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


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.