Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bright Meteor Lights Up Atlanta Skies

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The video and images below show a very bright meteor that streaked over the skies of Atlanta, Ga., on the night of Aug. 28, 2011.

View from all sky camera in Cartersville, Ga., operated by
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
 › View linking/embed version of video


Some stats on the meteor:

Initial speed: 23.6 km/s (52,800 mph)
Start location: 84.131 W, 33.981 N, Altitude 104.6 km (65.0 miles)
End location:  84.109 W, 33.524 N, Altitude 41.3 km (25.7 miles)

 


View from all sky camera located at Huntsville, Al.



View from all sky camera located at Tullahoma, Tenn.



 
View from all sky camera located at Cartersville, Ga.

The meteor was too bright for the all sky camera in Cartersville, Ga., to accurately determine the center of light, so manual analysis will be required to determine a more accurate end point. Results will be posted here on the blog as they become available.

 

 

Video and image credits: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office

The Moon: What We've Learned So Far

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We all know the moon is not made of cheese, but what is it made of?

 

 Credit: Sylvain Weiller

 

Believe it or not, there’s a lot of ice on it. Scientists have been able to study samples brought back from the moon’s surface during the Apollo missions. In addition, recent missions like NASA’s Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, made it possible to study the moon’s composition in space. With LCROSS and LRO, NASA has been able to observe lunar dust within the moon’s craters and make a more detailed lunar topographical study than ever before — and they’ve made some pretty exciting discoveries about the moon’s composition.

The biggest finding, of course, was evidence of water on the moon, but that was only the beginning of the discoveries. Along with water, LCROSS also uncovered evidence that the moon has its own water cycle and that the water is typically present in the form of pure ice crystals.

Scientists were able to study the moon’s composition in 2009 when LCROSS impacted in a deep crater on the moon’s surface, ejecting a plume of material that might not have seen sunlight in millions of years. Instruments on the orbiting LRO satellite picked up traces of ice crystals and other volatiles, compounds that freeze and are trapped in the cold lunar craters and vaporize when warmed by the sun. As much as 20 percent of the material kicked up by the LCROSS impact was made up of volatiles, including methane, ammonia, hydrogen gas, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The instruments also discovered relatively large amounts of light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly even silver. Scientists believe the water and mix of volatiles that LCROSS and LRO detected could be the remnants of a comet impact. According to scientists, these volatile chemical by-products are also evidence of a cycle through which water ice reacts with lunar soil grains.

The proportion of volatiles to water in the lunar soil indicates a process called “cold grain chemistry” is taking place. Scientists have theorized that this process takes thousands of years and could happen on other frigid bodies, like asteroids and moons of other planets.

The moon is more than a giant rock circling Earth; it is a body with its own chemistry and composition that NASA has only just begun to reveal. As NASA looks toward the future for new lunar missions, its knowledge of the moon’s composition could help future explorers. The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won’t have to carry their own water source for valuable life support resources. In addition, an abundant presence of hydrogen gas, ammonia and methane could provide possible sources of fuel for future surface activities. Who knows — in a few decades, lunar astronauts may return to Earth using the moon’s own “lunar fuel.”

 

Perseids Meteor Shower Lights Up the Sky

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Marshall scientist Bill Cooke and his team, from the Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center, watched the sky during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. The team used the Marshall meteor cameras the evening of August 12 and into the early morning August 13 to capture images of the Perseids.

 

 
Meteor over Tullahoma, Tennessee 
(Courtesy: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office)
 

The Perseids have been observed for about 2,000 years. The source of the annual meteor shower is the debris trail left behind comet Swift-Tuttle. Each year in August, the Earth passes through a cloud of the comets debris. These bits of ice and dust burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Most of the Perseid meteors that we observe now were ejected from Swift-Tuttle about 1,000 years ago.

Cooke and his team answered questions about the Perseids during an Up All Night with NASA web chat. You can read a transcript of the web chat (PDF, 550 Kb) to learn more about the Perseids: what creates them, their composition, how old they are, how fast they travel and other fascinating facts.

NASA All Sky Camera Catches Perseids Meteors

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Tuesday night, the skies over Huntsville were filled with images of the Perseids meteor shower. This year, the Perseids shower will peak on August 12 and, weather permitting, it will be a sight you won’t want to miss. 

Join NASA astronomer Bill Cooke and his team of experts at Marshall Space Flight Center on August 12 for an ‘Up All Night’ web chat as they answer your questions about the Perseids. More information about the chat can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/perseids_2011.html

 
 
All meteors seen by Huntsville NASA all sky camera last night



The 10 confirmed Perseids seen by the Huntsville camera last night



Confirmed Perseids seen by the Tullahoma NASA all sky camera last night


 
 Locations of all Perseid meteors recorded by our cameras so far this year
 
 
All Images credit: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment