experiments to reproduce nucleobases and analogs using chemical reactions of ammonia and cyanide, which are common in space. Their lab-synthesized nucleobases were very similar to those found in the carbonaceous chondrites, although the relative abundances were different. This could be due to chemical and thermal processing that the meteorite-origin nucleobases underwent while traveling through space.

The results of the study have far-reaching implications: the earliest forms of life on Earth might have been assembled from materials delivered to Earth by meteorites.

Callahan spoke of an intense period of meteorite impacts on both the Earth and the moon around four billion years ago.

So maybe, these meteorites are flying all over the universe impacting different objects and bringing some pretty important things. And maybe, if the conditions are right, maybe the same sort of process for life could be happening elsewhere. So the likelihood of life elsewhere has kind of increased, just a little bit more.


Rocks from Space

Michael Callahan knows that he has a great job every time a meteorite sample arrives at the laboratory from NASA's meteorite archive in Houston, Texas. “There's no cooler feeling than working with a meteorite in the lab,” he says.

Callahan, an analytical chemist at the Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is one of a growing number of researchers around the world working in astrobiology — the exploration of how and where life might have emerged in the Universe.


Images from the surface of Mars: analysing these may form part of an astrobiologist's role.

The breadth of astrobiology can be daunting. Because the field focuses on questions about the origins of life, it incorporates aspects of astronomy and physics as well as chemistry, geology, oceanography, microbiology and bioinformatics. As a result, there are many different routes to a career in astrobiology; Callahan, for example, started out as an analytical chemist in industry. Exobiology — the study of the possibility of life on other planets — thrived with origins-of-life research in the 1950s and '60s, and really took off with the space exploration programmes in the 1960s and '70s. Later, when the astrobiology label took hold, some people questioned the field's seriousness, notes Zita Martins, an astrobiologist at Imperial College London. Many different types of researchers now contribute to the field; geomicrobiologists look for extremophiles — organisms that live in extreme environments such as deep caves or hot springs; astronomers search for chemical signs of metabolism on other planets; and biologists investigate how life on Earth first appeared.

Martins, for example, works in the department of Earth science and engineering, developing techniques for uncovering microbial life and metabolism in extreme settings, using soil samples from the Utah desert as stand-ins for samples from Mars. She collaborates with soil scientists, geochemists, biologists and robotics engineers who specialize in exploration. “That's the beauty of the astrobiology field. It's scientists from different research fields, working together,” she says. NASA has an annual conference dedicated to the field, which is taking place this week in Atlanta, Georgia.
Joint missions

Support for astrobiology research is spread across many funding streams and disciplines, and finding funding and jobs that are strictly astrobiology-related is difficult, especially given recent budget woes. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) support the largest number of astrobiology-related positions, whether they are in Earth-science observation or engineering jobs on the next space mission. But NASA is facing budget cuts that have alarmed researchers in the field. For 2012 and 2013, a slight increase in the budget for human space exploration, from US$3.7 billion to a proposed $3.9 billion, was countered by a decrease for the science directorate, including planetary-science research, from $5.1 billion to a proposed $4.9 billion. The agency has withdrawn its component of the ExoMars programme — a joint mission with ESA to send an orbiter and rover to look for methane on the red planet, which is scheduled for 2018. NASA's funding would have created more research positions for biologists and instrumentalists, among others.

Although the US Terrestrial Planet Finder — a mission intended to look for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of distant solar systems — has been suspended, astronomers hope that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, an observational mission with similar planet-finding goals, will continue moving forward.


Noctis Labyrinthus, a region of the red planet captured by NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Despite cuts in some areas, NASA's Earth budget is up slightly from $1.76 billion in 2012 to $1.79 billion in 2013, notes geochemist Mitchell Schulte, a programme officer for the Mars Exploration Programme at NASA headquarters in Washington DC. That means that research done on this planet but with applications off-planet could still be awarded funding, such as hunting for extremophiles and their proteins, or remote-sensing research such as LiDAR (a technique for detecting water, or mapping minerals and topography).

The Centre for Astrobiology in Madrid, which was established in 2000 as a partner to the NASA Astrobiology Institute based in Mountain View, California, is an example of an organization that is crucial for strengthening ties between researchers around the world, says astrophysicist Lisa Kaltenegger, who holds dual positions at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

In addition to NASA's partner centre in Spain, other centres have sprung up, including Germany's Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, which is a cooperative alliance of about 200 scientists across 17 science organizations, with funding from the Helmholtz Alliance based in Bonn, which studies planetary evolution. Gerda Horneck, a former deputy director of the German Aerospace Centre's Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, says that there are now 25 PhD candidates in the Helmholtz Space Life Sciences Research School, based in various locations in Germany.

For fledgling scientists in the field, the economic climate means that success can hinge on finding multiple funding sources. Julie Huber, a microbial oceanographer at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, whose research focuses on life at deep hydrothermal vents, says she applies for grants from NASA and the US National Science Foundation for oceanography programmes and occasionally from the US National Institutes of Health for microbiology research. She also applies to private foundations such as the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in California and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in New York. Huber says she considers herself lucky to have secured funding, given the budget woes of government agencies and the state of the foundations' endowments. “It used to be you had to write one or two grants to support yourself for five years,” she says. “Now it's four, five, six grants every year, with no growth in the pool of money.”

Other initiatives have helped to augment support for the field. The CAREX project from the European Union's Seventh Framework programme for research, which coordinated the study of life in extreme environments, wrapped up this year after spending €1.4 million (US$1.8 million). Its data on desert life, specifically microbial diversity and aspects of life in extreme environments, could help to inform surveys for life on Mars, although it is not labelled as astrobiology. The next round of European funding, Horizon 2020, will include support especially for astrobiology and space exploration, says Horneck. How much support is still under discussion. Up to this point, various projects across partnered universities and institutes have received about €2 million over three years from the European Union for cooperative astrobiology research, the CAREX funding being one example.
Space school


Astrobiologists hope to continue to study stars such as 51 Ophiuchi (artist's rendition pictured).

Few PhD programmes award astrobiology degrees; students typically earn their degree in a field such as analytical chemistry or microbiology but focus on astrobiology for their thesis. For example, the University of Washington in Seattle confers a certificate in astrobiology for graduate-level research, but graduate students retain their home-department affiliation for their doctorate. Graduates with this certificate have gone on to work as astrobiologists or in related fields at NASA or other institutes.

In 2005, Stockholm University launched an astrobiology graduate school for an initial five years to gauge interest in the field, a sort of interdisciplinary curriculum experiment. The university considered it a success, and departments including astronomy and geology have transferred their experience into the newly created astrobiology centre.

Sandra Siljeström's career exemplifies the potential myriad roles an astrobiologist can have. A graduate from the Stockholm programme who trained as a geochemist, Siljeström is now a research scientist at the government-run SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden in Borås, where she works on projects for the Swedish space board, developing methods to examine small amounts of organic compounds using time-of-flight spectroscopy. She is also helping to develop the Mars Organic Molecule Analyser, an instrument to be carried on the ExoMars rover. Her position also includes contract work for industry, examining organic compounds in rocks and other materials.
More bodies

Horneck advises undergraduates and master's students to ground themselves in one of the many applicable sciences before moving on to astrobiology-related research. She says getting a solid grounding in their field before pursuing astrobiology is important.

However, Malcolm Walter, director of the Australian Centre for Astrobiology at the University of New South Wales, advises students to start taking astrobiology courses at the undergraduate level if they are available. “The skills are generic and can be applied to many career paths. Being interdisciplinary, thinking in an interdisciplinary fashion leads to many career opportunities,” he says. “I look for people who are willing to take this risk. In my experience, that's an extraordinarily hard thing to do.”

" I look for people who are willing to take this risk. In my experience, that is an extraordinarily hard thing to do. "

Walter says two of his PhD students recently ended up working for NASA — one as a classical geologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the other as a mineral spectroscopist, mapping mineralogy on the surface of Mars. Other students have gone on to work for biotechnology firms or the booming Australian mining industry.

Horneck worries that talented graduates will leave the field because few jobs exist outside NASA, ESA and academia, and even there, positions are limited. Many projects are suited to PhD theses, but not to full-time jobs. Not enough opportunities exist for bright doctorates to continue their research. “This is something that needs attention,” she says. Even so, student interest portends good things for the field. “Ten years ago, there were no courses. Now it's a field very much taken up by students,” Horneck says. Despite the challenges, she foresees a burgeoning field, with more discoveries on the horizon.


Week 2 in Bantam Lake UFO (or meteorite): reports of dead fish unrelated, 'Smoking Gun' investigating

Dead fish in the water, plans by a “Smoking Gun” group to investigate and questions about the dangers, or not, of meteorites—it’s week two in what is thought of as the Bantam Lake UFO story.

After news broke toward the end of last week that both an unidentified person and an on-duty trooper 10 miles away had seen a glowing green object fall from the sky around 2 a.m. April 9, subsequent reporting revealed that it was most likely a meteorite.

Whatever happened, reports of the incident leaving dead fish in its wake are not true, The Smoking Gun Research Agency (SGRA) of Orange, Conn., is investigating, and a meteorite in the lake is said to pose no threat to anything or anyone.

Bantam Lake Protective Association president Connie Trolle said Monday that she hadn’t heard anything about dead fish at the lake. As for the working theory that a documented meteor shower in the area resulted in a meteorite falling into the lake, she said, “The people that are involved that will check. It could be many different things.”

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) spokesperson Dennis Schain said that there have been reports of dead fish—but not masses of fish. And those reports came in as early as March 21, which is weeks before the UFO (or meteorite) sighting.

“What we’re seeing is what appears to be typical phenomena in a water body such as a lake, exacerbated some by the weather we have been having; the warm weather depletes the oxygen in the water,” said Mr. Schain in a phone interview Tuesday.

Mr. Schain said representatives from the DEEP’s Inland Fisheries Division have been out on the lake a couple of times recently, and have been in touch with residents along the lake.

“We don’t believe it’s anything unusual or anything to be alarmed about. It’s been predominantly sunfish. If it was anything unusual—the effect of anything falling in the lake—it would have more quickly affected a whole variety of species,” said Mr. Schain.

He also addressed the sighting itself by saying that DEEP has been in touch with local officials about it and will follow up on any information that warrants further investigation.

After one story on the sighting was posted last week on the Web site of the New Haven Register, The Smoking Gun Research Agency (SGRA) in Orange, indicated in a comment that it would be investigating.

Smoking Gun director Jon Nowinski said that, based on descriptions from residents, it sounded like a meteorite.

“We’ve spent a couple of days communicating with people by e-mail to gather more information about what people might have seen. We have been speaking to people that have heard things and [there are] a lot of rumblings,” said Mr. Nowinski Monday afternoon. According to its Web site,, Mr. Nowinski’s group studies the paranormal, metaphysical, and the unexplained.

The Republican American, which first broke the story in last Thursday morning’s paper, reported that a unidentified person driving in Litchfield at about 2 a.m. last Tuesday called State Police to report that a green, glowing object the size of a whale fell from the sky and crashed into Bantam Lake.

What made officials take the report seriously, apparently, is the fact that at the same time, an on-duty state trooper about 10 miles away in Warren called dispatchers to report that something fell out of the sky and landed near Bantam or Morris, according to a story by the Associated Press.

Morris firefighters made several passes up and down the lake in a boat, looking for a possible plane crash, but didn’t find any debris, according to the AP story, which said, “Authorities called off the search, leaving the mystery unsolved.”

Meanwhile, a Bantam Lake Protective Association former president, Robert LaBonne, sent an e-mail to State Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-Goshen) and State Rep. Craig Mine (R-Litchfield), telling the legislators that he had been receiving e-mails from as far away as Florida, asking what is being done to solve the mystery.

Mr. LaBonne said that if the object truly is the size of a whale, it should show up on the bottom of the lake on sonar depth identifying equipment that can be obtained via either the Coast Guard or DEEP.

Last Friday, Morris Fire Chief Joel Skilton said he was inclined to believe that it was a meteorite, a possibility first suggested in a report by WTNH News 8, which said the National Weather Service documented a meteor shower in the area the morning of the incident.

Mr. Skilton was on the scene early Tuesday morning after being dispatched. He said Morris responders launched a boat from the former state boat launch on East Shore Road, and made a pass around the South Bay and then went north on Bantam Lake. There they met up with responders from the Bantam Fire Department on North Shore Road in Bantam.

Mr. LaBonne has also been in contact with the DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty regarding the situation. Mr. Esty said in a reply e-mail to Mr. LaBonne that the DEEP was looking at its options with regard to the matter.

Right now, the group in Orange is pinpointing where people were at the time of the sighting, in trying to narrow things down a bit. This is the first step before the group comes to Litchfield and interviews those with information.

The group has received 10 different reports from Morris and the surrounding area—even as far south as Danbury—regarding last week’s sighting.

Mr. Nowinski said his group is hoping to come to the Litchfield area by Sunday, and hopes that people will meet with them and share first-hand accounts of what they experienced.

“The area of northwestern Connecticut, all the way from New Milford to Torrington—basically the northwest half of Connecticut—has always been a rather active, especially areas around Mohawk Mountain and Route 202,” said Mr. Nowinski.

His group has been in touch with the John J. McCarthy Observatory in New Milford, and everyone’s theory seems to be that it was a meteorite.

The Smoking Gun group has contacted State Police to request audio or written transcripts of the reports as part of creating a timeline and mapping where those offering reports of the incident were located.

Keith Cudworth, executive director of White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, whose 4,000 acres of nature preserves border Bantam Lake in part, said they have gotten a few phone calls, and that there were people walking around North Shore Road and Point Folly campground.

Ruben Garcia, who was contacted by Mr. LaBonne and is also known as “Mr. Meteorite,” said in a phone interview Tuesday that typically meteorites are non-toxic, and that the impact on the lake depends on the size of the object.

“I have been hunting meteorites for 15 years. I cut them, they are not toxic,” said Mr. Garcia.

According to Mr. Garcia, they are not radioactive and not dangerous in any way.

Mr. Garcia said that a meteor that produces 20-pound meteorites would lead to a huge sound, like a detonation. “It will explode and it is very loud. People have said it sounds like a train going through their yard,” said Mr. Garcia.

The Hartford Courant reports that another Connecticut town, Wethersfield is one of only two U.S. towns known to have been hit by meteorites twice, the other being Honolulu.

 The New Haven Register, local news, sports and weather serving New Haven, CT

"Meteoric Rain" exhibition opens in Yekaterinburg

The “Meteoric Rain” exhibition has opened in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Region. Nearly 5,000 meteorites fall on the ground every year. The Goba Meteorite that was found in Namibia - the largest of all – weighs approximately 66 tons.

125 meteorites have been discovered in Russia over the past 250 years. Visitors can see the most interesting of them at the “Meteoric Rain” exhibition that is currently underway at the Ural Geology Museum in Yekaterinburg. There is a large variety of meteorites there, including stone, iron, and stony-iron meteorites, which we do not come across very often today. A 150-kilogram fragment of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite is really the pearl of the of the Yekaterinburg exhibition. It is 200 years older than the Earth, and its flight to the Earth continued for 1, 200,000 years, when it finally fell. In an interview with the Voice of Russia Director of the Ural Geology Museum Dmitry Kleimenov says.

"When meteorites enter the Earth’s atmosphere, at an altitude of 10 kilometres they may fall on the ground in the form of stones. Usually, meteorites bear the names of places where they fall. For example, big fragments of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell in the Far East are displayed at the exhibition in Yekaterinburg. Expeditions for meteorites are sent even to the Antarctic Region because there practically any stone that is found on the ice surface is regarded as a meteorite."

A meteorite containing carbohydrates that was found in Antarctica in 1994, possibly, offers proof that bacterial life exists on Mars. There is a special committee in Russia that examines celestial bodies. By the way, it has one of the best collections of meteorites in Europe

Even in the ancient times people knew that there existed meteorites in the world. The meteorite that is often referred to as the Black Stone is carefully kept in Mecca. It is installed into the wall of the Kaaba Cathedral, and Mohammedans go to Mecca to prey there. Besides the biblical legends about Sodom and Gomorrah, there exists only one case when a meteorite hit a person. This occurred on November 30th, 1954, in Alabama, when a 4-kilogram celestial body fell on the roof of a house, where Ann Elizabeth Hodges lived and ricocheted off her. As a result, the woman was traumatized.

Source: english.ruvr.Russia

terça-feira, 17 de abril de 2012

Solar system mystery 'solved'

Planetary scientists claim they may have discovered how "chondrules", tiny particles found in meteorites, formed at the beginning of the solar system, thus solving the decades-old cosmic conundrum.

Chondrules are spherical particles of molten material found in meteorites but their origins have long been a mystery. No longer than about one millimetre in diameter, they melted at temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius, while the cooler materials surrounding them only experienced temperatures of a few hundred degrees Celsius.

Now, an international team, led by Australian National University, has cracked the mystery as to how "chondrules" could have actually formed in extreme heat, especially when the meteorite structure surrounding them remained cold.

"Most of the solar system is cold, so it's been unclear for decades what caused the chondrules to experience such extreme heat. We believe that chondrules formed in jets of material ejected from flattened discs, called 'protostellar discs', which encircle young stars.

"These discs are somewhat like the rings around the planet Saturn. The modern planets are the remnants of material of these discs clumping together. In observations of the formation of new stars, we can see jets of material accelerating out of protostellar discs.

"We show that as these jets shoot out of the discs, from about the Earth-Sun distance away, the materials brought with them are heated to the point of melting. The heavier items in them then drop back into the discs, where they cool and re- form," Raquel Salmeron, who led the team, said.

The scientists said that their theory challenged old assumptions about the formation of chondrules.

"For decades it has been assumed that jets could only form chondrules through the heating of materials in the vicinity of the Sun, followed by their transportation into protostellar discs," Salmeron said in a varsity release.

"We believe that our new theory explains how chondrules -- among the earliest materials in the solar system -- reached the temperatures required for melting, even though the early solar nebula was cold. It also explains the fairly uniform size of chondrules and provides a means for them to mix and combine with unheated material," Salmeron added.


domingo, 15 de abril de 2012


The Fukang Meteorite is considered the greatest on earth.The meteorite When it slammed into the surface of Earth, there was little sign of the beauty that lay inside.

But cutting the Fukang meteorite open yielded a breathtaking sight.

Within the rock, translucent golden crystals of a mineral called olivine gleamed among a silvery honeycomb of nickel-iron.

The rare meteorite weighed about the same as a hatchback when it was discovered in 2000, in the Gobi Desert in China’s Xinjiang Province.

It has since been divided into slices which give the effect of stained glass when the sun shines through them.

An anonymous collector holds the largest portion, which weighs 925lb. in 2008, this piece was expected to fetch $2million at auction at Bonham’s in New York – but it remained unsold.

It is so valuable that even tiny chunks sell in the region of $40-60 per gram.

Arizona’s Southwest Meteorite Laboratory, which holds about 70lb of the rock, says the remarkable find will turn out to be ‘one of the greatest meteorite discoveries of the 21st century’.

It says the Fukang specimen outshines all other known examples of the pallasite class, which makes up just one per cent of all meteorites. However, it is not the biggest – in 2005 space rock hunter Steve Arnold dug up a 1,400lb sample in Kansas.

The Arizona lab’s experts say pallasites, whose make-up of half nickel-iron, half olivine gives them their mosaic-like appearance, are ‘thought to be relics of forming planets’.

They are believed to originate from deep inside intact meteors created during the formation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago and very few specimens are thought to have survived their descent through Earth’s atmosphere.

February 2005 saw the Chinese space rock transported all the way to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, in Tucson, Arizona.

The U.S. lab claims their polished slice of the original meteorite is the world’s biggest pallasite cross section, measuring 36in by 19in.


sábado, 14 de abril de 2012

Life on Mars Found by NASA's Viking Mission?

A fresh look at NASA data suggests that a robotic mission uncovered microbial life on  Mars—more than 30 years ago.

In 1976 NASA sent two space probes, Vikings 1 and 2, to Mars to determine whether life exists on the red planet. The probes carried three experiments specially designed for the task, one of which was called the Labeled Release (LR) apparatus.

The LR experiment worked by scooping up a bit of Martian soil and mixing it with a drop of water that contained nutrients and radioactive carbon atoms.

(Related: "Mars Soil Resembles Veggie-Garden Dirt, Lander Finds.")

The idea was that if the soil contained microbes, the life-forms would metabolize the nutrients and release either radioactive carbon dioxide or methane gas, which could be measured by a radiation detector on the probe.

A number of control experiments were also performed, including heating some Mars soil samples to different temperatures and isolating other samples in the dark for months—conditions that would kill microbes that are photosynthetic or that rely on photosynthetic organisms for survival. These control samples were also mixed with the nutrient solution.

To the delight of many biologists at the time, the LR experiment came out positive for life, and the control experiments came out negative.

"The minute the nutrients were mixed with the soil sample, you got something like 10,000 counts" of radioactive molecules—a huge spike from the 50 or 60 counts that constituted the natural background radiation on Mars, said study team member Joseph Miller, a neurobiologist at the University of Southern California and a former NASA space shuttle project director.

Unfortunately, the LR experiment results were not backed up by the probes' other two experiments, both of which came out negative for life, so the space agency dismissed the possibility.

(Related: "Viking Mission May Have Missed Mars Life, Study Finds.")

Now, after running Viking's LR data through a mathematical test designed to separate biological signals from nonbiological signals, Miller's team believes that the LR experiments did indeed find signs of microbial life in Martian soil.

"It's very possible that if you have microbes, they're living a couple of inches beneath the soil, close to water ice," he said.

Clustering Viking's Mars Data

For the study, Miller and mathematician Giorgio Bianciardi, of Italy's University of Siena, used a technique called cluster analysis, which groups together similar-looking data sets.

"We just plugged all the [Viking experimental and control] data in and said, Let the cluster analysis sort it," Miller said. "What happened was, we found two clusters: One cluster constituted the two active experiments on Viking and the other cluster was the five control experiments."

To bolster their case, the team also compared the Viking data to measurements collected from confirmed biological sources on Earth—for example, temperature readings from a rat—and from purely physical, nonbiological sources.

"It turned out that all the biological experiments from Earth sorted with the active experiments from Viking, and all the nonbiological data series sorted with the control experiments," Miller said. "It was an extremely clear-cut phenomenon."

(Related: "Life on Mars? 'Missing Mineral' Find Boosts Chances.")

The team concedes, however, that this finding by itself isn't enough to prove that there's life on Mars.

"It just says there's a big difference between the active experiments and the controls, and that Viking's active experiments sorted with terrestrial biology and the controls sorted with nonbiological phenomena," Miller said.

Evidence for Martian Rhythm

Still, the new findings are consistent with a previous study published by Miller, in which his team found signs of a Martian circadian rhythm in the Viking LR experiment results.

Circadian rhythms are internal clocks found in every known life-form—including microbes—that help control biological processes, such as waking, sleeping, and temperature regulation. (See "Sleep Preferences Predict Baseball Success, Study Says.")

On Earth this clock is set to a 24-hour cycle, but on Mars it would be about 24.7 hours—the length of a Martian day.

In his previous work, Miller noticed that the LR experiment's radiation measurements varied with the time of day on Mars.

"If you look closely, you could see that the [radioactive-gas measurement] was going up during the day and coming down at night. ... The oscillations had a period of 24.66 hours just about on the nose," Miller said.

"That is basically a circadian rhythm, and we think circadian rhythms are a good signal for life."

Waiting for the Video

Despite his own conviction that the Viking mission detected life on Mars, Miller said he doesn't expect most people will be convinced until they can look at a video of Martian bacteria sitting in a petri dish.

"But for some reason, NASA has never flown a microscope that would let you do something like that," he said. "If they can fly a microscope for the geologists, they should be able to fly one for the biologists."

NASA's next Martian mission—the Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity—will arrive on the red planet later this year. Although it's not carrying such a microscope, Miller thinks the lander could find supporting evidence for his team's theory.

(Related: "Next Mars Rover Landing Site Named: Gale Crater.")

"It won't test the hypothesis [for life on Mars] directly, but I think they'll be able to detect methane," Miller said. "And if they see a circadian rhythm in the methane release into the atmosphere, it would be very consistent with what we saw."

The new Mars-life research is detailed online in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences.

Source: National

sexta-feira, 13 de abril de 2012

Star Attraction

The world's only car known to have been hit by a meteorite has been shipped from a garage in New York to be the star of an exhibition about meteorites in a German Natural History Museum.

The remarkable thing about the meteorite strike on the red Chevrolet Malibu that happened in 1992 was that it was filmed by an amateur cameraman as it blazed through the heavens and then smashed through the car boot at full force at Peekskill, a city in Westchester County in New York.

Owner Michelle Knapp decided not to repair the car, and instead kept it where German Natural History Museum managers in Oldenburg negotiated for the car to be on display for four weeks as the star of an exhibition about meteorites.

The 12 kilogram meteorite "Peekskill" in contrast survived the crash intact and ended up with just a small fleck of charred red paint left on its surface. The meteorite was also loaned to the Museum and is on display alongside the car.

Museum director Dr. Ulf Beichle said: "This car is the only one in the world known to have been hit by a meteorite and it shows quite clearly the enormous power with which these heavenly bodies strike the Earth when they enter the atmosphere. We are really delighted that we've managed to get such a rare object for our exhibition.

The car remains in private ownership in America and needed to be transported carefully to avoid any damage. A special crane was used to lift the car into the museum and the car is now available as of today to be viewed.

Source: GermanHerald

Mystery Object Crashes in Siberia

Search teams in the Irkutsk region are on alert after eyewitnesses claimed they saw an unidentified flying object crash in the taiga in the early hours of Friday morning.

Irkustk's mayor and emergency expert groups set out for the scene of the sighting, near the village of Vitim, but a severe snow storm impeded the search operation, a local official told RIA Novosti.

Earlier, a spokesman for the Mamsko-Chuisky district administration said the object might have been a meteorite.


quinta-feira, 12 de abril de 2012

Hundreds report seeing fireball in the sky

Skywatchers across the Chicago area reported a streaking fireball in the sky so intense that some thought they’d witnessed a fiery plane crash on the Southeast Side.

Reports of the fireball starting coming in about 8:25 p.m., according to a meteor and meteorite sighting blog,, with over 100 people from Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa reporting the light show.
Descriptions ranged from simply a blue-green fireball to a yellow fireball with a red center and a trailing blue and white tail.
John from North Chicago wrote “12sec nw green/blue very bright unknow it only lasted about 12sec but it was a sight to see truly amazing.”
But while many delighted in the display, others thought they’d witnessed something much grimmer as emergency crews responded to 126th Street and Avenue 0 on the Far Southeast Side of the city to investigate a possible plane crash.
A police helicopter was also called to help search Wolf Lake, which sits on the Illinois-Indiana border near the Hegewisch neighborhood.
Searchers found nothing, and authorities soon found that while no aircraft had been reported missing, many skywatchers were reporting a “very bright” meteor falling about 8:20 p.m. and crews stopped their search, according to Fire Media Affairs.
No one from NASA or the National Weather Service could immediately be reached for comment.


sábado, 7 de abril de 2012

Oroville Meteorite will be on Display this weekend

A meteor exploded above Table Mountain in 1892, and this particular fragment was found a year later... But it hasn't been back in the north state since then.

"If you had been right in between Chico and Oroville, you would have seen this big flash over Table Mountain." Paradise Gem and Mineral Show chairman Manuel Garcia is talking about this meteorite. This 42 pound chunk of space rock was discovered 119 years ago.

The story goes, a meteorite exploded above Table Mountain in 1892.. And just one year later, the fragment was found. Garcia explains, "That piece was found near 149 and 99. That's a couple miles away."

The meteorite was on display that next year, at a drug store in Oroville, then purchased by the California Academy of Science. After being displayed in San Francisco, it got mixed up in a group of meteorites and shipped off to England.

It went missing for 60 years, until a geologist from Los Angeles noticed it. "He recognized it as the Oroville meteorite because he had worked at the Getty Museum and seen the slice that was cut off of this," says Garcia.

It was brought back to San Francisco, matched with slabs cut off of it in 1895, and has been on display ever since. And having it back in Butte County for the first time since it was discovered, Garcia says, it's something worth seeing. "How often do you get a chance to see butte county history? It's just fantastic. It really is!"

And just to give an example of how rare this fragment actually is... "How much more of it is out there? The remaining 80 tons," laughs Garcia.

The meteorite will be on display at the Paradise Elks Lodge Saturday from 9 a-m to 5 p-m and Sunday from 9 to 4 p-m.


terça-feira, 3 de abril de 2012

Earth Has Scores of Mini-Moons

Our moon is not alone: Scores of unseen mini-moons are now in orbit around Earth, new computer models predict.

What's more, these tiny moons occasionally plummet through our planet's atmosphere, creating brilliant fireballs, the researchers say.

The findings are based on supercomputer simulations of ten million asteroids known to fly through the Earth-moon system. The models show that objects that circle the sun in orbits similar to Earth's are likely to be captured as mini-moons.

(Also see: (Trojan Asteroid Found Sharing Earth's Orbit - A First) .

"We accurately tracked their motion—including the gravitational tugs from the sun and all the other planets and big asteroids in the solar system—and found that 18,000 of [these asteroids] were captured and briefly went into orbit around the Earth," said study co-author Robert Jedicke, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii.

"We estimate that there are one or two washing machine-size mini-moons and about a thousand larger than a softball [orbiting Earth] at any time," he said.

(Related: "Earth Had Two Moons, New Model Suggests.")

The captured moons would orbit Earth in twisted, convoluted paths. In fact, the simulations show that most mini-moons hang around for less than a year before they're either spit back out to orbit the sun or end up on a collision course with Earth, Jedicke said.

"The moon perturbs the orbit of about one in a thousand, so they hit the Earth—some of the meteors that you see at night are actually mini-moons falling to Earth."

Prehistoric Double Moons?

In addition to small space rocks, the models predict that once in awhile Earth captures something even larger.

The team's estimates show that every half century an object the size of a large dump truck—about 33 feet (10 meters) across—joins our roughly 2,100-mile-wide (3,400-kilometer-wide) moon.

And even larger objects—each the size of a football field, or about 328 feet (100 meters) across—can be captured by Earth's gravity every hundred thousand years.

At that size, Jedicke speculates, the extra moons might even be visible to the naked eye.

"A hundred thousand years is about the time frame that human beings have been doing things like leaving their handprints on cave walls, so maybe in that time frame somebody once actually looked into the sky and saw a mini-moon moving across the sky," he added.

(Related: "Moon Oddly Magnetic-Giant Asteroid Crash to Blame?")

Jedicke and his team are the first to make predictions about mini-moon sizes and distribution, and it appears their predictions are fairly accurate.

The only known mini-moon was a 9.8-foot-wide (3-meter-wide) asteroid dubbed 2006 RH120, which orbited Earth less than a year before resuming its previous life orbiting the sun.

"The size and orbital properties of 2006 RH120 are perfectly consistent with our models," Jedicke said. "Had we done our study ten years ago, we could have predicted that an object like 2006 RH120 would be detected soon."

Mini-Moons Still Hard to Spot

Even with the new simulations, the researchers caution that actually seeing more mini-moons will be challenging, because the objects are relatively small and thus faint.

In addition, the gravitational effects that draw in Earth's extra moons tend to set them whipping around the planet at high speeds, making them even harder to pinpoint.

(Find out about an asteroid that recently crossed between Earth and the moon.)

"We are currently trying to figure out how to use astronomical surveys to spot them regularly," Jedicke said.

For instance, "the largest ones could be detectable by the advanced amateur astronomer with a 50-centimeter-diameter [20-inch-diameter] telescope," he said.

"But discovering new mini-moons will require an asteroid survey that covers much of the sky in a single night and detects objects that are very faint."

Source: nationalgeographic