quinta-feira, 28 de março de 2013

Spanish man Faustino Asensio Lopez discovers 100kg rock used as ham press is meteorite

A meteorite is a solid piece of space debris from that survives impact with the Earth's surface. (File picture) Source: AFP

FOR over 30 years, the 100-kilogram rock on farmer Faustino Asensio Lopez's patio served its purpose as a ham press.

Due to its almighty weight, the Spanish farmer and his family used the rock as a weight in the ham-curing process, Spanish news agency EFE reports.

But it turns out the family have been sitting on a gold mine - their trusty rock has been identified as an iron meteorite with an estimated value of $5.3 million.

For years, Mr Lopez thought the rock was a merely a piece of military scrap. He found the rock in a field near Retuerta del Bullaque, south of Madrid, in 1980 while tending to livestock with his father.

But a 2011 TV report on the sighting of meteorites over Spain piqued his interest and he contacted geologist Juan Carlos Gutierrez.

His rock was confirmed to be a metallic meteorite, the fourth of its kind discovered in Spain after Quesa (Valencia, 1898), Colomera (Granada, 1912) and La Almunia (Zaragoza, 1950).

A meteorite is a solid piece of debris from an asteroid or a comet that survives impact with the Earth's surface.

According to the experts, Mr Lopez's meteorite dates back to prehistoric times.

The fragment broken off for the scientific study of the main mass is on display at the Mining Museum in Madrid, along with a replica of the original.

Source: http://www.news.com.au

quarta-feira, 27 de março de 2013

Asteroids - The Good the Bad and the Ugly Documentary

Ancient Egyptian Glass From Outer Space / A BBC Documentary about the effects of Asteroid strikes on our planet

segunda-feira, 25 de março de 2013

UTK Professor Obtains Samples Of Russian Meteorite

A University of Tennessee professor has obtained pieces of the meteor that exploded spectacularly over Russia in February.

Larry Taylor, director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute at UTK, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he obtained three samples with the help of colleagues at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Taylor and his team are studying one of the samples. He said the meteorite dates back to the very beginnings of our solar system, some 4.56 billion years ago. Taylor gave the other two samples to former members of his research team who are now at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, San Diego.

Taylor said the California researchers will be able to perform chemical analyses that he doesn't have the equipment to perform at UT.

Source: Newschannel5

terça-feira, 12 de março de 2013

Russia to build anti-meteorite shield

Moscow: Russia would build a system to protect the Earth from meteors and other space debris, Russian federal space agency Roscosmos said Tuesday.

"Roscosmos has formed a working group with experts from the defence ministry and the Russian Academy of Science to create a unified system of early warning and countering space threats," Xinhua quoted Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin as saying.

The project, titled "Citadel", would cost about $500 million, and could be implemented only with international cooperation, said Anatoly Zaitsev, head of the Center of Planetary Protection, a scientific and research organisation.

According to RIA Novosti, Popovkin said the Russian Academy of Sciences should be made responsible for developing asteroid threat monitoring systems while Roscosmos should be in charge of monitoring space debris.

The foreign ministry should be entrusted with matters of countering space threats at interstate level, he said.

Popovkin warned that in 20 years, the world might no longer be able to deploy geosynchronous satellites in space because all available orbits would be littered with debris due to their constant disintegration.

According to calculations by Roscosmos, the possibility of collisions between working satellites and debris has risen sharply.

The Russian Aerospace Defense Forces was urged by the government to come up with a plan to protect the country from space "guests" after a meteorite strike injured over 1,200 people and damaged homes in Chelyabinsk region Feb 15.

Civil Defence and Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov said the programme will include early warning systems and public emergency training courses.

Roscosmos is currently trying to identify and classify potentially dangerous space objects, Popovkin said at a session of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.

Boris Shustov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Astronomy, said super-powerful telescopes should be used to detect dangerous space objects in good time.

Ground and space-based systems need to be built for this, he said, adding that "regular" telescopes are unable to detect those threats.

In particular, he said, Russia needs to complete construction of a super-wide-angle telescope, the AZT-33, near Lake Baikal, at a cost of 500 million rubles (about $17 million).

Shustov said the "extraterrestrial object" which exploded over Chelyabinsk did not even belong in the class of dangerous objects.

If the Chelyabinsk meteorite had entered the atmosphere at a steeper trajectory, the consequences would have been far worse, he said.

"And if the body had been 50 metres (in diameter), then there would have been no chance," he said, without elaborating.

Source: http://zeenews.india.com

Astrobiologists Find Ancient Fossils in Fireball Fragments

Algae-like structures inside a Sri Lankan meteorite are clear evidence of panspermia, the idea that life exists throughout the universe, say astrobiologists.

On 29 December 2012, a fireball lit up the early evening skies over the Sri Lankan province of Polonnaruwa. Hot, sparkling fragments of the fireball rained down across the countryside and witnesses reported the strong odour of tar or asphalt.

Over the next few days, the local police gathered numerous examples of these stones and sent them to the Sri Lankan Medical Research Institute of the Ministry of Health in Colombo. After noticing curious features inside these stones, officials forwarded the samples to a team of astrobiologists at Cardiff University in the UK for further analysis.

The results of these tests, which the Cardiff team reveal today, are extraordinary. They say the stones contain fossilised biological structures fused into the rock matrix and that their tests clearly rule out the possibility of terrestrial contamination.

In total, Jamie Wallis at Cardiff University and a few buddies received 628 stone fragments collected from rice fields in the region. However, they were able to clearly identify only three as possible meteorites.

The general properties of these three stones immediately mark them out as unusual. One stone, for example, had a density of less than 1 gram per cubic centimetre, less than all known carbonaceous meteorites. It had a partially fused crust, good evidence of atmospheric heating, a carbon content of up to 4 per cent and contained an abundance of organic compounds with a high molecular weight, which is not unknown in meteorites. On this evidence, Wallis and co think the fireball was probably a small comet.

The most startling claims, however, are based on electron microscope images of structures within the stones (see above). Wallis and co. say that one image shows a complex, thick-walled, carbon-rich microfossil about 100 micrometres across that bares similarities with a group of largely extinct marine dinoflagellate algae.

They say another image shows well-preserved flagella that are 2 micrometres in diameter and 100 micrometres long. By terrestrial standards, that’s extremely long and thin, which Wallis and co. interpret as evidence of formation in a low-gravity, low-pressure environment.

Wallis and co. also measured the abundance of various elements in the samples to determine their origin. They say that low levels of nitrogen in particular rule out the possibility of contamination by modern organisms which would have a much higher nitrogen content. The fact that these samples are also buried within the rock matrix is further evidence, they say.

Wallis and co. are convinced that the lines of evidence they have gathered are powerful and persuasive. “This provides clear and convincing evidence that these obviously ancient remains of extinct marine algae found embedded in the Polonnaruwa meteorite are indigenous to the stones and not the result of post-arrival microbial contaminants,” they conclude.

There’s no question that a claim of this kind is likely to generate controversy. Critics have already pointed out that the stones could have been formed by lightning strikes on Earth although Wallis and co. counter by saying there was no evidence of lightning at the time of the fireball and that in any case, the stones do not bear the usual characteristics of this kind of strike. What’s more, the temperatures generated by lightning would have destroyed any biological content.

Nevertheless, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Wallis and co. will need to make their samples and evidence available to the scientific community for further study before the claims will be taken seriously.

If the paper is taken at face value, one obvious question that arises is where these samples came from. Wallis and c.o have their own ideas: “The presence of fossilized biological structures provides compelling evidence in support of the theory of cometary panspermia first proposed over thirty years ago,” they say.

This is an idea put forward by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe, the latter being a member of the team who has carried out this analysis.

There are other explanations, of course. One is that the fireball was of terrestrial origin, a remnant of one of the many asteroid impacts in Earth’s history that that have ejected billions of tonnes of rock and water into space, presumably with biological material inside. Another is that the structures are not biological and have a different explanation.

Either way, considerably more work will have to be done before the claims from this team can be broadly accepted. Exciting times ahead!

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1303.1845: The Polonnaruwa Meteorite: Oxygen isotope, Crystalline and Biological Composition
Source: technologyreview.com