NASA experts will hold a teleconference for news media at 4 p.m. EST today to discuss a meteor that streaked through the skies over Russia’s Urals region this morning.
Scientists have determined the Russia meteor is not related to asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass safely pass Earth today at a distance of more than 17,000 miles. Early assessments of the Russia meteor indicate it was about one-third the size of 2012 DA14 and traveling in a different direction.
Panelists for the teleconference are:
— Bill Cooke, lead for the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. — Paul Chodas, research scientist in the Near Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
The teleconference will be carried live online at:
This is the most common question we are asked, and the answer is “maybe.” It all depends on where you are located and what sort of equipment you have.
Closest approach will be around 19:25 UTC on February 15; this will be when the asteroid will be at its brightest. Even at this time, when 2012 DA14 is only about 17,000 miles above Earth’s surface, it will not be visible to the unaided eye due to its small size. Observers in Indonesia (which is favored to see close approach) will need binoculars to catch a glimpse of the asteroid as it moves rapidly through the sky.
The rest of us will need to use a telescope. In North America, 2012 DA14 will be no brighter than magnitude 11 when the Sun sets on the 15th. This is over 60 times fainter than the faintest star you can see with your eyes under perfect sky conditions. Also, it will still be moving quickly through the constellations — over 3 degrees (6 Moon diameters) per hour — and this speed, combined with its fading, will make it a challenging target, even for experienced amateurs. Algorithms in many of the software programs used to drive telescopes are not suited for fast movers like this one, and may point the telescope in the wrong locations (A test we conducted using a popular software package showed that it would point the telescope over a degree away from the actual position of DA14, well outside the one half degree field of view of most instruments). So seeing 2012 DA14 before it fades beyond the limit of most amateur telescopes will not be a simple task; it will require some thought and advanced planning. An invaluable tool in planning your observations is the JPL Horizons website (http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov), which can calculate the precise positions of 2012 DA14 for your location.
So can I see 2012 DA 14? The answer is yes — if you have access to a decent telescope, if you take the time to figure out where you need to look in advance, and if your sky is clear. A lot of work, but the reward is a glimpse of a house-size visitor from another part of the Solar System as it whizzes by our planet at a distance closer than many of the communications satellites we depend upon in our daily lives. A rare event, to be sure.
Those without telescope access may also get a glimpse. NASA will be streaming the latter part of the asteroid flyby on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc – if the skies are clear in Alabama and the MSFC-based telescope can view DA14, you can use the Internet to get a peek at 2012 DA14 (which will look like a fast moving star) from the comfort of your home.
The Marshall Meteoroid Environment office put together the plot below showing the distribution of end heights of Geminids seen with our fireball camera network. 85% of Geminids burn up 40 to 55 miles above Earth’s surface and 15% get below 40 miles altitude.
Geminids penetrate deeper into the atmosphere than the Perseids because they are moving slower (78,000 mph for the Geminids compared to 130,000 mph for the Perseids) and are made up of denser material, owing to the fact that the Geminid parent body is rocky asteroid 3200 Phaethon and the Perseid parent is a comet yielding more fragile material.
This video shows meteors captured by a wide-field camera at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center on the night of December 12. There are 141 events; at least 77 of these are Geminids, based on their angular speed and direction of travel. Near the end of the movie, a couple of satellites are visible crossing the field of view.
For those of us sky watching for meteors , this means we have a good chance of viewing a Geminid meteor. Tonight, December 13, into the early morning of December 14 is the peak. Happy meteor watching!
This morning at 6:43 AM Central Standard Time, eyewitnesses across Texas and adjacent states saw a very bright fireball streaking across the sky, moving roughly east to west. It was also recorded by a NASA meteor camera in Mayhill, New Mexico some five hundred miles to the West, which is very unusual and testifies to the brightness of the event. This was not the re-entry of Kosmos 2251, which was destroyed in a collision with an Iridium satellite in February 2009; it is a meteor, most likely a fragment from the asteroid belt and not associated with the Geminid meteor shower.
Preliminary results indicate that there are meteorites from this meteor on the ground north of Houston, Texas–analysis is currently underway to refine the impact area. If pieces are recovered, it will be the 13th meteorite fall recorded in the state since 1909, and the first since Ash Creek, which fell in February of 2009.
A video (in Windows Media format) of the fireball as recorded by the NASA camera in New Mexico is attached to this message. The Moon is the bright object at lower center; the fireball is on the horizon at left and is surrounded by a white box when the camera detects it. Up is north, and left is east in the video.
Hello! Thanks for visiting our moon missions blog. We’re expanding the blog focus from two moon missions to relating information about the moon as “Our Nearest Neighbor.” New posts will focus on observations of the moon, ongoing studies of Apollo era data, flybys and investigations from Discovery and Lunar Quest Missions — these observations and missions continue contributing to our knowledge base — in this space we will share what we persist to uncover about “our nearest neighbor.”