Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Things That Go BANG! In the Night...

Here are a couple of tidbits I found as Game 3 of the World Series draws near. They serve as a reminder to those who would ingore what is happening in the ever changing sky...

154-Pound Meteorite Unearthed in Kansas

Scientists, using technology they hope will help to unravel some of the mysteries of the Martian soil, have unearthed a 154-pound meteorite that fell to the ground about 10,000 years ago in an area of Kansas that is known for having taken such hits. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

GREENSBURG, Kan. - Scientists were excited when they pulled a 154-pound meteorite from deep below a Kansas wheat field, but what got them most electrified was the way they unearthed it.

The team Monday uncovered the find 4 feet under a meteorite-strewn field using new ground-penetrating radar technology that someday might be used on Mars. It was that technology which pinpointed the site and proved for the first time that it could be used to find objects buried deep in the ground and to make an accurate three-dimensional image of them.

"It validates the technique so we can use something similar to that instrument when we go to Mars," said Patricia Reiff, director of the Rice Space Institute.

Such GPR systems had been used in the past to locate smaller meteorites through the ice in Antarctica. But until the Kansas dig, the technology had not been successfully used for ground detection in heavy soils — like on Mars — to find meteorites or water there.

The dig was likely the most documented excavation yet of a meteorite find, with researchers painstakingly using brushes and hand tools to preserve evidence of the impact trail and to date the event of the meteorite strike. Soil samples also were bagged and tagged and organic material preserved for dating purposes.

"When we find a piece of meteorite, each one is a new sentence we add to the book to understand the evolution of the solar system," Essam Heggy, planetary scientist at the Johnson Space Center's Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

Even before they had the pallasite meteorite out of the ground, the scientific experts at the site were able to debunk prevailing wisdom that the spectacular Brenham meteorite fall occurred 20,000 years ago. Its location in the Pleistocene epoch soil layer puts that date closer to 10,000 years ago.

"We know it is recent," said Carolyn Sumners, director of Astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, as she surveyed progress on the dig. "Native Americans could have seen it."

The Brenham field was discovered in 1882. Scientists have since traced pieces of the shower as far away as Indian mounds in Ohio, indicating the meteorites were traded as pieces of jewelry and ceremonial artifacts. The site was largely forgotten in recent decades until Arnold and Mani leased eight square miles of it and began looking deep below the surface. More than 15,000 pounds of meteorites have been recovered from the area.

This week's find will end up as part of a new exhibit on comets, meteors and asteroids at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The museum will pay about $50,000 for it, Sumners said. It is valued at more than $100,000, she said.

Landowner Alan Binford watched with interest as the scientists freed the meteorite, bagging clumps of his rich Kansas farmland around it. "I didn't figure there would be that much scientific value," he said. "I never thought about them going to this extent. It is interesting history."

No shit he watched with interest. For that much money I'd sure as hell watch with interest too!

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German Cottage Crushed by Meteor

On a similar note, a 77-year old man had his cottage destroyed by a meteor over the weekend in Germany. Full Yahoo News Reuters story:

BERLIN (Reuters) - A fire that destroyed a cottage near Bonn and injured a 77-year-old man was probably caused by a meteor and witnesses saw an arc of blazing light in the sky, German police said on Friday.

Burkhard Rick, a spokesman for the police in Siegburg east of Bonn, said the fire gutted the cottage and badly burned the man's hands and face in the incident on October 10.

"We sought assistance from Bochum observatory and they noted that at that particular moment the earth was near a field of meteoroid splinter and it could be assumed that particles had entered the atmosphere," he said.

"The particles usually don't reach the surface because they disintegrate in the atmosphere," he added. "But some can make it to the ground. We believe this was a bolide (meteoric fireball) with a size of no more than 10 mm."

A few years ago, I remember reading a story in Sky & Telescope about a meteor that caved in the front of a guy's car in Upstate New York. I wonder what the insurance comapany told that poor bastard...

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