Did a Meteorite Cause a Crater in Nicaragua?

At approximately midnight local time on the night of September 6 (September 7, 6 UTC), a loud explosion was heard in an area near Managua, Nicaragua. A crater some 39 feet in diameter was found near 86.2 degrees west longitude, 12.2 degrees north latitude, in good agreement with the reports of explosive sounds. It has been suggested that a meteorite may have caused this crater; however, the lack of fireball reports from the surrounding populated area seems to suggest some other cause. The skies were partially clear, and an object capable of producing a crater this large would have also generated a very bright fireball (brighter than the Full Moon) that should have been seen over a wide area. Some have drawn analogies to the September 2007 Carancas meteorite fall in Peru; however, there were fireball reports associated with this event, even though it occurred in the daytime near noon.

While a meteoritic origin for this crater cannot be ruled out with absolute certainty, the information available at this time suggests that some other cause is responsible for its creation.

Alabama Fireball of August 2, 2014

We have completed our analyses and here’s what we know:

At 10:19 PM Central Daylight Time on August 2 (Saturday night), NASA meteor cameras detected a very bright fireball at an altitude of 57 miles above Hoodoo Road just east of the town of Beechgrove, TN. The meteoroid, which was about 15 inches in diameter and weighed close to 100 lbs, travelled just over 100 miles to the south south east at 47,000 miles per hour, breaking apart in a brilliant flash of light above the Alabama town of Henagar. The cameras continued to track a large fragment until it disappeared 18 miles above Gaylesville, located near Lake Weiss close to the Georgia state line. At last sight, the fragment was still traveling at 11,000 miles per hour. Based on the meteor’s speed, final altitude, and weak doppler radar signatures, it is believed that this fireball produced small meteorites on the ground somewhere between Borden Springs, AL and Lake Weiss.

The meteoroid’s orbit has its farthest point between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and is inclined to that of the Earth (which explains its southerly direction).

Check out the video!

The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office would like to hear from those in the area around Alabama’s Lake Weiss who may have heard sonic booms or like sounds around 10:20 PM Saturday night. Please contact Dr. Bill Cooke at william.j.cooke@nasa.gov if you have reports of such.

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Join Us For the May Camelopardalids!

Step outside and take a look at the skies on the evening of May 23 into the early morning of May 24. Scientists are anticipating a new meteor shower, the May Camelopardalids. No one has seen it before, but the shower could put on a show that would rival the prolific Perseid meteor shower in August. The Camelopardalids shower would be dust resulting from a periodic comet, 209P/LINEAR.

“Some forecasters have predicted a meteor storm of more than 200 meteors per hour,” said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “We have no idea what the comet was doing in the 1800s. The parent comet doesn’t appear to be very active now, so there could be a great show, or there could be little activity.”

The best time to look is during the hours between 06:00 and 08:00 Universal Time on May 24, or between 2-4 a.m. EDT. That’s when forecast models say Earth is most likely to encounter the comet’s debris. North Americans are favored because their peak occurs during nighttime hours while the radiant is high in the sky.

On the night of May 23-24, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke will host a live web chat from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EDT. Go to this page to learn more about the May Camelopardalids, to get information about the live chat and to view the live Ustream view that will be available during the chat.

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Bright Fireball Over Georgia

The NASA Meteoroid Environment Office can confirm a bright fireball observed by several eyewitnesses in Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee on Mar. 7, 2012 at 10:19:11 p.m. EST. The fireball was observed by three NASA cameras located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., Tullahoma Tenn., and Cartersville, Ga. The meteor was first recorded at an altitude of 52.7 miles (84.8 km) southeast of Tunnel Hill, Ga., moving slightly south of west at approximately 15 km/s (33,500 mph). It was last seen 14.4 miles (23.2 km) above State Road 95 south east of Rock Springs, Ga. A map of the trajectory is available here: http://www.billcooke.org/events/NGA_2012Mar08/GeorgiaTracks.jpg. The yellow line is the initial automatic meteor trajectory solution. The orange line is the manual (refined) meteor trajectory.

Below are video still images and a short video captured from the cameras at the Marshall Center in Huntsville, Ala. and Cartersville, Ga. 





Credits: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environment Office

Slow-Moving Meteor Paints the Night Skies

Early on the morning of Jan. 3, 2012, a beautiful meteor was seen traveling across the skies over Huntsville, Ala. Moving slowly at “only” 18.9 km/s — or 42,000 mph — the meteor was recorded at approximately 10:34:16 UTC in an allsky camera at the Marshall Space Flight Center. It started 88.5 km/55 miles up and was last detected at 79.8 km/50 miles up. The meteor had a mass of 22 grams and was about an inch in diameter — fairly big for a meteor — and its orbit went out to the asteroid belt.

The view below shows the meteor’s path captured by an allsky color camera, also located at the Marshall Center.

Image credits: NASA/MSFC/Meteoroid Environments Office/Bill Cooke and Danielle Moser

Geminid Over Las Cruces

Hazy skies did little to dim the brightness of this Gemind meteor, which graced the skies over southern New Mexico on the night of Dec. 14 around 7:28 p.m. MST. Moving at 80,000 mph, the 3/4 inch meteor — a piece of the asteroid 3200 Phaethon — flared brighter than the planet Venus before burning up 47 miles above the U.S./Mexico border.

Image credit: Marshall Space Flight Center, Meteoroid Environments Office, Bill Cooke

A Shadow on the Moon

The next full moon is known as the Cold Moon, the Long Night Moon, or the Moon Before Yule. The moon will be “opposite” the sun at 9:38 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 10. The moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from the evening of Thursday, Dec. 8 through the morning — and possibly the evening — of Sunday, Dec. 11.

On Dec.10, the moon will be so “opposite” the sun from the Earth that it will pass through the shadow of the Earth. The Earth’s shadow will begin to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the moon at about 6:34 a.m. EST, but the U.S. East Coast will not be able to tell that the moon appears dimmer before it sets at 7:08 a.m. EST. The full shadow of the Earth (called the umbra) does not start to fall on the moon until about 7:46 a.m. EST, well after the moon has set for the U.S. East Coast. Even for the U.S. West Coast, the eclipse will be near moonset, making this a difficult eclipse to view. The extended period with reduced sunlight, including 51 minutes in the full shadow of the Earth, presents a challenging environment for spacecraft at the moon (LRO, the twin GRAIL spacecraft) that rely upon sunlight for heat and solar power. Because the two ARTEMIS spacecraft are in highly elliptical orbits around the moon, it is not clear if or how they will be impacted.

Europeans call the December full moon the Moon before Yule. Yule is an old northern European winter festival that is now associated with Christmas. The Native American names for the full moon in December — as reported in the Farmer’s Almanac — are the Cold Moon or the Long Night Moon. The Cold Moon gets its name because December is the month when it really starts to get cold, although our coldest average temperatures are in January. The Long Night Moon gets its name because the full moon in December occurs near the solstice, which has the longest night of the year. The full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low sun, so the moon will be above the horizon longer than at other times of the year.


A full moon over Earth, seen by astronaut Ron Garan from the International Space Station. (NASA)

A Shadow on the Moon

The next full moon is known as the Cold Moon, the Long Night Moon, or the Moon Before Yule. The moon will be “opposite” the sun at 9:38 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 10. The moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from the evening of Thursday, Dec. 8 through the morning — and possibly the evening — of Sunday, Dec. 11.

On Dec.10, the moon will be so “opposite” the sun from the Earth that it will pass through the shadow of the Earth. The Earth’s shadow will begin to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the moon at about 6:34 a.m. EST, but the U.S. East Coast will not be able to tell that the moon appears dimmer before it sets at 7:08 a.m. EST. The full shadow of the Earth (called the umbra) does not start to fall on the moon until about 7:46 a.m. EST, well after the moon has set for the U.S. East Coast. Even for the U.S. West Coast, the eclipse will be near moonset, making this a difficult eclipse to view. The extended period with reduced sunlight, including 51 minutes in the full shadow of the Earth, presents a challenging environment for spacecraft at the moon (LRO, the twin GRAIL spacecraft) that rely upon sunlight for heat and solar power. Because the two ARTEMIS spacecraft are in highly elliptical orbits around the moon, it is not clear if or how they will be impacted.

Europeans call the December full moon the Moon before Yule. Yule is an old northern European winter festival that is now associated with Christmas. The Native American names for the full moon in December — as reported in the Farmer’s Almanac — are the Cold Moon or the Long Night Moon. The Cold Moon gets its name because December is the month when it really starts to get cold, although our coldest average temperatures are in January. The Long Night Moon gets its name because the full moon in December occurs near the solstice, which has the longest night of the year. The full moon takes a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite to the low sun, so the moon will be above the horizon longer than at other times of the year.


 A full moon over Earth, seen by astronaut Ron Garan from the International Space Station. (NASA)

Leonids Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight!

The annual Leonid meteor shower is expected to reach peak activity tonight, November 17, at about 10:40 p.m. EST. Leonid meteor showers occur when the Earth runs into a stream of small icy debris left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle as it moves about the Sun.

The best viewing opportunity is tonight after midnight, when the constellation Leo rises above the eastern horizon. Leonids can be viewed any place on Earth except Antarctica — given the sky is clear.

“The moon is going to be a major interference, but we could see a rate of about 20 per hour,” said Bill Cooke, Lead of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

For best meteor viewing Cooke suggests going to a location away from city lights, dressing warmly, and lie flat on your back and look straight up. No special viewing equipment needed —  just your eyes.

The Leonids occur each year in November.
 
 

At 1:45 am MST on November 17th,  NASA’s all sky camera at the New Mexico State University caught this image of a Leonid meteor streaking through the skies.

Images of Rare Aurora in Southern Tennessee

 
The colors of emitted light within an aurora depend on the initial energy of the charged particles (mostly electrons) cascading into Earth’s atmosphere.  Electrons with higher initial energies are able to penetrate deeper into the atmosphere, whereas those with lower initial energies lose all their energy at higher altitudes. The blue aurora emitted from low-altitude molecular nitrogen is most commonly seen at higher latitudes, such as in Canada and Alaska, where high-energy electrons are more common. Red aurorae mostly result from lower-energy electrons reacting with atomic oxygen at high altitudes, which can occur at lower latitudes (<50 degrees) during extremely strong geomagnetic storms — such as is seen in images here.  The auroral electrons that make it into the low-latitude atmosphere usually do not have enough energy to reach molecular nitrogen.  This is why low-latitude aurorae are almost always red.


Credit: Jeremy Myers, NASA Marshall Engineer