28 February 2009
A meteorite fall occurred near Ouarzazate on December 20th, 2008, specifically around the villages of Tamdakht and Tiguert, located in the mountains northwest of the city. We decided to go there to gather more information on this fall and, eventually, to find some pieces. Departure for Morocco was on Wednesday, February 11th in the afternoon. The road is long, but we arrive in the south of the country on 12 at night, exhausted. Here, a few days of rest are necessary to recover the route and also to enjoy the sun that is so much lacking to us at home. Almost 30 ° C difference ... a pure happiness! We left for Ouarzazate on Monday, February 16th early in the morning. Our Moroccan friend accompanies us, he has toured a lot in the zone of the fall and knows many nomads who live in these mountains. We arrived at the entrance of Ouarzazate in early afternoon and we stop in the first Total gas station to find someone who is waiting for us to guide us to places where stones were found. Our two guides getting into our car and we started. The track which leads in mountains start at the end of a residential area. We see that it is a very used track, it is wide, flat (a real highway) and we can ride rather fast especially in 4x4!... the rest of the story at: http://www.meteoritica.com/tamdakht%20hunting%20trip.html
Photo courtesy of Mike Bandli; Copyright Rob Wesel, Nakhla Dog Meteorites 2009
Yuba City Sentinel
Object that fell through roof of Dallas home was part of a tree-mulching machine, police say 27FEB09
Object that fell through roof of Dallas home was part of a tree-mulching machine, police say
February 27, 2009
DALLAS - Police say a 6-pound chunk of metal that crashed through the roof of a Dallas home was part of a machine that was grinding up an unwanted tree nearby. Sgt. Gil Cerda says: "Mystery solved." So much for the theory it could have been a piece of debris from this month's collision of Russian and U.S. satellites.
Cerda says the metal chunk was a grinding tip of a mulching machine being used by a tree disposal service crew. No one was hurt when it went flying Tuesday. Senior Cpl. Janice Crowther said no charges will be filed against the business because it was an accident.
The satellite debris theory also came up when a fireball streaked across the Texas sky Feb. 15. That turned out to be a meteorite. It also surfaced last week when a piece of metal crashed through a New Jersey warehouse. That was another errant piece of a mulching machine.
27 February 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
By Ken Sury
Tribune-Herald staff writer
WEST — Meteorite hunters have descended in droves to the countryside surrounding this farming community, searching for the elusive pieces from a fireball that flared across the daytime sky over Central Texas and then broke apart.
But while the fireball and its accompanying sonic boom Feb. 15 were spectacular, West residents say they’ve got better things to do than hunt for the thousands of fragments that litter the land and might not even be on their property.
Spring planting is a focus for the farmers now. That meteorite hunters from across the country are asking to traipse across their fields looking for stones the size of a pecan or smaller at a crucial time for planting has more than a few farmers and ranchers perturbed. In some cases, people didn’t ask and trespassed.
... continued story, video, and photos:
"Fireball" sighting maybe a meteorite
By Eliot Baker
The Inquirer and Mirror (Nantucket, Massachusetts)
February 26, 2009
Island residents are being urged by Maria Mitchell Association director of astronomy, Vladimir Strelnitski, to keep their eyes open for meteorites around Surfside and the south shore in the coming days following an unconfirmed sighting of a fireball blazing across the early-morning sky Friday, Feb. 20 at 4:30 a.m.
Terry Galschneider was up early watching television when she said a dramatic orange fireball "lit up the sky" for five seconds. She said the fireball was too large and bright to have been a shooting star or a helicopter. Her full description to Strelnitski left him to "not exclude that it fell in the ocean, but maybe even on land."The object's brightness suggests it would be relatively close to Galschneider, although its lack of sound made that even less possible to tell for certain. He said it was highly unlikely to have been debris from colliding satellites.The sighting was not confirmed by either Nantucket airport officials orby the police, and no other reports of fiery objects in the sky Friday in Massachusetts have been made to NASA, or to astronomy departments at Boston University, the University Massachusetts at Lowell, or the American Meteor Society. Other islanders who may have spotted the fireball are encouraged to contact Strelnitski at the Maria Mitchell Association at +1(508) 228-5273 .
Though unlikely, Strelnitski said discovering a meteorite - or part of one - on Nantucket would be unprecedented and could yield important information to scientists. People around Surfside especially are encouraged to look for unusual small craters with valleys on the surface with strange objects inside. Meteors can be a piece of metal, a greenish or grayish piece of stone, or a black piece of organic matter that resembles coal called carbonatious condrite, the rarest of all meteorites.
Another meteor impact coincides with large-scale volcanic eruptions
---Planet Earth online 23 February 2009
Scientists have long debated the cause of the dinosaurs' extinction about 65 million years ago. The remnants of a large volcanic eruption in the Faroe Islands. These eruptions can go on for millions of years. Around this time a giant meteorite struck the Gulf of Mexico. But the extinction also seems to coincide with massive and long-lasting volcanic eruptions in India known as the Deccan Traps. So which event was responsible? And are these phenomena linked?
New research now shows that this combination of meteorite impact andlarge-scale volcanic activity - known as flood basalt eruptions - is not unique. An international team of researchers looked at a 30-million-year-old meteorite crater in Belarus called Logoisk. They found that this too coincided with volcanic eruptions further south which covered Yemen and Ethiopia with basalt rock. These events are similar to those that occurred 65 million years ago, but on a much smaller scale. The scientists suggest such coincidences may be more common than previously thought. Dr Sarah Sherlock from the Open University and lead author of the paper, says, 'If you have a flood basalt then people wonder if there's also an impact. ''There will be, almost certainly,' she added. According to the paper, a meteorite will strike the Earth and leave a crater the size of Logoisk on average once every 1.5 million years. Flood volcanic eruptions occur over several million years, so a Logoisk-sized crater is likely to occur during each of the 16 identified periods of flood volcanism on Earth in the last 360 million years. However, researchers do not think there is a causal link between flood volcanism and meteorite impact.'There is simply no geological evidence to link the two,' says Sherlock. To determine the precise age of the Logoisk crater the researchers used argon dating. 'Argon dating is very versatile.' said Sherlock. 'It's the only technique that can be used to date both [impacts and flood volcanism].' Samples of material from the crater were gradually heated using an infrared laser, causing the release of argon gas. The ratio of two isotopes of argon released in the gas gives an accurate indication ofthe age of the sample. Using this technique, the researchers showed that the two events occurred simultaneously.
One question raised by the results was why the meteorite impact and flood volcanism 65 million years ago wiped out much of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, but the similar events 30 million years ago did not. According to Sherlock, it was down to the size of the events.'These coincidences in Earth's history are not as rare as people think,but in order to actually do significant damage to the environment they have to be really, really big.' Sherlock added. Together, the 65-million-year-old Chicxulub crater in the Gulf of Mexico and volcanic eruptions that produced the Deccan Traps eruption 65 million years ago released 8000 gigatonnes (Gt) of sulfur dioxide, causing global environmental damage. By comparison the Logoisk and Afro-Arabian events released only 30Gt - insufficient to cause change on a global scale.
The research is published in the Journal of the Geological Society, London.
26 February 2009
Comet Lulin visits inner Solar System
BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
23 February, 2009
On 24 February Comet Lulin will make its first visit to the inner Solar System, streaking past the Earth at a distance of 38 million miles, or 160 times further than the Moon. Comet Lulin, formally known as C/2007 N3, was discovered last year byastronomers at Taiwan's Lulin Observatory. Nicknamed the "green comet", Lulin's atmosphere contains poisonous cyanogen and diatomic carbongases. Researchers at the University of Leicester will be using NASA's Swift satellite to monitor the comet in X-ray, ultraviolet and optical light as it closes in on the Earth this week.
"The wonderful ease of scheduling of Swift and its joint UV and X-raycapability make Swift the observatory of choice for observations like these," says Dr Julian Osborne, leader of the Swift project at Leicester. The University of Leicester played a major role in developing Swift's X-Ray Telescope.
This image of Comet Lulin taken 28 Jan merges data acquired by Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (blue and green) and X-Ray Telescope (red). At the time of the observation, the comet was 99.5 million milesfrom Earth and 115.3 million miles from the Sun. Image: Univ. of Leicester/NASA/Swift/Carter et al. Comets are thought to represent some of the most pristine ingredients ofthe Solar System. They are made up of dust, gas and ice, and as they approach the Sun, the frozen components sublime and stream out in tails. Swift observations of the comet on 28 January revealed that it is certainly active. "The UVOT data show that Lulin was shedding nearly 800 gallons of water each second," says team member Dennis Bodewits, a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt,which is enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool in less than 15 minutes. Although Swift can't see water directly, ultraviolet light from the Sunquickly breaks apart water molecules into hydrogen atoms and hydroxyl (OH) molecules, the latter of which Swift's Ultraviolet/OpticalTelescopes (UVOT) can detect. "This gives us a unique view into the types and quantities of gas a comet produces," Bodewits explains. The images taken so far reveal a hydroxyl cloud spanning a distance greater than the distance between Earth and the Moon, and a tail streaming off at an angle. Solar radiation pushes the icy grains awayfrom the comet, and as they gradually evaporate, they create a thin tail of hydroxyl molecules. Farther from the comet, even the hydroxyl molecule succumbs to solar ultraviolet radiation, breaking into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen atoms."The solar wind - a fast-moving stream of particles from the Sun -interacts with the comet's broader cloud of atoms," says Stefan Immler, also at Goddard. "This causes the solar wind to light up with X-rays,and that's what Swift's XRT sees." This interaction, called charge exchange, results in X-rays from most comets when they pass within about three times Earth's distance from the Sun. Because Lulin is so active and is losing a lot of gas, its X-ray emitting region extends in a largecloud far sunward of the comet. The team hope that the forthcoming observations of Lulin will reveal more on the comet's chemistry andenable scientists to build up a three-dimensional picture of the cometduring its maiden voyage through the Solar System.Comet Lulin will be visible to the naked eye, and for most locations inthe Northern Hemisphere will be easiest to spot after midnight when itis high in the sky. In small telescopes it will appear as a dim fuzzy"star" - brighter in the centre and more diffuse around the edges. It will fade from view by mid-March.
25 February 2009
24 February 2009
'Dinosaur-killing' impact did not start global wildfires
by Philip Ball
Burnt oil and gas, not vegetation, may have caused the soot layer at the end of the Cretaceous period.
The impact of a huge asteroid or comet at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago is generally held responsible for the sudden demise of 60–80% of all species on Earth. But new results challenge the common idea that the extinctions were partly caused by global wildfires triggered by the violent impact.
... full story:
24 February 2009
W0, S3, L6 olivine
Fa: 24.2±0.2 (n=12)low-Ca pyx Fs20.5±0.7 Wo1.6±0.2 (n=12)
kamacite has an average composition of Fe 93.1 Ni 5.8 Co 0.83 (n=4) taenite has an average composition of Fe 69.6 Ni 30.3 Co 0.30 (n=9) Taenite is much more abundant than kamacite. Many plagioclase grains exceed 50 µm in size. Some metal grains have irregular grains of troilite inside them. Metallic Cu is present in metal grains. There are some thin metal- and sulfide-bearing shock veins. The rock exhibits signficant silicate darkening.
The "Ash Creek" (Doug Dawn`s proposed name for the meteorite) meteorite sample was collected by Doug Dawn, Dima, Rob McCafferty, and Sergey and sent to Dr. Rubin for analysis.
The data from Dr. Rubin`s classification analysis will be sent to the Meteorite NOMCOM for approval and a final naming will be approved.
Record timing for meteorite recovery and analysis; congratulations to all that worked on this!!!
Amateur astronomer finds meteorites near Waco
Updated: 2/22/2009 7:08 PM
By: Veronica Castelo
NEWS 8 Austin
..."Now there's actual physical proof that it was a meteor. Amateur astronomer Doug Dawn and his team say they were able to find meteorites. Dawn's team analyzed the video footage shot by News 8 photographer Eddie Garcia. Dawn said there was a lot of information available in the film and it helped with calculations of where the material was coming from. "...
For the whole story and TV video:
22 February 2009
Here's the story.
On Friday Sonny, Steve Arnold and I (Ruben Garcia) drove into the strewnfield bright and early and immediately started knocking on doors to try to gain permission to hunt. Upon walking up to a particular house Sonny spotted a meteorite on the porch (about 70-90 grams) he picked it up, and laid it backdown. "Ruben, did you see that fully crusted meteorite on the porch?" He Said. I couldn't believe it. He was right! Right there on the porch but no one was home...what to do? Since Sonny assured me that he wasn't going to buy meteorites when he could find them I decided to track down the owner and try to buy the specimen. I got the owners work phone number from a neighbor and called. After introducing myself and explaining what I was in town for, I told the owner that there was a meteorite on their porch. "What, you mean that black rock that the dog, Hopper, brought up and dropped on the porch?" "Yes, that one" I said. Needless to say, I drove down and did a nice video interview with the owner holding the space rock and recalling the tale.
Written by: Ruben Garcia
First tracked space rock recovered after impact-0246 GMT on 7 October-Sudan (Asteroid 2008 TC3)
by David Shiga
February 19, 2009
The discovery of meteorites from an asteroid that exploded over Sudan in October completes an astronomical trifecta. For the first time, scientists have detected a space rock ahead of a collision with Earth, watched it streak through the atmosphere, and then recovered pieces of it. Analysis of the meteorites could shed light on conditions in the early solar system more than 4 billion years ago. When the asteroid, called 2008 TC3, was discovered on 6 October last year, it was just 20 hours away from hitting Earth. Though the warning period was short, it was the first time a space rock had been found before it impacted the planet. Orbital calculations predicted the object would plunge into the atmosphere above Sudan at 0246 GMT on 7 October, and it arrived right ontime. Observations suggested it was no more than 5 metres across, too small to survive intact all the way to the ground and cause damage. The brilliant fireball it made as it descended through the atmosphere was seen far in the distance by the crew of a KLM airliner, and was observed by various satellites, including a weather satellite called Meteosat-8. Now, a team of meteorite hunters has found fragments of the object. The meteorites are a unique group in that they come from an object seen hurtling through space before its plunge into Earth's atmosphere.
Students from the University of Khartoum, led by Dr Muawia Shaddad, found the first fragments using data provided by NASA to home in onwhere fragments were likely to be found. Scientists involved with the discovery, including Peter Jenniskens ofthe SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, have reportedly submitted a study about the find to a scientific journal, and have not responded to interview requests. But Lindley Johnson, head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program office atthe agency's headquarters in Washington, DC, reported the find on Mondayin Vienna, at a United Nations meeting discussing near-Earth object (NEO) impacts. <http://www.oosa.unvienna.org/oosa/en/COPUOS/stsc/2009/index.html>
An image of the first fragment found is included in the slides from Johnson's presentation (pdf) <http://www.oosa.unvienna.org/pdf/pres/stsc2009/tech-25.pdf> (see slide 19).
Donald Yeomans, who manages NASA's efforts to find and track NEOs at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, confirmed that"quite a few" fragments have been found but declined to discuss them further.
Before the fragments were found, meteorite expert Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario in Canada said the asteroid was likely made of relatively weak material, given that 2008 TC3 broke up unusually quickly once it hit the atmosphere, exploding about 37 kilometres above ground. Another object known to have broken up at about this height scattered fragments over Tagish Lake in Canada in 2000. The Tagish Lake meteorites turned out to be made of a very crumbly material, and fall into a class of meteorites called carbonaceous chondrites, which have been modified little by heat or other processes since the solar system formed more than 4.5 billion years ago. "I would caution making direct compositional comparisons [with the Tagish Lake meteorites], but it does certainly underscore the global weakness of [2008 TC3]," Brown said in comments posted on the JPL website in November. He added that observations of the rock's quick breakup "all but rule out" a composition rich in iron. <http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/news/2008tc3.html>
Point of origin
When the analysis of these rock fragments does come out, what is it likely to tell us? Meteorites in general provide a valuable record of conditions in the early solar system, such as temperature and chemical composition. And the 2008 TC3 meteorites could be especially illuminating because the parent object was observed in space before the breakup, allowing scientists to calculate its former orbit around the Sun. This provides precious information connecting the meteorites to their place of origin in the solar system. For most other meteorites, such calculations involve a lot of guesswork. Meteorites had previously been recovered after about 10 "fireball" events, where parent space rocks were observed streaking through the sky. But in those cases, scientists had to try to reconstruct the object's orbit based on its path through the atmosphere. "It's often very difficult to get from a streak in the sky to what theorbit was," says Allan Treiman of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Tucson, Arizona. "But if they've got its location before it hit the atmosphere, they're far better off - that's really wonderful."
We (Doug Dawn, Dmitry Sadilenko, Sergey Petukov) drove across the country and estimated the location of the strewn field within 48 hours of the event. With a bit of tenacity, scarcely four hours after the second day, thanks to the help of some Texas-sized hospitality, we arrived in the strewn field and found our first couple of stones and I had the distinct pleasure of shaking the finders hand and removing any lingering doubts in his mind that he had meteorites fresh from Heaven's farm. After the initial success, my good friend and asteroid hunter, Rob Matson of Los Angeles, joined up with the team. We have found some stones, but more are being found by others, and we really expect larger masses to be found, though hard work in the field definitely gets you wondering if just because such a meteoritical spectacle drops one stone, should it drop the thousands we keep expecting to see? The TKW is rapidly evolving, but the area is being hit quite hard by hunters already. This doesn't seem to be a dense fall, and some areas are very easy to search, though bramble in other areas effectively keeps those off limits. All land is private and most families keep their gun collections well oiled. In our case, the big-hearts of the landowners have humbled easily as much as the witness reports of the bolide's fragmenting itself. This is at odds with some other reports, only because residents of the area treasure their privacy and were completely overwhelmed by the wave of treasure hunters that descended. We almost lost our permission to hunt when they believed that we were somehow responsible for several meteorite hunters showing up with a news crews. Besides being quite busy, I promised to respect the anonymity of our hosts as a condition of our search, and this evening we reaped the benefits of a delicious home-cooked dinner prepared by the caring hands of our hosts at their dinner table. There is a great Texas steakhouse on I-35 which adds to the flavor for anyone wanting to experience Texas culture, cowboys and pretty cowgirls from West, TX. It has been an incredible last few days, which started by being the first to walk in a virgin strewn field, though my mother had some problems (she seems better now) that have somewhat muted what will undoubtedly be some of the most memorable moments of my life. It is way past bedtime and I will post more tomorrow. The meteorite itself is moderately to highly shocked and has a very bright, light, interior and veins of troilite and nodules of metal, and the majority of stones found are fully fusion crusted. More on the classification on Saturday. We certainly were not in a mass-laden portion of the strewn field, other hunters please take note; more likely just a place where a minor fragmentation impacted. In any case, we are committed to getting the science done so everyone else can rest assured that we have already gladly provided the mass requirements necessary for this honor. All in all, a very humbling experience for many reasons. To pick up a piece of a falling star and I thought, detect a faint sulfurous odor. It seems a dog even caught the scent of a meteorite and laid it down on the owners porch!
Best wishes and clear skies, Doug
Written by: Doug Dawn posted to the MetList- Meteoriteemail@example.com
20 February 2009
03:14 PM CST on Thursday, February 19, 2009
By SARAH PERRY / The Dallas Morning News
Ron DiIulio slept for only an hour last night.
The director of the planetarium and astronomy lab program at the University of North Texas couldn’t help but stay awake and study the pieces of a meteorite he found with a co-worker Wednesday.
MAX FAULKNER/Special Contributor Ron DiIulio (left), director of UNT's planetarium and astronomy lab program, and UNT observatory manager Preston Starr found these fragments, believed to be from a meteor that burned up in the earth's atmosphere earlier this week, in a pasture in West.
DiIulio and Preston Starr, the observatory manager at UNT, discovered the remnants of a meteor spotted shooting across the Texas sky Sunday.
They found the two walnut-sized fragments off a road in West, a town about 70 miles south of Dallas.
DiIulio has found other meteorites before, but these pieces are special. “To get something from space ... that’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said. “And these are pristine.”
Immediately after learning about the sighting, the two men began to pinpoint the possible location with information from witnesses. The pair systematically mapped the locations and narrowed down the spot to somewhere near Fayetteville, about 230 miles south of Dallas.
They guessed wrong.
DiIulio said he and Starr wound their way to West and stopped at the Czech Bakery for a snack. A farmer, who noticed their official NASA-UNT outfits, approached them and asked what they were doing.
“Are you guys looking for the sonic boom that rattled my walls?” DiIulio recalled the farmer asking.
The farmer told the professors they should head southeast of West.
DiIulio and Starr spotted the sheriff and a deputy at a gas station near the location provided by the farmer. The deputy owned some land nearby and offered to help them find the meteorite.
At 5 p.m., after walking a few minutes down a gravel road, Starr and DiIulio spotted it - a small, charcoal-colored ball. Five minutes later, they found another.
They didn’t use any fancy electronics - just a map, truck and their eyes.
“Imagine that,” DiIulio said. “A little piece of charcoal sitting on a gravel road right there.”
The pair were lucky they found the pieces first, he said. Scientists from Moscow and two men from Tucson were also on the prowl.
DiIulio and Starr wrapped the pieces in a Ziploc bag and took them back to UNT, where they are conducting a radioisotope study today. The study will give clues about other matter in space.
DiIulio said it was important to find the pieces quickly because they start to lose certain characteristics once they hit the earth’s atmosphere.
Alan Rubin, a research geochemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the meteorite that landed in Texas is among the most common kinds -- an ordinary chondrite.
He said his lab had been called on to analyzed a piece of the substance -- not from the chunks that DiIulio and Starr found -- and "it's a real meteorite, not a piece of a satellite."
Though meteorites are found all over world, DiIulio considers himself lucky. Mostly what's out there are tiny pieces -- some as small as a grain of sand.
“Every once in a while ... you get this,” he said.
Austin- Fox News Video: http://www.myfoxaustin.com/dpp/news/021909_Meteorite_Pieces_Located_in_West_TX
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Ken Sury
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A reporter was talking with a pair of meteorite hunters Wednesday afternoon when one of them suddenly bent down and picked something up off the dirt, less than a foot from the writer’s shoe.
Moritz Karl quickly showed it to his colleague, Michael Farmer, who eyed it quizzically for a split-second before saying, “Is that . . . ?” Then, with realization, “That’s it!”
Pay dirt. A quarter-sized, roundish piece of chondrite meteorite was the Arizona team’s first proof of a meteor that broke apart Sunday over Central Texas and now lies — by the group’s estimate — in thousands of pieces across of a swath of northern McLennan County and probably southern Hill County.
This quarter-sized piece of chondrite, the most common type of meteorite that falls to Earth, was the first found by the team from Arizona. (Rod Aydelotte photo)
Michael Farmer of Tucson, Ariz., holds up a piece of meteorite found Wednesday by Moritz Karl (left) as they searched near West with Robert Ward and Shauna Russell (right). (Rod Aydelotte photo)
“We have lots of dead-end hunts that don’t pay off like this,” said Robert Ward, 32, who has hunted for meteorites for more than 20 years.
The foursome arrived in Waco from Arizona having a pretty good idea that Sunday’s fireball over Central Texas, initially believed to be debris from last week’s collision of a U.S. and Russian satellite in space, would leave meteor rocks strewn across the countryside, said Farmer, 36, senior member of the group and self-described “field adventurer.”
The rumble and flash of the meteor Sunday caused countless Texans to call authorities and prompted the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office to send a helicopter to search the northeastern portion of the county, including roughly where the Arizona group made their find Wednesday.
“This is a significant event,” Farmer said. “This has worldwide interest, and you’re going to have meteor hunters from all over coming here.”
To underscore that point, two rival meteorite hunters, a Russian and an American who lives in Mexico, arrived before the Arizona group looking for the rocks and visiting with residents and property owners.
“The Russians beat us to it,” Farmer said, his comment sounding a bit like the 1960s space race.
Karl, who usually lives in his native Frankfurt, Germany, said his father called him from Germany where video of the fireball, captured by a TV cameraman videotaping the Austin Marathon, was on the news.
“They’re saying it’s satellite debris,” the 26-year-old recalled his father telling him. “ ‘No’, I told him, ‘That was a meteor.’ ”
Shauna Russell, 23, the junior member of the group, said she and her colleagues had a good idea of where to look for the “strewn field” — the area of fallen meteorites — from triangulating the TV video and eyewitnesses who saw the fireball. It also helped to have images from Doppler radar that detected the fireball in the sky around Hubbard, she said.
The chondrite found Wednesday is what meteorite hunters find 90 to 95 percent of the time, Farmer said. He estimates the strewn field to be anywhere from a mile to 2 miles wide and from 5 to 10 miles long, though it could be shorter based on the meteor’s sharp trajectory indicated in the video.
The group said the meteor, which likely hit the atmosphere at about 22,000 mph, could have been anywhere from the size of a refrigerator to a pickup before it began breaking apart. Residents within a few miles of the larger pieces falling would have heard whistling sounds like artillery shell zipping through the air, Ward said.
Farmer said he’s made a living for 13 years hunting and collecting meteorites, which can be sold to universities, planetariums and other collectors. Those sales help fund his and Ward’s meteorite chases, which have taken them to every continent except Antarctica on more than 50 hunts.
“There is an interest. These objects are worth money,” he said.
As word gets out, Farmer expects the area to overrun with professional hunters as well as amateurs, although he said he hopes people can help them find the space rocks, for which they might get paid.
“This is a big deal,” said Farmer, who added that he’s provided many of the meteorites in Texas Christian University’s collection. “It might be 20, 30 years before you get another like this in Texas.”
19 February 2009
A link to the story...
--- In http://firstname.lastname@example.org,
Pat Branch wrote: "I just heard that two University of North Texas (in Denton)> researchers recovered two meteorites near West Texas where the fireball would have landed. Hopefully we can get more details on exactly where and what types they are."
Mike Farmer reports that he has also found stones from the fall!!!!
Looks like Mike Farmer (well-known Tucson hunter) found a piece too.
Here are pics and a video of them hunting.
By REGINA L. BURNS Associated Press Writer © 2009 The Associated Press
Feb. 18, 2009, 10:52PM
DALLAS — Two samples of fresh material the "size of large pecans" from a meteor that alarmed numerous residents when it streaked across the Texas sky on Sunday have been found by two University of North Texas astronomers in a pasture east of the small town of West.
"The pieces that we found have beautiful ablation crust. And it's black like charcoal. Underneath this crust the color of the rock is concrete like gray," said Ron DiLulio, director of the planetarium and astronomy lab program at the University of North Texas in Denton.
DiLulio and Preston Starr, UNT's observatory manager, said they found the pieces Wednesday about 5 p.m. after starting their search from Fort Worth at 3 a.m. using calculations from all of the calls they had received.
DiLulio said they had just about given up looking and were driving back when a friend called and asked to meet them at a certain intersection. They said that coincided with conversations they had had earlier that day with citizens at a restaurant.
"We decided rather than try to get permission from landowners, there would be pieces in a line that would spread out a mile across. We decided to just do the county roads and we just started walking down that road and it's fairly easy to see. It jumped out at us within 15 minutes," DiLulio said.
"We came back to where our gut instinct told us," Starr said. He said the McLennan County sheriff and deputies confirmed what citizens had told them.
"The sheriff told his deputy to take us out there," DiLulio said.
The astronomers placed the samples in ZipLoc bags to keep out the air. They plan to transfer the samples to membrane cases and take them to the university for additional study.
People on Sunday reported seeing a fireball streak across the sky and DiLulio said the reason it created such a fireball was because the meteor expanded and broke into pieces.
The pair said they were not alone in the search and ran into others including "a commercial meteorite hunter and we wanted to get there so we could have it first for science," DiLulio said.
Starr said the pair had been gathering information since they initially learned of the meteor's appearance.
"We did a lot of pre-planning. We looked at the angles of what they saw in the sky and we were able to map it all out. We put a plan together and we drove around small country roads. Texas has lots of small farm to market roads," Starr said.
DiLulio said he thinks there are larger pieces still to be found.
"We feel that there are probably several hundred pieces. What happens when these things fall — they may break apart. We want to find these early and study the primitive material before our atmosphere affects them," DiLulio said
He said the pair planned on returning to the areas where they had searched.
"Everytime we find one we mark where it is on the map and we can measure how much material actually hit the surface of the earth," DiLulio said.
West is about 70 miles south of Dallas.
On the Web:
University of North Texas, http://www.unt.edu/
COMET LULIN UPDATE: Comet Lulin is approaching Earth and brightening rapidly. Observers say it is now visible to the naked eye as a faint (magnitude +5.6) gassy patch in the constellation Virgo before dawn. Even city dwellers have seen it. Backyard telescopes reveal a vivid green comet in obvious motion. Just yesterday, amateur astronomers watched as a solar wind gust tore away part of the comet's tail, the second time this month such a thing has happened. Lulin's closest approach to Earth (38 million miles) is on Feb. 24th; at that time the comet could be two or three times brighter than it is now.
Browse the gallery for the latest images: http://spaceweather.com/comets/gallery_lulin_page8.htm
SATELLITE DEBRIS: More than a week has passed since the Feb. 10th collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia, and the orbits of some of the largest fragments have now been measured by US Strategic Command. Today's edition of http://Spaceweather.com features global maps showing where the debris is located. Only 26 fragments are currently plotted, but that number will grow as radar tracking of the debris continues. Check back often for updates.
17 February 2009
The radar tracks you referenced are great Ed. They show any meteorites would have landed about 5 kilometers SE of Lake Whitney. Although the altitude differences cause a large spread over the possible impact zone. The Fort Worth Radar (which I can see from my house) would have imaged the one on the right first and the one on the left second. The Granger radar would have imaged the lower altitude first and the higher altitude second, so yes it would have been a reflection off an Ionization trail. The images would have been about a second and 6 degs of scan apart. My belief they were separate parts of something come from early reports from McKinney saying it was seen in the north. In the police dash cam from plano it appears to be going north to south in a more vertical direction and very high in the sky. Reports from Denton also put it very high in the sky (still confused about how this could be). The Austin video was suppose to be taken looking north giving a fall area around Marble Falls. So it must have been taken NE or ENE to give the low trajectory and east to west appearance. There is no way an object 9,000 feet off the ground can be seen from 120 miles away, so it must have been over Hearn area from the Austin video. It would be interesting to hear more reports from the Whitney, West, Mart area to try and determine if there are any possible meteorites from this one.
Not likely to start any search parties like the Canadian bolide did though....
Source: Pat Branch, TX, USA
1. Schmieder, M., E. Buchner, and D. P. LeHeron, 2009, The Jebel Hadid structure (Al Kufrah Basin ,SE Libya)—A possible impact structure and potential hydrocarbon trap? Marine and Petroleum Geology. vol 26. no. 3, pp. 310-318. doi:10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2008.04.003
The Jebel Hadid structure is formed in the Nubian Sandstone and located in southern Al Kufrah Basin. It is a 4.7 km circular feature with a set of multiple concentric annular ridges. they suggest "that the Jebel Hadid structure might represent an eroded, complex impact structure' much like the Tin Bider structure in Algeria. Its location is 20º 52' N and 22º 42' E).
2. Ghoneim, E. M., 2008, Ibn-Batutah: A possible simple impact structure in southeastern Libya, a remote sensing study. Geomorphology. vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 341-350. The Ibn-Batutah feature is a circular structure centered on 21° 34′ 10″ N and 20° 50′ 15″ E and located in southeastern Libya. It is formed in Nubian Sandstone.
3. McCall, G. J. H., 2009, Half a century of progress in research on terrestrial impact structures: A review. Earth-Science Reviews.vol 92, no. 3-4, pp. 99-116.
4. McCall, G. J. H., in press, The Carbonado diamond conundrum Earth-Science Reviews, In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 13 February 2009. doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2009.01.002
"The reviewer presents the results of a literature search on the enigmatic occurrences of carbonado; a form (but not the only form) of polycrystalline diamond, which is mined for industrial diamonds." He hypothesizes that "carbonado does stem from terrestrial eruptive processes" and concludes that much research remainsto be performed before any conclusions can be reached.5. Schmieder, M., and E. Buchner, 2007, Short note: The Fayabasin (N Chad, Africa) – A possible impact structure? Journal of African Earth Sciences. vol. 47, pp. 62–68.The Faya basin is an almost circular structure, centered on 18º 10' N and 19º 34' E. It lies about 55 km ENE of the city of Faya (Largeau) and has a diameter of about 2 km.
Source: Paul V. Heinrich, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Buzzard Coulee, Canada (which everybody knows about):
Nullarbor Region, South Australia, AustraliaFall: 21 July 2007 :
Source: Dr. Jeffrey N. Grossman
phone: (703) 648-6184
US Geological Survey
fax: (703) 648-6383954
National CenterReston, VA 20192, USA
The evening of Friday 13 two stations of the Italy center have recorded a large fireball of mag -16/-17!!! ( The hour is in UT )
Possible the fall on the Earth of a meteorite. Moreover in the same timetables have been observed others 5/6 fireball to the north and center Italy.
The radiating is in:
AR. = 159.4 degree
Dec. = 22.2 degree
The radiating is in Antihelion (Delta Leonids).
Source: Roberto Haver, Italy
Well, in the evening (2009, Febrary 13th, at 20:03:29±1 U.T.), over CentralItaly,a very bright fireball was detected from Rieti.
Source and Photo Credits: Diego Valeri
Other recent events were 13Feb09--Kentucky, USA
Austin, Texas 11:20CST 15FEB09
16 February 2009
Fiery debris seen in Texas skies not from satellite collision, officials say11:20 PM CST on Sunday, February 15, 2009 By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News
Fiery debris burned through the Texas sky Sunday morning, alarming some and enchanting others but resulting in no apparent injury or damage. Video from Dallas to Austin and beyond, sightings were reported of a red and orange fireball with a small black center speeding toward Earth before burning out in a trail of lingering white smoke. Roland Herwig, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration’s southwest division, said the fireball was probably superheated debris from a broken satellite falling to Earth.The FAA could not directly link the debris to the reported collision last week of Russian and U.S. communications satellites, however. “It’s yet to be proved it’s those satellites,” Herwig said. However, a spokeswoman for U.S. Strategic Command said the fireball spotted in the Texas skies Sunday was unrelated to the satellite collision. Air Force Major Regina Winchester said that Joint Space Operations Center at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base has been monitoring the debris from the collision, and that could not have caused the dramatic sight. She also said the fireball was not related to the estimated 18,000 man-made objects that the center also monitors. “There was no predicted re-entry,” Winchester said about the objects in Earth’s orbit.She said it could possibly have been a natural phenomenon such as a meteorite. It’s unclear exactly how many pieces of debris tumbled toward Texas or whether any more are on the way.The potential danger from debris did prompt the FAA to warn pilots nationwide to be aware of the hazard and to immediately report any sightings. State emergency management officials and local law enforcement agencies also were on alert across much of Texas. Based on reports of a fireball near Waco, local law enforcement officers searched for debris but found nothing, a Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said. Though no one could pinpoint where the debris fell or if it even remained intact through the burnout, the fireball left an impression on those who saw it. They say it burned anywhere from a few seconds to nearly a minute. And in some areas, particularly in East Texas, there were reports of a sonic boom. While it may not be clear for some time what fell from the sky, it seemed to be a singular event.Most sightings in Texas were reported about 11 a.m. Some people thought it was a meteor. Others thought perhaps it was a plane crashing. Doug Schmidt of Richardson was driving south on Central Expressway near the Bush Turnpike when he saw a flash of light in the sky. “It was like a ball of flame with a tail. It looked like a meteor,” he said. “There was flame and then a flash and smoke trailing it. I said ‘Wow, look at that.’ ”Farther south, in Ovilla, Chris Weaver said he stepped outside and just by chance looked south. That’s when he saw a flash of orange moving fast in the sky before burning into a streak of white smoke. “If you were looking up at the southern sky, you couldn’t miss it,” he said. There have been scattered reports across the country of debris falling to Earth since the Russian and U.S. satellites collided Tuesday about 500 miles above Earth. The collision occurred over Siberia and sheared thousands of shards of debris through Earth’s orbit.Pieces of that debris will continue to float through orbit for thousands of years or more, while other pieces will at times fall to Earth, probably likely burning up as they pass through the atmosphere, experts say.
Staff writer Jeff Mosier and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Limestone County sheriff's office reported contact from someone who claimed to have a picture of the fireball and a smoke trail and a Plano,Texas, police cruiser may have capture images from a dashboard camera.
Date: Monday, February 16, 2009, 6:44 PM
What must be sonic booms were reported in Hill and Navarro counties, south of Dallas, Texas. Two towns named in one TV story (a Fox station in the Dallas, Texas, area) where sonic booms were heard were Hubbard and Penelope.
One private report I've seen mentions what I guess was a smoke trail that lasted about ten minutes. That report said the fireball was visible for about eight seconds and that it was going south to north when seen to the east of Austin. Another report from people who apparently were in a car says they saw going NNE while they were traveling northeast.
This was a significant fireball, and I hope another video was made from somewhere. I saw a mention that a police-car dashboard camera may have captured it. This was at 11:00 AM local time -- broad daylight. By the way, online reports now cite the FAA and STRATCOM as saying it was a nature event completely unrelated to the collision of the satellites. I would tend to thank that this might have been detected by a DSP satellite, but if so we might never hear about it.
Source: Ed Cannon - Austin, Texas, USA
Astronomer Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office is stating that this event was asteroid of about 1 meter, 20 Km/s.
Source: Space weather.
Two local TV weather blogs have radar images from 11:03 AM (local, 17:03 UTC) Sunday that show two echoes, one in southern Hill County near Hubbard and another, larger one in the northern corner of McLennan County (Waco), just north of the small town of West and south of the small town of Abbott in Hill County.
They both agree that in one pair of images from Fort Worth radar the right-hand or eastern echo is higher in the atmosphere than the larger one to its left. They say that the one of the left was at about 4,000 feet and the one one the right at about 7,000 feet above the ground. I assume these are echoes of a smoke or debris trail, but maybe they could be plasma (?).
I don't know why there are two separate echoes. I believe that weather radars rotate once per minute. In the KVUE-24 blog, there are two pairs of images, each from a different radar center, and the altitudes of the echoes are given different altitudes for the Granger radar than for the radar from Fort Worth.
However, in this one it appears that the blogger or his source has mis-stated (reversed) the altitudes of the echoes in the second pair of images (from Granger radar).
Here are links:"Sunday Fireball Seen on Radar" (KXAN-36, NBC affiliate, Jim Spencer)http://blogs.kxan.com/weather/2009/02/16/sunday-fireball-seen-on-radar/
"Meteor Captured on Radar" (KVUE-24, ABCaffiliate, Mark Murray)http://www.beloblog.com/KVUE_Blogs/weatherblog/
Now, here is a second-hand report from an eyewitness in Hearne, Robertson County, Texas, who reports that the fireball went near the zenith, lasted about 10 seconds, and lit up the ground in broad daylight: http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Feb-2009/0354.html
From Hearne to West in McLennan County yields a more or less SSE to NNW track, and the two radar echoes seem to have it descending as it went in that direction. I've read one report in which the eyewitness says she saw five streaks. Another story on one of those websites says that so many 911 calls were received in Williamson County (immediately north of Austin) that they sent out a helicopter to search for a fallen aircraft. It would be very nice, if this was detected by DSP satellite, if they would report it as has been done in the past (several years ago).
Ed Cannon - Austin, Texas, USA
15 February 2009
A colleague just called reporting a possible fireball over Erlangen, Kentucky at 10:04PM Eastern Daylight tonight 13 Feb 2009. She was not the direct observer but relaying details from a relative who made the observationA greenish-white fireball approximately 2/3rd the diameter of the full moon was observed through a south southeastern facing window falling near vertically. No Magnitude estimate other than "it lit up the room" and "moving very fast". Elton
[meteorite-list] Fireball Alert: North Central Kentucky
I've spent several hours going over internet forums, scanner reports, etc. and the preponderance of sonic boom reports are coming from London, KY. Some reports from Richmond, KY to the North of London.
Visual Observers have been mentioned from Southern Ohio, Central Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and Western South Carolina. Those with detail seem to confirm this was a steeply vertical track. Based on what I have gleaned, and trying to be conservative, nothing thus far precludes that this could have been a meteorite dropping fireball. When/if we get satellite observation data please give me a heads up.
London is on Interstate 75 near the Tennessee state line North of Jelico, TN west of Middlesboro, KY. South of Lexington KY. I am about 100 miles away in Knoxville. I'm putting together a resource pack to take to the London Corbin area Tuesday. If anyone is headed to the area please let me know so we can coordinate.
Source: Elton Jones, USA
The Kentucky fireball Friday night (9:00 PM Central,10:00 PM Eastern on 13 February; 03:00 UTC Feb 14) was observed from at least four states: Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia.
The following blog has some reports and a map of report locations:
It seems to have been going east to west. One good report from Owensboro, KY, says that from there it appeared at 45 degrees altitude, disappeared at 15 degrees, and (if I understand correctly) was going almost straight down. This observer estimates the magnitude at -6 to -7 -- from west central Kentucky.
The following site has some reports from southeast Tennessee:
Source: Ed Cannon - Austin, Texas, USA
12 February 2009
11 February 2009
held in Prague, Czech, May 10-15, 2009 http://www.bolides09.com/
We would like to take this advantage and to invite you to wonderful spring Prague to meet other colleagues, to share your experiences and to celebrate with us the 50th anniversary of the Pribram meteorite fall.
The Pribram meteorite fall on April 7, 1959 was the first scientifically observed meteorite fall. The associated bolide was captured by the photographic cameras of the double-station meteor observation program initiated and led by the Czech astronomer, Zdenek Ceplecha, who also analyzed all the available data and predicted the location of the meteorites.
To date there have been only 9 cases where a meteorite dropping bolide was observed instrumentally, so that the trajectory and orbit could be determined precisely and – at the same time – the meteorite was recovered.
Nevertheless, thanks to various observational programs and modeling efforts, our understanding of bolides and associated phenomena has increased dramatically over the past 50 years.
We believe, that the conference will be devoted not only to celebrating the anniversary, but also to offer a forum to discuss recent achievements in this field and future programs.
We are looking forward to meeting you in Prague!
On behalf of the Organizing Committee,
Pavel Spurny--Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Jiri Borovicka--Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Committee & Contacts
On-line abstract submission
By Rod Nickel, Saskatchewan News Network February 10, 2009
"Security camera footage from a gas station and motel has proven the best tool for researchers to learn the origins of a 15-tonne asteroid that lit up the Prairie sky on Nov. 20. As the asteroid broke apart, it became a giant fireball visible from northern Alberta to Manitoba. Searchers have found pieces in an area southeast of Lloydminster, specifically on a slough called Buzzard Coulee.".... Whole Story at:
Related Story with camera photo of the fireball:
09 February 2009
COMET LULIN UPDATE: The plasma tail of Comet Lulin, torn off by a solar wind gust on Feb. 4th, has already grown back. Also, observers in dark-sky locations report that the comet is now visible to the naked eye as a pale "fuzzy patch" in the constellation Libra before dawn. The comet is brightening as it approaches Earth for a 38-million-mile close encounter on Feb. 24th. See the latest images in the Comet Lulin Photo Gallery: http://spaceweather.com/comets/gallery_lulin_page7.htm
Space Weather News for Feb. 8, 2009
On Monday, Feb. 9th, the full Moon will pass through the outskirts of Earth's shadow, producing a penumbral lunar eclipse. The event will be visible to the naked eye as a dusky shading of the northern half of the Moon. Maximum eclipse occurs between the hours of 1400 and 1520 UT (6:00 am - 7:20 am PST). The timing favors observers in east Asia, Australia, Hawaii and western parts of North America.
Visit http://spaceweather.com for a visibility map, animations, and more information.
Beware Earth-shattering Headlines
04 February 2009 by Jeff Hecht
Magazine issue 2694.
"FEW editors can resist a disaster story, even one that happened in the distant past. So it is little wonder that the press jumped all over claims by a team of 25 researchers in 2007 that a mysterious impact on the North American ice sheet 12,900 years ago wiped out the continent's Pleistocene megafauna and the Clovis culture of the early settlers, and wreaked havoc on the global climate. The researchers claim a comet collision triggered wildfires across the continent and a sudden cooling known as the Younger Dryas event. If correct, the theory could help resolve a long-running debate over whether climate change or the first human settlers killed off the mammoths and other ice-age giants"....for the rest of the story:
07 February 2009
1. Marlon, J. R., P. J. Bartlein, M. K. Walsh, S. P. Harrison, K. J. Brown, M. E. Edwards, P. E. Higuera, M. J. Power, R. S. Anderson, C. Briles, A. Brunelle, C. Carcaillet, M. Daniels, F. S. Hu, M. Lavoie, C. Long, T. Minckley, P. J. H. Richard, A. C. Scott, D. S. Shafer, W. Tinner, C. E. Umbanhowar, Jr., and C. Whitlock, 2009,
Wildfire responses to abrupt climate change in North America.
Proceedings for the National Academy of Science.
Published online before print February 3, 2009, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0808212106
2. van der Hammen, T. and B. van Geel, 2008,
Charcoal in soils of the Allerød-Younger Dryas transition were the result of natural fires and not necessarily the effect of an extra-terrestrial impact. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences (Geologie en Mijnbouw) vol. 87, no. 4, pp. 359-361.
PDF file at:
A paper about the role of climatic change unrelated to extraterrestrial impacts in wildfire synchrony is:
Kitzberger, T., P. M. Brown, E. K. Heyerdahl, T. W. Swetnam, and T. T. Veblen, 2007, Contingent Pacific–Atlantic Ocean influence on multicentury wildfire synchrony over western North America.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. vol. 104 , no. 2.pp. 543-548.
Source: Paul Heinrich. LA, USA
On February 6, 2009 there were 1022 potentially hazardous asteroids.
Feb. 2009 Earth-asteroid encounters:
2009 BK58//Feb. 2 //1.7 LD//17//30 m
2009 BW2//Feb. 5 //8.4 LD//20//40 m
2009 BE58//Feb. 10 //8.6 LD//16//225 m
2006 AS2 //Feb. 10//9.2 LD//15//370 m
2009 BL58 //Feb. 11//4.8 LD//17//55 m
1999 AQ10 //Feb. 18//4.4 LD//13//390 m
Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
06 February 2009
COMET TAIL: Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is approaching Earth and putting on a good show for amateur astronomers. Yesterday, Feb. 4th, observers witnessed a "disconnection event." A gust of solar wind tore off part of the comet's tail in plain view of backyard telescopes. Photos of the event are featured on today's edition of http://spaceweather.com/.
Activity in the comet's tail and atmosphere will become even easier to see in the weeks ahead as Lulin nears closest approach on Feb. 24th. At that time the comet will lie only 38 million miles from Earth and it should be visible to the naked eye. In the meantime, please note that Feb. 5th-7th, is an especially good time to find Comet Lulin in the pre-dawn sky. The comet is gliding beautifully close to the naked-eye double star Zubenelgenubi. Just point your binoculars at the double star and the comet will materialize right beside it.
Visit http://spaceweather.com/ for photos, sky maps and more information.
Photo Credit: Mikhail Maslov, Russia
Jan 16/17 2009 12:08-22:56
05 February 2009
Green Comet Approaches Earth
NASA Science news02.04.2009 February 4, 2009:
In 1996, a 7-year-old boy in China bent over the eyepiece of a small telescope and saw something that would change his life--a comet of flamboyant beauty, bright and puffy with an activetail. At first he thought he himself had discovered it, but no, helearned, two men named "Hale" and "Bopp" had beat him to it. Mastering his disappointment, young Quanzhi Ye resolved to find his own comet one day.And one day, he did. Fast forward to a summer afternoon in July 2007. Ye, now 19 years old and a student of meteorology at China's Sun Yat-sen University, bent over his desk to stare at a black-and-white star field. The photo was taken nights before by Taiwanese astronomer Chi Sheng Lin on "skypatrol" at the Lulin Observatory. Ye's finger moved from point to point--and stopped. One of the stars was not a star, it was a comet, and this time Ye saw it first.Comet Lulin, named after the observatory in Taiwan where the discovery-photo was taken, is now approaching Earth. "It is a green beauty that could become visible to the naked eye any day now," says Ye. Amateur astronomer Jack Newton sends this photo from his backyard observatory in Arizona: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/images/greencomet/Jack-Newton1.jpg
"My retired eyes still cannot see the brightening comet," says Newton,"but my 14-inch telescope picked it up quite nicely on Feb. 1st."The comet makes its closest approach to Earth (0.41 AU) on Feb. 24,2009. Current estimates peg the maximum brightness at 4th or 5th magnitude, which means dark country skies would be required to see it.No one can say for sure, however, because this appears to be Lulin's first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Surprises are possible.Lulin's green color comes from the gases that make up its Jupiter-sized atmosphere. Jets spewing from the comet's nucleus contain cyanogen (CN:a poisonous gas found in many comets) and diatomic carbon (C2). Both substances glow green when illuminated by sunlight in the near-vacuum ofspace.In 1910, many people panicked when astronomers revealed Earth would passthrough the cyanogen-rich tail of Comet Halley. False alarm: The wispy tail of the comet couldn't penetrate Earth's dense atmosphere; even it if had penetrated, there wasn't enough cyanogen to cause real trouble. Comet Lulin will cause even less trouble than Halley did. At closest approach in late February, Lulin will stop 38 million miles short of Earth, utterly harmless.To see Comet Lulin with your own eyes, set your alarm for 3 am. The comet rises a few hours before the sun and may be found about 1/3rd of the way up the southern sky before dawn. Here are some dates when it is especially easy to find:
Comet Lulin glides by Zubenelgenubi, a double star at the fulcrum of Libra's scales. Zubenelgenubi is not only fun to say (zuBEN-el-JA-newbee), but also a handy guide. You can see Zubenelgenubi with your unaided eye (it is about as bright as stars in the Big Dipper); binoculars pointed at the binary star reveal Comet Lulin in beautiful proximity.
Comet Lulin passes Spica in the constellation Virgo. Spica is a star of first magnitude and a guidepost even city astronomers cannotmiss. A finderscope pointed at Spica will capture Comet Lulin in the field of view, centering the optics within a nudge of both objects. [skymap
Closest approach! On this special morning, Lulin will lie just a few degrees from Saturn in the constellation Leo. Saturn is obvious to the unaided eye, and Lulin could be as well. If this doesn't draw you out of bed, nothing will.
Ye notes that Comet Lulin is remarkable not only for its rare beauty,but also for its rare manner of discovery. "This is a 'comet ofcollaboration' between Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers," he says. "The discovery could not have been made without a contribution from both sides of the Strait that separates our countries. Chi Sheng Lin andother members of the Lulin Observatory staff enabled me to get the images I wanted, while I analyzed the data and found the comet."Somewhere this month, Ye imagines, another youngster will bend over an eyepiece, see Comet Lulin, and feel the same thrill he did gazing at Comet Hale-Bopp in 1996. And who knows where that might lead...?"I hope that my experience might inspire other young people to pursue the same starry dreams as myself," says Ye.
04 February 2009
The sky and the stars
compiled and written by Auke Slotegraaf
A wide-spread African concept is that the sky is a solid dome, perhaps made of blue rock, resting on the Earth, upon which the Sun moves. The traditional Tswana idea is that stars are holes in the rocky vault that is the sky.
The Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen saw the sky as the dwelling place of all the divine beings and spirits of the dead. The “things of the sky” generally do not influence or reflect the affairs of man, the !Kung taught, nor do they affect the weather, the growth of vegetation, or other conditions of the earth; they are in a realm of their own.
In Xhosa, a star is inkwenkwezi, inkanyezi in Zulu, nyenyedzi in Shona, dinaledi in Sotho, tinyeleti in Tsonga, maledzi in Venda, linaleri in Setswana, and nyota in Swahili.
While the /Xam Bushmen believed the stars were formerly people, some !Kung Bushmen taught that stars are, in fact, small creatures, and look like tiny porcupines - they have little legs, ears, teeth and are covered with tiny spines. Another !Kung account says that stars are actually ant lions, watching from overhead with their bright eyes. When they are hungry and see an ant, they quickly fall to the ground to catch it. Some say that all the stars fall to the ground each morning, and we see them on earth as insects. The Ibibio of Nigeria spoke picturesquely of the stars as “Sand of the Moon”.
The Moon – iNyanga to the Xhosa and Zulu, Nwedzi to the Shona and Venda, and Ngwedi to the Sotho and Tswana – is probably the most obvious feature in the night sky, because of its size, brightness, and changing appearance (phases). As the Moon orbits the Earth it goes through a sequence of phases, from New Moon (invisible) to crescent, half-moon, Full Moon, half-moon, and back to New Moon.
To the Kora KhoiKhoi, the Moon was kham, “the Returner”; the Nama KhoiKhoi spoke of khab. The KhoiKhoi also considered the Moon as “the Lord of Light and Life”, and would sing and dance at times of New and Full Moon.
The Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen said that the crescent phases with sharp points was male, while the Full round Moon was female.
The Xhosa considered the time of New Moon as a period of inaction. When it reappeared as a crescent in the evening sky, it was cause for celebration. Important events were scheduled to take place around the time of Full Moon. Also at Full Moon the mothers would de-worm their children, believing that at this time the worms collected in one place and could be effectively treated.
The Naro Bushmen taught that when the crescent Moon slopes downward, it is said to be looking into a grave and this is a sign that many people will die in that season. A crescent pointing upward was a favourable sign. The round Full Moon is a sign of satisfaction and that people will find plenty of food.
In /Xam Bushmen mythology, the Moon is a man who has made the Sun angry. The Sun’s sharp light cuts off pieces of the Moon until almost the whole of the Moon is gone, leaving only one small piece. The Moon then pleads for mercy and the Sun lets him go. From this small piece, the Moon gradually grows again until it becomes a Full Moon. The /Xam also have another account of how the Moon came to be. In the old times, it was said, the Moon was one of the leather sandals of the Mantis-god /kaggen. The sandal was placed in water to soften it somewhat, but this angered the water spirit who then froze the water, locking the sandal in ice. When /kaggen saw the frozen sandal he discarded it, throwing it up into the sky, where it became the Moon. Whatever its origin, the /Xam considered the New Moon as being able to influence hunting and the gathering of ants’ eggs, and when the crescent was sighted, they would ask for its assistance.
The surface of the Moon has dark and bright markings; flat lava plains and rocky highlands, respectively. In many African traditions these markings are said to resemble the figure of a man or woman carrying a bundle of sticks.
When the Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon, a lunar eclipse occurs. The Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen said that this was caused by the lion, putting his paw over the Moon to darken the night so he could have better hunting
Under certain atmospheric conditions, a “moon bow” can form, appearing as a large ring around the Moon. To the /Gwi Bushman, such a ring was a sign that food will be plentiful.
Bright southern stars
The Southern Cross (Crux) and the two bright Pointers (alpha and beta Centuari) are probably the most recognizable of the southern stars, and they feature prominently in African star lore.
In Sotho, Tswana and Venda traditions, these stars are Dithutlwa, “The Giraffes”. The bright stars of Crux are male giraffes, and the two Pointers are female. The Venda called the fainter stars of the Southern Cross Thudana, “The Little Giraffe”. They also say that the month Khubvhumedzi begins when the crescent Moon can be seen for the first time and, at the same time, the lower two giraffe stars are just below the horizon and the upper two are just visible. Sotho lore tells that when the giraffe stars are seen close to the south-western horizon just after sunset, they indicate the beginning of cultivating season.
The /Xam Bushmen saw the two Pointers as male lions; they were once men, but a magical girl turned them into stars. The three brightest stars of the Southern Cross they saw to be female lions. To the Khoikhoi, the Pointers were known as Mura, “The Eyes”, of some great celestial beast.
The Coal Sack, a large dark nebula near the Southern Cross, is known as the “Old Bag of the Night” to the Nyae Nyae !Kung Bushmen.
The long axis of the Southern Cross points towards a bright star called Achernar. This star is called Senakane (Sotho, Tswana) and Tshinanga (Venda), meaning “The Little Horn”.
Brighter still than Achernar is Canopus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. It is widely known in southern Africa as Naka, “The Horn Star”. In Sotho tradition, a careful watch was kept for Naka about the end of May. Sotho chiefs awarded a cow for Naka’s earliest sighting. The day of the sighting the chief would call his medicine-men together. Throwing their bone dice, the doctors would judge whether the new season would be good or bad. The appearance of Naka also heralds coming of winter and browning of the veld. When Naka appeared before sunrise, the Tswana knew it was time to start breeding their sheep. In Venda tradition, the first person to see Nanga in the morning sky (in May, heralding winter) would climb a hill and blow the phalaphala (black sable antelope horn) and he would receive a cow as a prize. The Zulu knew Canopus as isAndulela, a messenger appearing at the end of Autumn, the harvest time, and also as inKhwenkwezi, “The Brilliant Star”. The /Xam Bushmen believed that Canopus could influence the availability of ants’ eggs, a rich source of nourishment, and they called it “The Ant Egg Star”.
The beautiful constellation Scorpius with its slender curved row of stars is famous for the bright reddish star Antares. This star was called by the !Xu Bushmen “The Fire-Finishing Star” – not only does it have a reddish colour, but (at certain times of the year) it sets very late at night, when the camp fires have died down. (See also Arcturus and Regulus below.)
Along the curved body of the scorpion, just before the tail section, lies a close pair of stars (mu-1 and mu-2 Scorpii), which the Khoikhoi called xami di mura, “The Eyes of the Lion”.
Near Scorpius is a conspicuous circlet of stars known as Corona Australis, the Southern Crown. The /Xam Bushmen had a tale about a group of men who sat eating together when a bewitched girl look upon them, turning them into these stars.
The bright star Fomalhaut lies in a rather star-poor region and is prominent in the summer sky. It is called Ndemara, “The Sweetheart Star”, by the Shona, and Ntshuna, “The Kiss Me Star”, by the Tswana. The visibility of this star was supposed to indicate the time for lovers to part before their parents discovered them. (Compare this with the tale about Venus the Evening Star, below).
Another prominent southern star is Peacock (alpha Pavonis); the /Gwi Bushmen call it “The Female Steenbok”.
The Magellanic Clouds
On a moonless night under a dark sky, two interesting “clouds” can be seen to the south, one cloud much larger and brighter than the other. These are the Magellanic Clouds, or the “Cape Clouds”, and are actually entire galaxies, thousands of light years away.
The Ju/Wasi and !Kung Bushmen said that the larger cloud was a part of the sky where soft thornless grass grows, like the kind they used for bedding. One day, they say, God climbed onto the large cloud and went hunting. Several other Bushman groups saw the two clouds as male and female steenbok.
The Sotho saw the clouds as the spoor of two celestial animals. The large cloud was Setlhako sa Naka, “The Spoor of the Horn Star” (Naka, Canopus) and the smaller cloud was Setlhako sa Senakane, “The Spoor of the Little Horn Star” (Senakane, Achernar).
Tswana folklore tells that when the small cloud appeared more clearly than the large cloud, a drought would follow.
Visit PsychoHistorian.org for more lore on the Sun, The Milky Way, The stars around Orion, Venus, comets and meteors.
Original Source: http://www.psychohistorian.org/
Posted from: http://www.marklives.com/wordpress/?p=347
Thank you to Paolo Gallo, M.V., Venezuela for the forwarded post.