terça-feira, 22 de dezembro de 2015

Russian meteorite expedition reaches Antarctica

The Antarctic meteorite expedition is the first scientific project in modern Russia on collecting meteorite material on the southernmost continent.

YEKATERINBURG, December 21. /TASS/. The meteorite expedition of the Ural Federal University has arrived to Antarctica, the university’s press service said on Monday.

"We reached the destination - Novolazarevskaya station. We will set the camp at firt, get some rest and then start working," participants of the expedition said.

The team set off from Yekaterinburg on December 14. It reached Cape Town in two days and after spending three days in South Africa flew to Antarctica. "The expedition is scheduled to end in mid-January. The budget is 8-12 million rubles. The money was collected worldwide, partly donated by sponsors and the University. Students helped as well - they collected around 500,000 rubles with the crowdfunding service," Professor Viktor Grokhovsky told TASS.

Head of the field work Ruslan Kolunin said that weather in Antarctica may be the main problem. "It is cold there, and strong winds are blowing. This will complicate works. We hope to bring back as many samples as possible. They will mainly be small, weighing several grams. The heaviest sample will be the 18-kilogram meteorite," Kolunin noted.

The Antarctic meteorite expedition is the first scientific project in modern Russia on collecting meteorite material on the southernmost continent.

Source: http://tass.ru/en/science/845697

quarta-feira, 25 de novembro de 2015

Syrian refugees join meteorite search in eastern Turkey

Syrian refugees join meteorite search in eastern Turkey
MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly
November 23, 2015

(MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Syrian refugees in Turkey have been joining the search for meteorite fragments in the eastern province of Bingol.

In Saricicek a village 5 km (3 miles) east of the provincial capital Bingol showers of extra-terrestrial rocks have fallen on their land since early September.

After hearing rumors that researchers and academics were keen to collect the small meteorites villagers have been gathering them day and night since then.

The area still draws hundreds of locals and foreigners after reports that the meteorites whether for research or collectors cost between 20 and 60 per gram.

Around 40 families of Syrians living in Diyarbakir Sanliurfa and Kilis provinces arrived in the area nearly a week ago in hopes of finding meteorites that have fallen from the skies.

Several Syrians most living in makeshift tents entertain the dream of making money from the stones which they described as a "gift from God".

Abbas Mosa Hemo from the Syrian Raqqa province told Anadolu Agency on Sunday that he came with his family to search for the meteorites.

"We have come to seek the stone God has sent as a gift" said Hemo adding they had been able to find two meteorites despite all their efforts.

Another Syrian Shaban Hemo who fled the Syrian city of Aleppo and now lives in a two-room home in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir said he had not found a single meteorite despite a three-day search.

"It is said 'this stone [meteorite] is very precious worth money go and search them'. If I find any I will build a house with that money when we return to Syria" Shaban Hemo said.

Muslum Sefer another refugee from the Syrian town of Kobani that was thescene of fierce clashes between Daesh and Kurdish fighters said he came to Bingol four days ago to find a meteorite.

"I came here with three four friends of mine. One friend and I found one meteorite each; they offered 300 for them but we declined as we learnt that higher prices are offered in Istanbul" Sefer said.

Sefer said he planned to buy a home with the income from the stones they found.

Ali Halil Hemo said his house in Syria had been decimated in clashes and he also wanted to build a new one if he made money with the meteorites.

"We as family came to the village after learning that a precious stone fell in Bingol; it is holy and precious as it came from the sky and everyone is striving to find this stone" Halil Hemo added.

Ozan Unsalan an associate professor at Istanbul University's science faculty has created a website to gather information about the meteorites.

On Nov. 16 he told the shards found around Saricicek were part of 4Vesta one of the largest asteroids in the solar system and were considered precious among the scientific community.

Last week Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek took to Twitter to ask Turkish users whether they thought the meteorites sold in Saricicek were taxable. More than 28000 twitter users replied to the minister's questions. The majority said the income should not be taxed.

By Servet Gunerigok

Source: menafn.com

terça-feira, 24 de novembro de 2015

Turkey says locals will not be taxed for meteorite sales

A resident shows a piece of a meteorite that fell onto the ground in Sarıçiçek village of Bingöl. (Photo: DHA)

Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek said on Friday that locals from the eastern province of Bingöl will not have to pay a tax on the sales of pieces of a meteorite that fell to the ground near a village there; however, outsiders who come to the area for commercial purposes to pick up and sell the meteorite will be taxed.

Şimşek made the announcement on his Twitter account after holding a poll on the site asking his followers whether they thought the sale of meteorite fragments should be taxed. More than 30,700 people answered Şimşek's question as of Friday afternoon, 72 percent of whom opposed the imposition of a tax.

Debates on whether the sale of the fragments should be taxed or not were fueled by reports that the residents of the village of Sarıçiçek had sold pieces of meteorite for more than TL 1 million in total after a meteor crashed in the area in September.

On Friday, Şimşek wrote, “The sale of meteorite [fragments] by Bingöl locals will not be taxed; however, people who come to the area from other cities for commercial purposes will be subject to the tax.”

The minister said he consulted the Revenues Administration (GİB) of the Ministry of Finance before making his decision.

Şimşek's poll on Twitter drew criticism from Twitter users, some of them saying, “Will you tax the stone sent by God?”

Sarıçiçek, with a population of 3,200, who mostly subsist on farming and sending workers to larger cities for seasonal labor, has seen an influx of wealth after being showered with the valuable stones.

Source: todayszaman.com

domingo, 25 de outubro de 2015

The 1,300ft-wide asteroid to hurtle close to Earth on Halloween

TB145, a medium-sized chunk of rock and ice could that cause ‘continental-scale devastation’, will fly by at a distance slightly farther away than the moon

A large asteroid discovered only weeks ago will tear past the Earth on Halloween,Nasa has announced, estimating that it will come closer than any object of its size in the next 20 years.

The asteroid, nicknamed “the Great Pumpkin” and “Spooky” but technically known as TB145, is an estimated 1,300ft (400 meters) wide – 20 times bigger than the meteorite that screamed across the Russian sky and exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013, shattering windows with shock waves and debris thatinjured more than a thousand people.

The Chelyabinsk object entered the atmosphere at about 12 miles (19km) per second. TB145 will fly past at around 22 miles per second (78,300mph), about 300,000 miles (483,000km) from Earth, slightly farther than the moon.

Scientists at Nasa’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies discovered TB145 on 10 October and announced it to the public this week. The asteroid will make its closest approach on 31 October at about 1.05pm ET (5.05pm GMT). Nasa estimates that no similar object will make a comparable approach until 2027.

TB145 has an unusually oblong orbit, in an area searched less often than the flat-disc plane on which the solar system is arranged. TB145 slices through that plane at a 40-degree angle. Now it’s been spotted, the center’s Paul Chodas said its trajectory was “well understood”.

TB145 last passed by in 1975, when the Earth was at a different place in its orbit around the sun and Nasa’s surveys of the sky were far less comprehensive.

Lance Benner, of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement: “Such a unique orbit, along with its high encounter velocity, raises the question of whether it may be some type of comet.”

Although TB145 will hurtle by “relatively close by celestial standards”, Chodas said in the statement “it is expected to be fairly faint, so night-sky Earth observers would need at least a small telescope to view it”.

Would-be skywatchers can turn to the internet for live telescope views provided by the Virtual Telescope Project.

The asteroid is far too small to exert any kind of gravitational pull on Earth’s plates or tides, Nasa said, with Benner adding that the agency would use radar imaging to examine the object in greater detail. The radar should reveal not only the surface of the object, but also whether it has a companion moon which could in turn provide clues to the object’s mass and density.

Had the asteroid been on a collision course with Earth, three-weeks’ notice “would have been too late to do anything about it”, Chodas told Popular Science.

“An asteroid of this size is really difficult to deflect with only 20 days’ warning,” he said.

Astronomers estimate that they have identified more than 90% of the largest “near-earth objects”, numbering more than 10,000 so far. TB145 ranks among the medium-sized objects, and was discovered by the Pan-STARRS telescope at the University of Hawaii.

A medium-sized chunk of rock and ice like TB145 could cause a catastrophe on Earth – “continental-scale devastation”, in Chodas’ words – if not quite a global disaster on the scale of the six-mile-wide asteroid that is blamed for the death of the dinosaurs. Medium-sized asteroids hit the earth once every 100,000 years, according to Nasa’s estimates.

Close calls are much more common. In January, an asteroid named BL86 slipped by at a similar distance as TB145.

Scientists are developing deflection (and destruction) plans for asteroids should they learn of an impending collision. Knocking the asteroid off course with spacecraft or nuclear weapons is one proposal, as is attempting to destroy the object.

Asteroid defense has several prominent advocates, including Britain’s royal astronomer. In the US, retired astronauts Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart have created a foundationexpressly to identify threats and plan for them.

For now, Nasa has simply assured the public that the skies are clear of danger, including from TB145.

“There are no known credible impact threats to date,” a statement said. “Only the ongoing and harmless in-fall of meteoroids, tiny asteroids that burn up in the atmosphere.”

Source: theguardian

sábado, 19 de setembro de 2015

New director appointed to Vatican Observatory

Pope Francis on Friday named Brother Guy Joseph Consolmagno, SJ as the new director of the Vatican Observatory. Jesuit Br Consolmagno is the current President of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, as well as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world.

His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

Br Guy Consolmagno SJ was born in 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in 1974 and Master of Science in 1975 in Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his PhD in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1978. From 1978-80 he was a postdoctoral fellow and lecturer at the Harvard College Observatory, and from 1980-1983 continued as postdoc and lecturer at MIT.

In 1983 he left MIT to join the US Peace Corps, where he served for two years in Kenya teaching physics and astronomy. Upon his return to the US in 1985 he became an assistant professor of physics at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he taught until his entry into the Jesuit order in 1989. He took vows as a Jesuit brother in 1991, and studied philosophy and theology at Loyola University Chicago, and physics at the University of Chicago before his assignment to the Vatican Observatory in 1993.

In spring 2000 he held the MacLean Chair for Visiting Jesuit Scholars at St Joseph's University, Philadelphia, and in 2006-2007 held the Loyola Chair at Fordham University, New York. He has also been a visiting scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center and a visiting professor at Loyola College, Baltimore, and Loyola University, Chicago.

Br. Consolmagno has served on the governing boards of the Meteoritical Society; the International Astronomical Union's (IAU) Division III, Planetary Systems Science (secretary, 2000 - present) and Commission 16, Moons and Planets (president, 2003-2006); and the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (chair, 2006-2007).

He has coauthored five astronomy books: "Turn Left at Orion" (with Dan M. Davis; Cambridge University Press, 1989); "Worlds Apart" (with Martha W. Schaefer; Prentice Hall, 1993); "The Way to the Dwelling of Light" (U of Notre Dame Press, 1998); "Brother Astronomer" (McGraw Hill, 2000); and "God's Mechanics" (Jossey-Bass, 2007). He also edited "The Heavens Proclaim" (Vatican Observatory Publications, 2009).

Br Consolmagno is curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids, and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. In 1996, he spent six weeks collecting meteorites with an NSF-sponsored team on the blue ice of Antarctica, and in 2000 he was honored by the IAU for his contributions to the study of meteorites and asteroids with the naming of asteroid 4597 Consolmagno.

Source: indcatholicnews.com

terça-feira, 15 de setembro de 2015

A Couple Built a Meteorite Museum in the Middle of the ATACAMA Desert

This Couple Built a Meteorite Museum in the Middle of the Desert—And It's Awesome

Walk to the edge of town and then keep walking. There you’ll find a humble museum with a lot of heart. (Photos: Jo Piazza)

What’s a guy to do with millions of dollars worth of meteorites stored in a bunker deep below the desert?

Open a meteorite museum of course. And so that is exactly what Rodrigo Martinez after more than thirty years of collecting space junk from the Atacama desert in Northern Chile.

Martinez, a marine biologist by trade, discovered his first meteorite in the nearby Imilac crater in 1983 and he has been hooked on the hunt ever since. The Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, makes meteorite spotting easier than in most locations on the planet, due to both the climate and the fine red-and-brown sand which makes black space rocks particularly easy to see.

As he acquired a collection of meteorites, Martinez became something of an obsessive about the hobby and developed his own laboratory to analyze and classify the rocks as actual meteorites and not just black rocks misplaced in a sea of red.

Many of the meteorites are out in the open for visitors to handle.

Two years ago, Martinez constructed the Museo del Meteorito, a geodesic dome built on family land on the outskirts of downtown San Pedro de Atacama, about a 5-minute walk from the main drag of Caracoles. Signs for the museum are papered all over town and certain street corners are equipped with handmade rustic arrows pointing the visitor away from the adobe buildings and into the desert.

Follow them and you will arrive at the museo.

Martinez built everything himself, from the dome to the intricately detailed exhibits, many of which are more thorough than a meteorite exhibit you might find in a much fancier museum in a much fancier city.

“It was always a dream of mine to have a museum,” Martinez told me. “If we had more money, we would do a much bigger museum.”

It’s true, the museum is modest — really just a single room — but the exhibits are wildly informative and thorough.

Lest you think Martinez is something of a crackpot, let me tell you that there is actually some high-quality science happening here. Martinez promises all his meteorites are certified by NASA, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the French Centre Européen de Recherche et d’Enseignement des Géosciences de l’Environnement.

Today, Martinez claims to have more than $29 million in meteorites ready to be displayed, all of them from this region in Chile. Unlike most museums in the Northern hemisphere, visitors here can touch and handle the rocks.

Some of the larger pieces of rock weigh more than 30 kilograms. Martinez attaches magnets to them to show the composition of the metals.

There are guided tours in both Spanish and English and Martinez is often present to answer questions. He can tell you which rocks came from the mantle of a broken-down planet and which from the crust. He can even tell you about what happened when they hit the Earth, and give you an approximate estimation of when they arrived here.

The Atacama is littered with amateur astronomers ready and willing to show you some spectacular stars, but Martinez wants you to know that what he does is not astronomy.

The meteorites are grouped according to where they have been found and Martinez can decipher whether they came from a single planet.

“It is planetary geology,” he insists with a shy smile.

Intrepid space-junk seekers with some cash to spare can hire Martinez to take them out on a mission. He would be the first to tell you that you could go out into the desert on your own with a magnet and start a hunt for meteorites yourself, but there’s some comfort in bringing an expert along for the ride. The price is steep, just over $700 for one person, but it does include keeping any meteorites you may find. Martinez will cut the rocks with his specialized machinery and begin a preliminary study of its layers.

He tests the rock for nickel and ionizes the cut to look for conclusive evidence that you have discovered a meteorite. Martinez will then send it off to the proper authorities to be authenticated. That is a little harder for an amateur to do with just a map and a magnet.

Martinez and his wife run the museum together.

Source: www.yahoo.com

sexta-feira, 7 de agosto de 2015

There’s a Fine Line Between Gift-Shop Rocks and Meteorites

METEORITE HUNTERS SEARCH FOR treasures from space, pushing aside the terrestrial in a quest for the alien.Alexandra Lethbridge sees their work as a metaphor for how people are too often chasing the exotic at the expense of the familiar. “We crave to see and experience things that are strange and different to us, but quite often, we’re overlooking the true nature of the things that surround us,” she says.

The British photographer believes Earth can inspire just as much wonder as anything else in the galaxy. To prove it, she created The Meteorite Hunter. The photo book documents the work of a fictional meteorite prospector and the stunning otherworldly locales her objects come from.Click to Open Overlay GalleryThe .

But here’s the twist. The pictures depict the wonders of earth andspace, but you don’t know what’s what. The rock you’re scrutinizing might be a chunk of NWA Chondrite L5 meteorite discovered in the Sahara or a bit of azurite purchased in a gift shop. Likewise, that spectacular photo of a crater might have been taken by Buzz Aldrin as he walked on the moon, or by an Arizona tourist just feet from his car. Telling the difference between the two can be frustratingly difficult. “The whole project revolves around the uncertainty of the reality of what you’re looking at,” she says.

Lethbridge spent months weaving fact and fiction to create the collection. She purchased a bit of meteorite–or what she was told was a bit of a meteorite—on eBay and humbler rocks like pyrite and labradorite in museum gift shops. She also rummaged through photographic archives at NASA and elsewhere, and combed through antique stores and yard sales for images she could easily manipulate. Some of her images are collages of multiple photos, while others have been augmented with paint to further blur the line between what’s real. “I was trying to create a landscape that was representing something that we haven’t experienced,” she says.

The Meteorite Hunter elicits surprise and awe, leading you to reconsider how you view Earth and see it as a wonderful, amazing place. Lethbridge likens the feeling to the overview effect, the sudden appreciation many astronauts report feeling after seeing our planet from space. “It’s at that moment,” Lethbridge says, “that we break out of our normal perspective and can then experience something extraordinary in the ordinary.”

Source: wired.com

sexta-feira, 31 de julho de 2015

Anthropology professor gives Kansas BC presentation on meteorites

Wichita State University anthropology professor Donald Blakeslee gave a presentation at Boot Hill Museum on Wednesday regarding a pre-history of Kansas.

The presentation focused on how Kansas came about around the 1590s when explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was documented to have arrived.

Then in 1601, Juan de Onate, founder of New Mexico was documented to have found one of the first civilizations already inhabiting Kansas.

"When Onate sent out explorers to document the areas of a found civilization," Blakeslee said. "They had to make maps in order to navigate the locations.

"A man that had been captured by Onate was from the Kansas area at the time who drew the map to allow Onate to reach the location.

"An eyewitness of the account from 1601 shows that a map was drawn after Onate arrived that showed houses among cornfields spread out over a distance, as well as a village and a crossing of a big river into the town.

"That map was later recognized to be the location of what is now Arkansas City."

The other part of Blakeslee’s presentation was how Native Americans used found meteorites to make tools and headdresses.

"Pawnees in 1808 were found to have made materials from meteorites as well as made shrines around them," Blakeslee said. "There is even a rock with carvings depicting falling stars near the location of the palasite meteorite impact site that is now in Greensburg.

"Most of the meteorite shrines across North America seem to sit on top of a hill and show no signs of actual impact at those sites.

"It is therefore perceived that the meteorites were moved to those locations.

"Therefore, the fact that these meteorite tools and shrines were found in the 1600s it can be said that continuous intellectual traditions occurred throughout North American history despite what some historians believe were not the case.

"One historian is even quoted as saying, ‘the only three great civilizations that developed historical continuous intellectual traditions were India, China and Europe.’"

Source: dodgeglobe.com

quinta-feira, 2 de julho de 2015

'Mountain-sized asteroid' that could wipe out Earth heading OUR way

NASA is monitoring the "close Earth" pass of the mountain-sized space rock - which measures 1.5-miles across - that will hurtle past the planet at 45,450mph, or 70 times the speed of a jumbo jet, on July 25.

The "cosmic close shave" comes as scientists and astronomers tomorrow join forces to demand more global action to develop systems on Earth that could destroy or divert a large asteroid, in the event one could take a direct collision course with the planet.

The asteroid due to approach Earth at the end of July, named 1999 JD6, is 15 times the size of anything else on the radar and dwarfs the three recent large passes that had some astronomers spooked.

These included the 1km-wide Icarus which passed five million miles away this month, the 1mile-wide 1999 FN53 in May and the 1km-wide 2014-YB35 in March.

Today is the first ever World Asteroid Day, backed by Queen legend Brian May and TV astronomer Professor Brian Cox, and will see events take place all over the globe including at the Science Museum in London.

Although 1999 JD6 is expected to pass Earth safely at a distance of around four million miles, it is feared a rock of a similar size will one day be on a direct path with our planet, meaning action would have to be taken to prevent the devastation that would follow.

If such a large asteroid hit us or broke up in the Earth's atmosphere, it would be like hundreds of nuclear bombs exploding and send tsunamis rippling across oceans.

Asteroid 1999 JD6 is also coming in much closer this time than the 12.4million miles it passed by Earth on its last encounter five years ago in July 2010.

In May, when 1999 FN53 passed at 6.6million miles, worried astronomers warned it was an eighth of the size of Mount Everest and a collision would be nothing short of catastrophic triggering mass destruction, earthquakes and global extinction.

Bill Napier, professor of astronomy at the University of Buckinghamshire, said: “People are concerned about an impact from a very large asteroid, and the impact of something of this scale would be nothing short of global.

“It would undoubtedly lead to the deaths of around 1.5 billion people, we are looking at a mass extinction of humanity.

“To understand the impact of something on this scale, you would have to look to the science fiction writers, it is incomprehensible.”

But organisers of World Asteroid Day are just as, if not more, concerned about smaller asteroids of up to 150 metres in length striking the planet.

Alarmingly, a 70metre-long asteroid called 2015HM10 - the size of a jumbo jet - will skim Earth just a week after World Asteroid Day on July 7.

NASA is monitoring the path of this rock, which will shoot past at 18,600mph and just 275,000 miles away - only just a little more than the distance from Earth to the Moon (239,000 miles).

And 12 days later on July 19 a "bridge-sixed" 500metre-long asteroid will pass Earth at 1.5million miles.

World Asteroid Day takes place on the anniversary of the 1908 Tunguska asteroid strike, the most recent major collision in world history.

It saw a 50-metre lump of extraterrestrial rock explode above Siberia, sending meteorites hurtling down.

Flattening around 80million trees and sending a shock wave across Russia, measuring five on the Richter scale, it would have been catastrophic had it taken place over a major city.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, expert in asteroids and comets at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast, told Express.co.uk: "Although astronomers have spotted almost all the big asteroids that come near our planet, the upcoming close approach of 2015HM10 on July 7 just beyond the Moon is a sign that we've still got much more work to do.

"This is not an unusual event and there are millions of asteroids this big to find. If one this size hits us in the decades or centuries to come it would be similar or larger than the Tunguska impact in 1908."

These smaller asteroids are known to travel much nearer to Earth and could even strike out of the blue - like the 20-metre long meteor that unexpectedly exploded above Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013, injuring 1,500 people and damaging around 7,000 buildings.

NASA admits it has no idea where 98 per cent of smaller asteroids and large meteorites are heading at any time.

Professor Cox is certain there is already an asteroid with Earth's name on it, so action needs to happen now.

However, he believes warnings are not being taken seriously enough, and that is why he is backing the global campaign.

Ahead of World Asteroid Day, he spoke of a near miss "the size of a bus" last year, adding: "There is an asteroid with our name on it and it will hit us."

He continued: "We didn't see it coming. We saw it on the way out, but if it had just been a bit further over it would have probably wiped us out."

That asteroid flew by at a staggering 38,000 miles from Earth - only a sixth of the way to the Moon.

Former astronaut Ed Lu says the asteroid threat is so real he described it as a "cosmic roulette" and "blind luck" is our saviour so far from a serious impact.

NASA largely in agreement with the campaigners.

It has recently scoffed at conspiracy theorist predictions that a huge asteroid will destroy the Earth in late September.

But, NASA scientist Jason Kessler, who runs the 'near Earth" asteroid programme that monitors around 1,400 space rocks within six million miles of us, said: "The likelihood of something hitting us in the future is pretty guaranteed, although we're not freaking out that there is an imminent threat."

NASA believes an asteroid won't happen for a few hundred years, giving humans time to develop systems to deal with the threat.

And Express.co.uk reported earlier this month, that may include firing nuclear weapons to either blast them before impact or send them off course to avoid a strike.

Source: express.co.uk

terça-feira, 16 de junho de 2015

Scientists find methane in Mars meteorites

An international team of researchers has discovered traces of methane in Martian meteorites, a possible clue in the search for life on the Red Planet.

The researchers examined samples from six meteorites of volcanic rock that originated on Mars. The meteorites contain gases in the same proportion and with the same isotopic composition as the Martian atmosphere. All six samples also contained methane, which was measured by crushing the rocks and running the emerging gas through a mass spectrometer. The team also examined two non-Martian meteorites, which contained lesser amounts of methane.

The discovery hints at the possibility that methane could be used as a food source by rudimentary forms of life beneath the Martian surface. On Earth, microbes do this in a range of environments.

"Other researchers will be keen to replicate these findings using alternative measurement tools and techniques," said co-author Sean McMahon, a Yale University postdoctoral associate in the Department of Geology and Geophysics. "Our findings will likely be used by astrobiologists in models and experiments aimed at understanding whether life could survive below the surface of Mars today."

The discovery was part of a joint research project led by the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, the University of Glasgow, Brock University in Ontario, and the University of Western Ontario.

"One of the most exciting developments in the exploration of Mars has been the suggestion of methane in the Martian atmosphere," said University of Aberdeen professor John Parnell, who directed the research. "Recent and forthcoming missions by NASA and the European Space Agency, respectively, are looking at this, however, it is so far unclear where the methane comes from, and even whether it is really there. However, our research provides a strong indication that rocks on Mars contain a large reservoir of methane."

Co-author Nigel Blamey, of Brock University, said the team plans to expand its research by analyzing additional meteorites.

Yale's McMahon noted that the team's approach may prove helpful in future Mars rover experiments. "Even if Martian methane does not directly feed microbes, it may signal the presence of a warm, wet, chemically reactive environment where life could thrive," McMahon said.
Source: http://phys.org/

quarta-feira, 10 de junho de 2015

Thieves Steal Massive Meteorite Worth $12,000 From Australian Museum

Crystal Caves museum owner believes the theft of 12kg Wolf Creek specimen was more about pursuing an object of desire than its monetary value.

A rare meteorite the size of a soccer ball has been stolen from a Queenslandmuseum whose owner suspects the work of an unscrupulous collector.

The 11.25kg space rock, worth more than $16,000, was stolen from the Crystal Caves museum in Atherton, north Queensland, early on Monday.

The museum’s owner, Ghislanie Gallo, said she believed the theft – which police suspected was carried out by two men in hooded jumpers with white masks – was less about the meteorite’s value than it being an object of desire among a narrow group of enthusiasts.

The meteorite was only recently donated to the museum, which is permitted to display it but not sell it.

The rare specimen was discovered in Wolf Creek in Western Australia in 1973, the year before the area was declared a national park and all meteorites subsequently found deemed property of the crown.

Gallo said she understood it was illegal to take Australian meteorites out of the country. Media attention generated by the theft also meant “it’s going to be pretty hard to shift”.

“There’s a big part of me that’s hoping whoever did is freaking out right now and is going to dump it at my back gate. That would be the ideal outcome,” she said.

CCTV footage of the suspected thieves obtained by police has fuelled Gallo’s suspicion that “whoever broke in was doing it for somebody else”.

“Somebody who really wanted it found a couple of hoodlums and said, ‘I’ll give you a couple of grand to break into Crystal Caves and steal this thing’,” she said. “They probably had no idea what it was and what it was worth to a collector.

“People that are into this stuff – it’s from outer space and people have all these metaphysical ideas about properties of things from outer space.

“Who knows, maybe it was a nutter with enough cash to pay somebody to go and steal it from them?”

Gallo said she had been approached by a collector at her Cairns shop several months ago wanting to buy a smaller Wolf Creek meteorite she had.

“I said, I’m not selling it to you, it’s not for sale,” she said.

“Then we got this much bigger meteorite donated to us and we did get a bit of TV publicity from that. You start thinking about people like that and you go, maybe it’s a case of ‘you won’t sell me one, I’ll just help myself’. I don’t know.”

Atherton police senior sergeant Richard Trotter said he understood the value of the meteorite was not widely known in the town before the robbery.

“Would you know what a meteorite is worth? Because I certainly didn’t,” Trotter said.

“It’s an unusual thing for somebody to go to that much trouble to steal. And it would stand out certainly if somebody put it up on eBay, wouldn’t it? I can’t imagine it being that easy to move on for any sort of profit. It’s a very strange thing to see, to be honest.”

Trotter said no information from the public had yet been forthcoming. He renewed an appeal to hear from anyone “who might know the faces on the camera or have heard something or seen something or been offered a piece of the meteorite”.

Astronomy expert David Reneke, from Australasian Science magazine, told the ABC the meteorite could be broken up into smaller pieces and sold on the black market.

“These things are valuable for a lot of reasons, not only because of the mineralogy but because of what they represent,” he said.

“These bits of rock are usually between 4.5bn and 5bn years old. They come from a place between Mars and Jupiter and if you ever wanted a pristine part of a planet like Earth, this is where you go.”

Gallo said she believed there was “no way” a thief who had any appreciation of meteorites would break it up for sale.

“I don’t think it’s about the value. I think a collector wanted it,” she said.

“Why would you bust up a perfect specimen into little pieces? That would break my heart if that happened. That’s like breaking up the Mona Lisa and selling it in bits.”

Source: theguardian.com

quarta-feira, 29 de abril de 2015

Attention treasure-hunters! €10k pieces of meteorite fall in Ireland

An Irish person could be in for a cash windfall after pieces of meteorite worth up to €10,000 each fell from the skies at the weekend.

Hundreds of people witnessed a fireball streaking across the Irish skies at approximately 10.10pm on Sunday evening.

According to David Moore, editor of the Astronomy Ireland magazine, each piece of meteorite could fetch up to ten times the price of gold in the collectors' market.

At the current price of gold, this means that a piece of meteorite rock weighing approximately 28 grams could make the lucky person a cool €10,000.

It is believed that two meteorites land in Ireland every year, but they are rarely visible to the naked eye.

Astronomy Ireland have received hundreds of reports of the sighting, with coast guards in the south-west of the country getting mistaken reports of 'flares being released'.

Experts believe this meteorite, seen streaking from Kerry towards Donegal, could have been as large as a car while still whole.

"There is a chance some parts of this meteorite survive, and we think it may have fallen somewhere in the north of the country," Astronomy Ireland's David Moore told RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland as he appealed for people to share their stories of the sighting.

"We'd ask people to get in contact with us while it's still fresh in their mind. Check your CCTV cameras if you have them, a photographic report would be worth hundreds of eye witness reports," he said.

"The price of meteorites and what they're worth would come from the collectors and what they're prepared to pay," he continued.

"It is a big trade and Irish meteorites are very rare. It's a small island, this doesn't happen very often."

David recalled the last time a meteorite was recovered in Ireland in Loughlinbridge in Co Carlow in 1999.

"Pieces were found in north Co Carlow, the collector who bought some of them wanted to stay anonymous, but they were being bought for ten times the price of gold," Mr Moore said.

"However, we're not interested in the commercial value, we're interested in the fact that these are scientific specimens."

If people do go hunting in their local fields for the pieces of precious rock, Mr Moore advised them to look closely.

"The rocks might like they are nothing special," he said.

"The earth is effectively built up of billions of meteorites, but because they've been through the re-entry they'll be melted with a dark fusion crust.

"If they've been cracked open, they look like crystallised structures, some parts look like metal, other parts may look like coal. It would be like a burnt-looking rock looking out of place on the ground."

Mr Moore said Astronomy Ireland are seeking for people to fill out the report form on Astronomy.ie (click here).

Source: independent.ie/irish-news

segunda-feira, 27 de abril de 2015

Building blocks of the run-up to life recreated in space-like conditions

Researchers have reproduced a wide array of building blocks for life in a prebiotic scenario involving meteorites and the solar wind.

They began with formamide, a simple organic compound that's ubiquitous in the universe. Formamide has been detected in galactic centers, star-forming regions, interstellar space, as well as comets and satellites.
They then added meteorite powder as a catalyst, and irradiated the solution with high-energy proton beams to simulate the solar wind. They obtained a rich blend of complex biological molecules including amino acids, carboxylic acids, sugars, and nucleobases (the basic building blocks for DNA and RNA).
Among the products were also the nucleosides cytidine, uridine, adenosine, and thymidine, which are more advanced building blocks consisting of a nucleobase linked to a sugar molecule. Nucleosides are notoriously difficult to recreate under prebiotic conditions.
"We were very surprised to see those," says Raffaele Saladino of Tuscia University, Italy.
The ingredients for life have previously been recreated under a variety of possible terrestrial scenarios involving lightning, ultraviolet radiation,
hydrothermal vents, or meteorite impacts. The new findings expand the range of possibilities to prebiotic environments beyond the early Earth, including to the small, wandering bodies of our solar system.
The results were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team had previously synthesized some of the building blocks (but no nucleosides) by subjecting formamide to very high temperatures, simulating conditions near volcanoes or upon meteorite impact on the early Earth.
By instead irradiating formamide with high-energy protons, they obtained a higher yield of amino acids and nucleobases, as well as other relevant biomolecules including the nucleosides.
"Proton chemistry goes one step farther than heat chemistry," says study co-author Ernesto Di Mauro of the University of Rome La Sapienza."Proton radiation turns out to be amazingly efficient."
He adds: "Carbon chemistry works the same anywhere in the universe, and every star produces solar wind. This tells us that life could well be universal."
Interestingly, the scenario produced a high quantity of precursors for both metabolic and genetic pathways (the carboxylic acids and nucleobases respectively.) An ongoing debate with the origin of life is whether metabolism or genetics emerged first. Here, the findings suggest that both processes could have emerged simultaneously.

Other findings have also suggested that meteorites may have seeded the ingredient for life on the early Earth, notably during the late heavy bombardment, a period when the inner planets were pummeled by frequent impacts about 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago. In particular, some simple amino acids, sugars, and nucleobases have been found inside meteorites, albeit in very small proportions.
Here, the researchers wanted to go beyond the idea of meteorites as mere carriers of organic molecules.
They tested the catalytic properties of eleven meteorites belonging to the four major classes—iron, stony iron, chondrites, and achondrites—but first treated the rock powder to remove any trace of organics.
They found that the minerals within the meteorites were necessary to catalyze the synthesis of the molecules, with the stony iron, chondrite, and achondrite meteorites more active than the iron meteorites as a general trend. They also tested individual minerals present in the meteorites and found that the full powder was needed for full catalytic effect.
"Meteorites are not merely shuttles for organics, as suggests the common point of view," Saladino says. "They are also reactors that can synthesize biomolecules during their lives."

The findings come with an important caveat. "I'm extremely enthusiastic about this piece of work because they obtained much more than the nucleobases," says Steven Benner, an origin-of-life chemist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution at the Westheimer Institute in Gainesville, Fla.
"They combined formamide and rock chemistry and got so many building blocks—that's what makes this paper important." "But the catch is that the total mass of meteorite that's coming in after the Moon-forming event is negligible," he adds.
"You can't rely on the Late Heavy Bombardment to bring you much in terms of organics. Besides, that amount of carbon is negligible compared to what's here on Earth already."
Indeed, formamide, the starting molecule in their experiment, is readily made from hydrogen cyanide and water — two compounds that were abundant on the early Earth. "My view is that we have to solve the problem with what's here on Earth before we go looking at meteorites," Benner said, "just because of the amount of material that's coming in."

NASA's Astrobiology Magazine at astrobio.net

Fonte: bangaloremirror.com

quinta-feira, 9 de abril de 2015

NASA: We’ll find alien life in 10 to 20 years

Are we alone in the universe? Top NASA scientists say the answer is almost certainly “no.”

“I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years,” Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said at a public panel Tuesday in Washington.

“We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology,” she said.

Jeffery Newmark, interim director of heliophysics at the agency put it this way: “It’s definitely not an if, it’s a when.”

However, if visions of alien invasions are dancing in your head, you can let those go.

“We are not talking about little green men,” Stofan said. “We are talking about little microbes.”

Over the course of an hourlong presentation, NASA leaders described a flurry of recent discoveries that suggest we are closer than ever to figuring out where we might find life in the solar system and beyond.

For example, Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA, cited a study that analyzed the atmosphere above Mars’ polar ice caps and suggests that 50 percent of the planet’s northern hemisphere once had oceans up to a mile deep, and that it had that water for a long period of time — up to 1.2 billion years.

“We think that long period of time is necessary for life to get more complex,” Stofan said.

She added that getting human field geologists and astrobiologists on Mars would greatly improve the chances of finding fossils of past life on our nearest planetary neighbor.

Green also described another recent study that used measurements of aurora on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede to prove it has a large liquid ocean beneath its icy crust.

The findings suggest that previous ideas about where to find “habitable zones” may have been too limited. (A body considered to in a habitable zone is not too hot or too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface.)

“We now recognize that habitable zones are not just around stars, they can be around giant planets too,” Green said. “We are finding out the solar system is really a soggy place.”

He also talked NASA’s plans for a mission to Europa, another moon of Jupiter with an icy ocean.

“I don’t know what we are going to find there,” he said.

Newmark described how NASA is learning more about the role of Earth’s magnetic field in protecting our planet’s water and atmosphere from being blown away by the solar wind, thereby playing a role in the ability for life to develop.

“Mars does not have a significant magnetic field, so it lets the wind strip away the water and atmosphere,” he said.

Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA, talked about how future telescopes already in the works will help scientists scan the atmospheres of large rocky planets around distant stars for chemical markers of life.

“We are not just studying water and habitability in our solar system, but also looking for it in planets around other stars,” he said.

NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld, said part of what excites him most about the search for life beyond our planet is to see what that life looks like.

“Once we get beyond Mars, which formed from the same stuff as Earth, the likelihood that life is similar to what we find on this planet is very low,” he said.

Grunsfeld said he believes that life beyond Earth will be found by the next generation of scientists and space explorers, but Green said he hopes it is sooner than that.

“The science community is making enormous progress,” he said. “And I’ve told my team I’m planning to be the director of planetary science when we discover life in the solar system."

Source: msn.com/en-us/news/technology/nasa

segunda-feira, 23 de março de 2015

Largest-ever meteorite crater found in Australian outback

Scientists have discovered two deep scars in the earth's crust in outback Australiathat are believed to mark the remains of a meteorite crater with a 250-mile diameter – the largest ever found.

The scars are each more than 120 miles in diameter and are believed to mark the spot where a meteorite split into two, moments before it slammed into earth.

The impact is believed to have occurred more than 300 million years ago.

Scientists discovered a scar from the meteorite five years ago – it was then thought to be from the third largest crater ever found – but now say there are two sets of remains.

Dr Andrew Glikson, from the Australian National University, said the structures could have resulted from a single meteorite which split.

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The crater itself has long since disappeared but samples from the twin scars were discovered deep beneath the ground during drilling as part of geothermal research.

"The two asteroids must each have been over ten kilometres [six miles] across – it would have been curtains for many life species on the planet at the time," he said.

"Large impacts like these may have had a far more significant role in the Earth's evolution than previously thought."

Evidence of the impact zone was found more than 1.2 miles underground in the Warburton Basin, near the borders of the states of South Australia and Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Dr Glikson said the date of the impact was unclear but it probably occurred more than 300 million years ago.

"It's a mystery – we can't find an extinction event that matches these collisions," he said. "I have a suspicion the impact could be older than 300 million years."

The surrounding rocks are 300 to 600 million years old but are not accompanied by a layer of sediment which contains evidence of a mass extinction; such layers are typically found near large meteorite strikes.

The research has been published in the journal Tectonophysics.

"These are deeply buried impact structures," Dr Glikson said.

"When a large impact occurs the crater's contents are blown into the atmosphere, although relics of the crater may in some instances be preserved."

Ten largest craters previously found on Earth

1. Vredefort

South Africa

100 miles diameter

South-West of Johannesburg, the Vredefort Dome was created over 2,000 million years ago when a meteorite struck earth. It is the oldest crater made by either a meteorite or a comet and it is reportedly the site of the largest energy release in the world’s history.

The multiple-ringed Vredefort Crater in South Africa (Nasa)

2. Chicxulub


93 miles

The Chicxulub crater is buried beneath Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was created by an asteroid and its impact is expected to have caused earthquakes, megatsunami, global firestorms and aerosol clouds. Many scientists believe it played a major role in the “KT Extinction Event” which caused dinosaurs to become extinct.

Remnants of the Chicxulub impact crater (Getty)

3. Sudbury


81 miles

Scientists have debated whether the Sudbury crater was caused by a comet or an asteroid. Research published at the tail-end of last year suggests it was a comet – comets are made predominantly of ice, whereas asteroids are made of rock. Created 1.8 million years ago, the crater is now a valuable source of gold, copper, nickel, palladium and other metals.

Sudbury Basin in Canada (Alamy)

4. Popigai


56 miles

The Popigai crater sits in northern Siberia. It was created by an asteroid and the impact was powerful enough to send debris flying into other continents. In the 1970s, the USSR discovered the crater contained trillions of carats of “impact diamonds” - used for industry and science.

The Popigai crater in Russia (www.passc.net)

5. Acraman


56 miles

Nearly 600 million years ago, an asteroid hit what is now South Australia. Over time, the crater has been eroded but Lake Acraman, a dry lake, marks its location.

Lake Acraman, a small, shallow salt lake in the arid Australian outback (Nasa)

6. Manicouagan


53 miles

Quebec’s Lake Manicouagan is a remnant of one of the largest impact craters still preserved on the earth’s surface. Scientists believe it was created by a 5-km-wide asteroid over 200 million years ago. Today, the lake serves as a reservoir and it is an important spot for salmon fishing.

7. Morokweng

South Africa

43 miles

Hidden beneath the Kalahari Desert is the Morokweng crater. It was formed by an asteroid, which is estimated to have been between 5 and 10km wide. In 2006 scientists drilling in the area discovered a beachball-sized fossil meteorite which had survived the collision.

8. Kara


40 miles

The heavily eroded Kara crater has been linked to the nearby Ust-Kara crater. There is dispute whether the two craters were formed separately or if they were formed in a single impact event. If they were considered together, they would form one of the largest craters on earth of 120km.

9. Beaverhead


37 miles

The Beaverhead crater spans central Idaho and western Montana. It is estimated to be 600 million years old. Although the crater has become weathered, there are geological features such as shatter cones and shocked rocks.

10. Tookoonooka


34 miles

Australia has over 30 impact craters discovered so far. Located in Queensland, Tookoonooka was discovered in the 1980s when the area was undergoing petroleum exploration.

Source: telegraph.co.uk

quarta-feira, 11 de março de 2015

Cosmologists spends month searching for meteorites in Anarctica

Every austral summer, a group of volunteers heads off to a remote region of Antarctica to set up a field camp on the ice. For the next month, they search the ice and nearby debris piles left by glaciers for dark rocks that might be extraterrestrial in origin. The program is called the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET).

ANSMET has been led for the past 20 years by geologist Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports field operations, NASA curates the recovered meteorites, and the Smithsonian Institution provides long-term curation facilities for the collection.

Over the years many Washington University in St. Louis geologists, physicists and astrophysicists have volunteered to help. This year it was the turn of Christine Floss, a research professor of physics in Arts & Sciences,

Why do scientists look for meteorites in Antarctica?

Meteorites don't fall more often in Antarctica than in other parts of the world, but in Antarctica those falling on high-altitude ice fields are carried by flowing ice toward the ocean. Some of the ice streams run up against barriers such as the Transantarctic Mountains and are blocked. Wind erosion then slowly brings stones embedded in the ice—sometimes for hundreds of thousands of years—to the surface. It is this concentration mechanism that makes Antarctica a great place to look for meteorites.

It is also true that the dark stones show up well against the blue ice, the heavily compressed glacial ice that looks blue because there are no bubbles in it. But this year we found more meteorites in moraines than we did on the ice, even though they're much harder to find there.

When did the search for meteorites in Antarctica begin?

In the 1970s a Japanese team picked up 10 or 20 meteorites at random, and when they were examined, they turned out to be of many different types—not just many fragments of a few meteorites.

Bill Cassidy, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, realized that this meant some kind of concentration mechanism was at work. He began to write proposals to the NSF asking the foundation to fund systematic searches. It took him three years, but he got funding in the end and the program has now been running for 38 years.

ANSMET is basically a service project. Scientists help find the meteorites but the stones are then shipped to NASA's Johnson Space Center, which makes them available to scientists who want to study them, and, eventually, to the Smithsonian Institution.

How important has the annual hunt been for science?

It has totally revolutionized the way people think about meteorites and what can be learned from them.

For example, the first lunar meteorites were found in Antarctica and that discovery was pivotal in convincing people that, yes, meteorites could be ejected from a large body—not just the little asteroids but also a large planet—and launched on a trajectory that will bring them to Earth.

People had found meteorites elsewhere that they thought were Martian, but the orbital dynamics folks said there's no way you can get a meteorite from Mars to land on Earth. The fact that rocks could make it from the moon to Antarctica meant that the orbital dynamics models needed to be revised.

So what's important is not that we collect lots of meteorites but that we find more of the rare and interesting ones.

What was a day like?

All eight of us had Ski-Doos, and we'd line them up, evenly spaced, on the ice, and sweep an area. If anyone saw something that looked like a meteorite, they stopped, waved, and everyone walked over to document and collect the stone. Then we returned to our Ski-Doos and kept driving.

Other days we'd drive over to a moraine and walk around the moraine looking. We'd plant a flag whenever we found a meteorite and then come back to collect them all.

What were you looking for?

A shiny fusion crust—a thin, glassy coating that forms when a meteoroid entering Earth's atmosphere gets hot enough that its surface melts and refreezes.

I found some meteorites, but nowhere nearly as many as our mountaineer Johnny Schutt, who's been doing this since 1980. He spotted one after another.

Why do you need mountaineers?

To stop us from doing anything stupid like falling in crevasses, but they were also the ones who did all of the organizational work for our month-long camping expedition.

I had very little camping experience before going on this trip; basically two weeks at a KOA. I didn't mention that to Ralph Harvey, the principal investigator, when I applied for the program. I told him when we met in the Dallas airport on the outbound leg.

Apparently he told absolutely everyone else on the team, because they all knew.

I hear you set a collection record.

One member of the team was Ryan Zeigler, who earned his master's and doctorate in geology at Washington University and is now the lunar sample curator at the Johnson Space Center. He wanted to break the record for the number of meteorites collected in one day.

Nobody knew exactly what the record was but we thought it was about 100. One moraine was amazing; you couldn't turn around without finding a meteorite. And Ryan was a man with a mission. We found 172 stones that day.

How many did the team find in all?

We found 562 in total, which may sound like a lot, but an earlier search of the same area had found 900 or so. On the other hand, we had a lot of bad weather days when white-outs or strong winds kept us holed up in our tents.

Would you do it again?

I loved it. It was so beautiful there and I had such a good time.

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

Source: http://phys.org/

segunda-feira, 26 de janeiro de 2015

A “Meteorite Church” In Russia?

Its members say they are worried the sunken meteorite is worsening the Syrian conflict.

Locals in the Russian province hit by a spectacular meteorite shower this February say that the sunken space rock is a message from God that has the power to bring about the apocalypse.

The Chelyabinsk Meteorite Church claims to already have 50 members and is filing for legal recognition, according to local news. For now, worshippers meet by the side of Lake Chebarkul in Chelyabinsk province, where the meteorite landed, to pray that divers abandon an operation to salvage the meteorite that they worry could damage its celestial data.

“A lot of the information is still on the heavenly bearer itself and that needs visionaries to have closer contact with the tablets,” church founder Andrei Breivchenko said. “We can already see the noosphere’s indignation at constant attempts to salvage the meteorite in the super-charged international tension around Syria.”

Breivchenko added that he had already drawn up plans for a church to house the meteorite, which he said would draw millions of pilgrims from around the world to Chelyabinsk — a industrial city in the Ural Mountains near Siberia and a favorite target for Russian jokes about its grimness.

Priests with extrasensory perception have already studied part of the meteorite’s message, Breivchenko said, but cannot access the rest without touching it. What exactly that message is remains unclear and unmentioned in Breivchenko’s two interviews to Russian media. A follower told tabloid website LifeNews that the water from the lake now has the same properties as holy water, but that worshippers are testing it out on house plants before drinking it themselves.

Max Seddon is a foreign correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Kiev. Seddon reports on Ukraine and Russia.Contact Max Seddon at max.seddon@buzzfeed.com

Source: buzzfeed.com

terça-feira, 20 de janeiro de 2015

Earth can contaminate alien meteorites quickly, study shows

A team of scientists has published the results of an investigative survey into the Sutter's Mill meteorite that landed in California in 2012.

The results reveal that the meteorite contained a number of features associated with minerals such as olivines, phyllosilicates, carbonates, and possibly pyroxenes, as well as organics.

However, a key conclusion of the paper, and one that is likely to be of keen interest to astrobiologists, is confirmation that meteorites can become contaminated by Earth-based organics very quickly. That means scientists must be extra vigilant in identifying and assessing the effects of terrestrial organic contamination of meteoritic samples. [Meteorites from Mars in Photos]
Infrared Spectroscopy

The paper, “Mid-infrared Study of Stones from the Sutter's Mill Meteorite,” was published online in the March, 2014 issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. It provides a detailed overview of the mineral composition of the meteorite, which fell in northern California on April 22, 2012.

Several fragments of the meteorite were recovered, four of them shortly after the fall, and others several days later after a heavy rainstorm. The research team used infrared spectroscopy, employing several different analytical devices to obtain spectra from very small samples. The spectra from the samples were then compared those of "standard materials," which refer to previously identified and characterized mineral standards. For example, the spectra of the carbonates in the Sutter's Mill meteorite samples were compared against the spectra of "mineral standards" of the carbonates calcite and dolomite.

"This sort of spectral matching is a way to identify an unknown," says Scott Sandford, a co-author of the paper and a space scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center. "Good spectral matches suggest possible identifications, while bad matches eliminate them. Most of the spectra are dominated by minerals that are consistent with the identification of this meteorite as a carbonaceous chondrite."

Carbonaceous chondrites are counted amongst the most primitive of all known meteorites and comprise about 3 percent of all the meteorites collected on Earth. They are of particular importance to astrobiologists because of the insights they provide into the early history of the Solar System.
Indigenous Organics

The research team hoped that the analysis of the meteorite samples would detect the spectral features of the "indigenous organics" that arrived with the original meteorite, as opposed to organic contaminates that got onto the samples after they landed on the ground. Although the team saw "clear" evidence of contamination on some of the samples, Sandford says there were a few places where it was "possible" that the team detected "organics original to the meteorite," but admits that the matter is "in no way proven by the data."

"[M]uch of the discussion in our paper associated with organics is devoted to addressing the caution that must be applied to searching for organics in this meteorite using spectral techniques, since the presence of organic contamination and abundant carbonate minerals makes spectral searches very difficult," adds Sandford.

For him, this difficulty was caused by a combination of two different factors. To begin with, even though some of the team's samples were collected fairly rapidly, there was evidence that bacterial contamination was present "in at least one of the samples."

Secondly, many of the samples contained abundant carbonate minerals, which made it much more difficult to detect the spectral signatures of certain types of organic materials. [The 5 Strangest Meteorites]

As Sandford explains, this is because carbonate minerals produce a series of characteristic bands in the infrared spectrum, some strong, some weak. Some of these weak bands happen to land right on top of one of the spectral positions where particular types of organic compounds, known as aliphatic hydrocarbons, also typically produce features. Aliphatic hydrocarbons include molecules such as ethane, propane and butane.

"This is unfortunate, since it can cause considerable spectral confusion that makes it difficult to detect organics if they are present," adds Sandford.
A Note of Caution

In Sandford's view, both of these points serve as "cautionary items" for the astrobiology community.

The photon energies associated with the part of the infrared spectrum investigated by the team are generally not large enough to excite individual electrons, but are often high enough to induce the vibration of highly stable covalently bonded atoms and groups.

One way of thinking about this is to picture the covalent bonds in molecules not as stiff rods or poles of the type found in molecule construction kits, but rather as rigid springs that can be bent or stretched. These types of vibrations, or vibrational modes, are often assigned descriptive names, including bending, scissoring, rocking, wagging, twisting and stretching. The research team analysing the Sutter's Mill meteorite concentrated on one such mode, known as the C-H stretching mode.

"Because of the structure of carbonate minerals, one of their vibrational modes can be mistaken for organics if only the C-H stretching region is examined and you're not cautious," he says.

Sandford adds:

"I'd say that use of IR spectroscopy in the C-H stretching region clearly needs to be used with caution, particularly in samples that may contain carbonates."
Constant Vigilance

In light of the investigations carried out by the team, Sandford concludes that the broader astrobiological community "must always be vigilant" when assessing the effects of terrestrial contamination of any samples collected.

Although he is pessimistic about the prospects of astrobiologists ever finding signs of extinct life in meteorites, he believes that studies of this kind will continue to be a fruitful area of research into the detection of prebiotic organics.

"I don't think that there are many people who are trying to detect life in meteorites. Most of us are trying to detect prebiotic organics in meteorites — that is, molecules that may have played a role in helping life get started on Earth. While there are some folks that think they've detected signs of extinct life in meteorites, I have not so far found their arguments to be very compelling," he says.

This story was provided by Astrobiology Magazine, a web-based publication sponsored by the NASA astrobiology program. Follow us.
Source: .foxnews.com

terça-feira, 13 de janeiro de 2015




It would take a really big space rock to knock us all out

When it comes to meteorites, the bigger they are, the more havoc they generally wreak. In 1997, University of Colorado geoscientist Brian Toon and colleagues predicted the aftermath of meteorite impacts of various sizes. They found that a space rock half a mile wide would produce an explosion that releases the energy equivalent of up to 100,000 million tons (Mt) of TNT. That’s enough to cause widespread blast damage and earthquakes, but nothing too out of line with many natural disasters in the modern age. Once a collision exceeds the 100,000 Mt threshold, you’re looking at a catastrophe larger than any in human history. A meteorite a mile in diameter might send enough pulverized rock into the stratosphere to block out sunlight and cause global cooling.

The object that killed off the dinosaurs was probably seven or eight miles wide, says Jay Melosh, a planetary physicist at Purdue University. Its impact would have ejected a dust plume that spread clear around the planet and rained blazing-hot on to forests, igniting them. “The dinosaurs probably broiled to death,” he says.

Such a collision today would kill billions of people. Those who didn’t perish in the initial blast or the fires that followed would face long odds of finding sustenance. “People are going to starve to death,” Toon says. Still, a few would likely weather the apocalyptic storm. “Probably some fishermen in Costa Rica,” he offers. “People near the oceans who managed to hide out and fish when the fires started.”

For a collision to obliterate the human race altogether, Toon estimates it would take a 60-mile-wide meteorite. He says, “That would incinerate everybody.”

This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Popular Science.

Source: popsci.com

What is a meteorite? Characteristics of a meteorite

A meteorite is a piece of debris that comes from out space and lands on Earth’s surface. Before impact the object is known as a meteoroid. The size of a meteorite can vary, some are very small, while others can be meters long and weigh 60 tonnes. Meteorites that are smaller than 2mm are called micrometeorites.

When a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, there are various factors at play (such as friction, pressure, and chemical interactions) that cause it to heat up and form a fireball – also known as a meteor or shooting star.

A meteorite on the surface of a celestial body is a natural object from space. There have been meteorites found on the Moon and Mars.

When a meteorite is recovered after being observed as they impact the earth are called a meteorite fall. All other meteorites are called finds.

There are three main categories of meteorites: 

Stony meteorites – mainly made up of silicate minerals.
Iron meteorites – primarily composed of iron-nickel.
Stony-iron meteorites – contain large amounts of both rocky and metallic material.

The names given to meteorites are always after the places that they were found – typically a nearby town or geographic feature. If a meteor is found in a place where there have been other meteorites then the name is typically followed by a letter or a number. The name that the Meteoritical Society gives meteorites is used by scientists.

The Hoba meteorite in Namibia. It is the largest known intact meteorite at 2.7 meters long and weighing 60 tonnes.

The majority of meteoroids disintegrate when they enter our planet’s atmosphere. Around five to ten meteoroids are observed to fall and are recovered every year. Not many meteorites are big enough to create large impact craters, most actually just create a small pit.

Below is an example of a crater that a meteorite created when it made impact in the northern Arizona desert of the United States:
Meteor crater
The Meteor Crater (also known as Barringer Crater).

The majority of meteorites that have been discovered are stony meteorites. Stone meteorites are classed as being either chondrites or achondrites.

Over 80% of the meteorites that fall on Earth are chondrites. Chrondites are stony meteorites that have not changed because of melting or differentiation of the parent body, they are characterized by the presence of chondrules (composed mostly of silicate minerals). Chondrites are believed to be “the building blocks of the planets” as they are some of the oldest and most primitive materials in the solar system.

Although Achondrites do not contain chondrules most of them are also ancient rocks.

Source: http://marketbusinessnews.com/

terça-feira, 6 de janeiro de 2015

Potentially dangerous asteroid to fly by Earth on January 26

A potentially hazardous asteroid, at least 20 times the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite, will approach the Earth on January 26. The rock is expected to fly by at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers.
The asteroid, named 2004 BL86 by scientists, is estimated to be between 440-1,000 meters in diameter. 1.2 million kilometers is approximately three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

According to astronomers, there is no threat of the object colliding with our planet. The Goldstone Observatory, located in California's Mojave Desert, will observe the asteroid during its approach.

2004 BL86 was discovered on January 30, 2004, by the

Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR), responsible for the majority of asteroid discoveries from 1998 until 2005, when it was overtaken by the Catalina Sky Survey (CSS). As of mid-September 2011, LINEAR had detected some 231,082 new objects, of which at least 2,423 were near-Earth asteroids and 279 comets.

A space object is considered potentially dangerous if it crosses the Earth's orbit at a distance of less than 0.05 AU (approximately 19.5 distances from the Earth to the Moon), and if its diameter exceeds 100-150 meters. Objects of this size are large enough to cause unprecedented destruction, or generate a mammoth tsunami in case they fall into the ocean.

When a meteorite burst above the city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013, the impact was estimated to be equivalent to 440-500 kilotons of TNT. But the Chelyabinsk meteorite was relatively small, about 17 meters in diameter. It disintegrated with a blast at an altitude of over 20 kilometers.

Source: http://rt.com/news

segunda-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2015

Meteorites mean serious money

In China's fast-growing meteorite market, buyers of all kinds are lining up for the outer space rocks ranging from big-spending investors desiring the ultra-expensive to young fashionist as seeking jewelry decorated with fragments of the outer-space gems.

However, experts and old hands are wary of the growing pangs of an emerging market that many view to be a quick means to some serious money.

For those who have no knowledge of meteorites, the very existence of a market for the unusual commodity seems sudden and hard to fathom. But for Zhang Baolin, meteorite expert at the Beijing Planetarium, the emergence of the market has been happening for some time.

"Fundamentally, the development of the meteorite market in China is a normal one that has seen the shift from nobody knowing what meteorites are to more and more people knowing what they are," says Zhang,.

What is abnormal though is the soaring rate at which collectors have increased in recent years, which Zhang describes as "exponential".

Li Bofang, a civil servant and meteorite collector, says interest has definitely increased, especially among the wealthy, but perhaps not as exaggerated as some reports have said.

"Wealthy collectors look for larger, more expensive pieces but seek them for their investment value. If they spend 1 million yuan ($162,500) on a meteorite, they want to sell it off for 2 million," Li says.

The nature of the meteorite market, where purchases are mostly made at fairs or privately between dealers and collectors, makes it hard to quantify but its influence has already been noticed internationally.

Christie's, the world's leading auction house, recently held its first meteorite auction that attracted ample interest from Chinese bidders.

James Hyslop, head of travel, science and natural history at Christie's, says: "Interest in meteorites has increased greatly in China in the last two years. This has been at the top end of the market where buyers of contemporary art enjoy displaying these meteorites alongside their collections."

The highest hammer price at the auction in late November was $81,250 for a Martian meteorite called Black Beauty, but Christie's did not disclose the identity of the winning bidder. Other prized specimens have been known to fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars.

At the other end of the price spectrum, jewelry that contains small pieces of meteorites has appealed to a younger crowd for its fashion value.

Huang Zhuanjian, a Jinanbased meteorite dealer who started his own meteorite jewelry workshop earlier this year, has been amazed at the demand.

"Right now, the appetite for meteorite jewelry can't be measured, it is simply bottomless-we can sell however much we produce!" says Huang.

The workshop currently designs and produces all the pieces in-house and by hand, severely limiting production capacity. Next year, it plans to make around 2,000 pieces, each piece retailing at 300 yuan to 500 yuan, but Huang is also considering enlarging and professionalizing his business.

"The problem at present is the absence of factories and large brands in the market. It is currently made up of lots of small businesses like mine but soon we will start concentrating on brand creation and look into larger-scale production," says Huang.

Despite signs of a fast-growing and multi-dimensional market, many insiders see the Chinese meteorite market as abnormal and fundamentally unhealthy.

In the United States and European Union, the bulk of the market is made up of real meteorite enthusiasts followed by small numbers of investors and those that seek meteorites for their decorative value. The Chinese market is the total reverse of this, says Li.

"In China, meteorites are mostly traded with no regard for their scientific value or composition, only for the possibility of profit. In such a market, fakes and abnormal prices emerge because so few can tell the difference between extraterrestrial and terrestrial rocks," Li says.

Lei Kesi, a Taiwanese meteorite dealer and founder of China Meteorite Forum, says the meteorite market, like other emerging luxury markets in the Chinese mainland before it, remains "very complicated".

He says: "It happened with the jade and antiques market. As soon as a market presents opportunities to make vast sums of money, the hype and deception immediately follow."

"Obviously people do not like to hear that their 'valuable' meteorite is fake and worthless." says Lei.

Source: ecns.cn/business/2015/01-05/149241.shtml