Last night (March 22) at around 8 p.m. EDT, a meteoroid with a boulder size of ~1 yard in diameter entered the atmosphere above Pennsylvania and moved southeast, passing just south of New York City. It went dark over the Atlantic Ocean, and may have produced meteorites which dropped harmlessly into the water below. This trajectory plot, produced by Mike Hankey from the over 350 eyewitness accounts, is on the American Meteor Society’s website (http://www.amsmeteors.org/ and shows the meteor’s path.
(Credit: American Meteor Society)
So how can we tell that the Russian meteor isn’t related to asteroid 2012 DA14?
One way is to look at meteor showers — the Orionids all have similar orbits to their parent comet, Halley. Similarly, the Geminids all move in orbits that closely resemble the asteroid 3200 Phaethon, which produced them. So if the Russian meteor was a fragment of 2012 DA14, it would have an orbit very similar to that of the asteroid.
It does not…
If you look at the image, the orbit of the Earth is the green circle. That of 2012 DA14 is the blue ellipse that is almost entirely within the orbit of the Earth; notice that it is close to circular. The other blue ellipse, stretching way beyond the orbit of Mars, is the first determination of the orbit of the Russian meteor. Notice that the two are nothing alike; in fact, they aren’t even close.
This is one reason — a big one — why NASA says the asteroid 2012 DA14 are not connected.Text/image credit: NASA/MSFC/Meteroid Environment Office
This image shows asteroid 2012 DA14 and the Eta Carinae Nebula, with the white box highlighting the asteroid’s path. The image was taken using a 3″ refractor equipped with a color CCD camera. The telescope is located at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia and is maintained and owned by iTelescope.net.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery