Feb 17, 2009 | 3
The brilliant fireball that lit up the Texas sky on Sunday—in daytime, no less—was caught on video as it burned its way through the atmosphere.
The origin of the flaming apparition remains unclear, but a natural meteor is the likeliest culprit. (Early reports suggesting that the fireball was falling debris from last week's satellite crash have been refuted.)
Some astronomers are estimating that a rocky object about the size of a pickup truck would produce such a flare as it burned up on entry. It's not uncommon for space rocks of that size to strike Earth's atmosphere—our planet is bombarded by car-size asteroids several times a year. But with the increasing prevalence of surveillance cameras and amateur videographers, those events are becoming better documented. In Texas the fireball was captured on camera by a professional videographer filming the Austin Marathon.
Sep 26, 2008
Scientists have proposed that the United Nations establish a global network of telescopes to track asteroids and comets at risk of hitting Earth—and, eventually, create a plan to deflect them and evacuate humans in their paths. The Association of Space Explorers (ASE) is set to deliver its recommendations to the U.N.'s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space when the panel meets in February. If the committee signs off on them, they would go to the General Assembly for final approval.
"The U.N. has 192 member states, and very few are aware of near-Earth objects," says Hans Haubold, a spokesperson for the U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs. "We welcome this initiative, but it is up to the [U.N.'s] member states to decide what to do with it."
Sep 25, 2008 | 4
This week's meeting of the U.N. Security Council and its discussions of international political and economic crises are grabbing headlines, but astronauts are having a powwow of their own about another global concern: how to protect Earth from an asteroid or cometary impact.
That's right: continental or global disaster from the cosmos isn't just the stuff of blockbusters like Armageddon and Deep Impact—and as far as we know, Bruce Willis and Elijah Wood aren't part of this week's meeting of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE). Asteroid impacts have occurred before: a near-Earth object (NEO) became an on-Earth disaster 65 million years ago, wiping out dinosaurs and the majority of other species, and the 1908 Tunguska event, thought to have been caused by an exploding asteroid or comet, destroyed some 7,700 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of Siberian forest.
Aug 12, 2008 | 5
If you didn’t get up early this morning to watch, late-night tonight will still be a good opportunity to catch sight of some shooting stars. Every year around this time, the Earth hurtles through the debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle, resulting in the so-called Perseid meteor shower. The bits of dust strewn by the passing comet (which is now past the orbit of Uranus, according to NASA) burn up as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, traveling at about 132,000 miles (212,433 kilometers) per hour. These glowing streaks often originate in the direction of the constellation Perseus, hence the shower’s name.
In case you miss this meteoric event as it fizzles out in a few days, the next best time to start looking up for shooting stars will be on November 17, when our planet passes through the neighborhood of the Leonids.
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