Asteroid 433 Eros made a close approach to Earth the morning of January 31st coming within 0.17 AU (15 million miles) of our planet. In this set of images taken that morning, the bright moving dot near the center of the field is the 21 mile long Eros. Somewhere on that tiny point of light rests a United States spacecraft — Near Shoemaker — which touched down on the asteroid’s surface on February 12, 2001 after completing 230 orbits around Eros.
In the animation you will also notice over 20 streaks of light moving almost horizontally across the field of view. What we did not realize at the time of imaging was that Eros was at approximately the declination of geosynchronous communication satellites! These satellites are orbiting some 22,236 miles above the earth in the “Clark belt.” We were able to identify most of the satellites seen and found quite a variety.
Included in the video are Brazilian satellites (Brazilsat B2, Star One C2); American satellites (Galaxy 11); Canadian satellites (Nimiq 4, Anik F1); Venezuelan satellites (Venesat-1); weather satellites (GEOS 12); television satellites (DirecTV 1-R); radio satellites (XM 3, Sirius FM); and Internet satellites (WildBlue – 1).
MSFC’s all sky meteor camera recorded this bright meteor last night (November 1st) at 9:04 pm CDT. Blazing across the sky at 40 miles per second (144,000 mph), the 1 inch visitor from space took only 3.3 seconds to go 132 miles, starting at a point just northeast of Athens, Alabama and burning up west of Tuscaloosa.
A wide field meteor camera at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center recorded this spectacular meteor breaking up in Earth’s atmosphere on Sept. 30, 2011, 8:37 p.m. EDT. Also visible is a star-like object moving slowly toward the upper middle of the field of view — the upper stage of the Zenit booster that launched the Russian Cosmos 2219 intelligence satellite back in 1992. Orbiting 500 miles above Earth, this empty rocket body can get bright enough to be seen with the unaided eye.
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
Three meteoroids were seen hitting the moon last week — all of them possible pieces of Comet Halley! The Eta Aquariid — the meteor shower caused from Comet Halley, see post below — radiant was positioned so that almost the entire visible part of the moon was exposed to it. On the evenings of May 9-11, members of the Meteoroid Environment Office were out doing lunar observations and a meteoroid impact was seen each night.
The peak of the Eta Aquariids was the morning of May 5, but the rate is still high and meteors associated with this shower were still seen last week in multiple cameras over Alabama and surrounding states.
The following images are stills from the videos recorded those evenings; the impacts are seen on the dark portion of the moon.
The movie below is the meteoroid impact from May 11 and after taking into account the brightness of the flash and the large amount of glare from the moon, this is one of the largest impacts we have seen to date!
What are the signs of spring? They are as familiar as a blooming daffodil, a songbird at dawn, a surprising shaft of warmth from the afternoon sun. And, oh yes, don’t forget the meteors.
“Spring is fireball season,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Center. “For reasons we don’t fully understand, the rate of bright meteors climbs during the weeks around the vernal equinox.”
In other seasons, a person willing to watch the sky from dusk to dawn could expect to see around 10 random or “sporadic” fireballs. A fireball is a meteor brighter than the planet Venus. Earth is bombarded by them as our planet plows through the jetsam and flotsam of space–i.e., fragments of broken asteroids and decaying comets that litter the inner solar system.
In spring, fireballs are more abundant. Their nightly rate mysteriously climbs 10% to 30%.
“We’ve known about this phenomenon for more than 30 years,” says Cooke. “It’s not only fireballs that are affected. Meteorite falls–space rocks that actually hit the ground–are more common in spring as well1.”
Researchers who study Earth’s meteoroid environment have never come up with a satisfactory explanation for the extra fireballs. In fact, the more they think about it, the stranger it gets…
Watching the skies is much more than a hobby with the Marshall Center’s Bill Cooke, lead of the Meteoroid Environment office — it’s an obsession.
Each morning when Cooke logs on to his computer, he quickly checks email for the daily update from the fireball camera network. Groups of smart cameras in Cooke’s new Fireball network triangulate the fireballs’ paths, and generate the report that appears in his email each morning.
Cooke’s network of cameras is currently made up of three cameras; however he is looking to add 12 additional cameras, and he’s actively seeking schools, science centers and planetariums to host his cameras. The cameras will need to be deployed in clusters of five. One group will be spread over the southeast United States; another in the Ohio and Kentucky area; and another along the Atlantic coast in the northeast. The hope is that at least one of the three regions will have clear skies at any given time.
The following criteria must be met for a location to be considered as a camera site:
Location east of the Mississippi River
Clear horizon — few trees
Few bright lights — none close to camera
Fast internet connection
Stay tuned for details on what the fireball network reports!
The 2010 solstice lunar eclipse is one for the books, but check out these images from two cameras in the Canadian all-sky meteor camera network.These cameras are similar to the ones used for observation at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center: all-sky, black-and-white, and detecting bright meteors, or fireballs. Below are two stacked images of the eclipse:
Stacked image of the eclipse using images taken every five minutes from McMaster University between 6:32 and 9:32 UT.
A similarly stacked image, combining pictures every five minutes between 5:27-9:37; it was taken from Orangeville, ON, Canada.
Just as a reminder, the eclipse event timings in UT were:
Partial begins: 6:33
Total begins: 7:41
Mid eclipse: 8:17
Total ends: 8:53
Partial ends: 10:01
So both cameras captured the full moon as it normally appears, then imaged it as it was eclipsed through the partial and total phases. Unfortunately, bad weather rolled in before the eclipse ended!
The Canadian cameras also detected meteors during the eclipse. Here are a few good ones:
The following two images were also taken from McMaster and Orangeville at about 7:38 UT, just before the total eclipse began, but after the partial eclipse had started. These pictures show an image of a meteor fairly close to the moon in the field of view.
The following three images were recorded from Elginfield, ON, Canada, McMaster, and Orangeville, respectively, at about 9:00 UT, just after the total eclipse phase ended, but before the partial eclipse ended. This meteor ablated by a height of 83 kilometers, or 52 miles.
Images courtesy of the Meteor Physics Group at the University of Western Ontario in London, ON, Canada Text courtesy of Danielle Moser, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Meteoroid Environment Office
Last night the NASA All-sky Meteor cameras detected their first Geminid fireball of 2010! The fireball, detected from cameras positioned in both Huntsville, Ala., and Chickamauga, Ga., was first spotted over southern Tennessee at a height of 58.7 miles above the ground. It streaked across the sky over northern Alabama at a speed of 76,300 mph and completely burned up by a height of 53.4 miles. If the weather remains clear, we should be in for a good Geminid show this year!
Geminid fireball meteor seen from Huntsville (left) and Chickamauga (right) on December 6, 2010.
Meteor rates should peak early next week, so stay tuned for more news about the Geminid meteor shower!
Image courtesy of Danielle Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.