Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .




DEEP IMPACT
NASA Begins Hunt For New Meteor Showers
by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science@NASA
Huntsville AL (SPX) Nov 11, 2008


An outburst of bright meteors over the Marshall Space Flight Center observed by the Sentinel system on Sept. 9, 2008.

It started out as a normal day. NASA astronomer and meteor expert Bill Cooke woke up, dressed, and went to his office at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Colleagues greeted him as usual, there was no hum of excitement.

And then he checked his email.

"That's how I found out-I'd slept through a meteor outburst!"

During the dark hours before dawn on Sept. 9, 2008, a surprising flurry of meteors had showered the skies above Huntsville, Alabama. More than two dozen of them were fireballs brighter than Jupiter or Venus; a few even cast shadows. Cooke like everyone else he knew was sound asleep and saw nothing.

But Cooke's all-sky Sentinel camera located on the grounds of the Marshall Space Flight Center recorded the whole thing and, when it was done, left him an email summarizing the outburst.

"Our Sentinel system consists of a computer-controlled camera, fisheye lens and digital video recorder. It was developed by researchers at the University of Western Ontario for studies of meteors over Canada, and now we've adapted it for our purposes. Every night Sentinel patrols the sky, looking for the unexpected, and it never gets sleepy."

In years past, sky watchers had occasionally noticed a small number of dim meteors streaking out of the constellation Perseus around Sept. 9th. The shower, hailing from an unknown comet, was named "the September Perseids" and rarely monitored because it was thought to be a feeble display.

"Now we know better," says Cooke. "The Sept. Perseids of 2008 were fantastic." Sometime in the past, the shower's parent comet must have laid down a stream of dusty debris which is now drifting across Earth's orbit. Apparently, the stream contains clumps or filaments of dust that can produce outbursts of meteors when Earth runs into one. "How often this happens is anyone's guess."

Answering the question how often? is one of the goals of the Sentinel system. There could be many unknown streams of debris "out there" crossing Earth's orbit, causing outbursts that go unnoticed because, well, even astronomers need their sleep. Using Sentinel, "we can discover new meteoroid streams that could pose a threat to spacecraft and satellites-or just put on a pretty show from time to time."

It would have been nice to backtrack the fireballs of Sept. 9th to their parent comet, solving the mystery of their origin, but Sentinel couldn't do that. A single camera is not sufficient to measure a meteoroid's 3D trajectory. To remedy the problem, Cooke's team has since set up a second camera 100 miles away in north Georgia at the Walker County Science Center.

"With two cameras, we can gather the data we need to calculate orbits," he explains.

The first successful test of the two-station Sentinel system came on Oct. 1, 2008, when a centimeter-sized meteoroid hit Earth's atmosphere over the southeastern United States with about as much energy as 500 pounds of TNT.

Using Asgard software developed by Rob Weryk of the University of Western Ontario, the Sentinel system automatically calculated the orbit of the meteoroid and emailed the results to Cooke. "It came from the asteroid belt," he says

Cooke is especially interested in centimeter-class meteoroids because he and his colleagues at the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office frequently see them hitting the Moon. Since 2005, they've recorded more than 100 lunar impacts. Unlike Earth, the Moon has no atmosphere to cushion the blow of incoming meteoroids; they simply hit the ground and explode.

With NASA planning to send people back to the Moon, the frequency and power of lunar impacts has become a matter of considerable interest.

By studying the meteoroids at close range in the skies over Alabama, he hopes to learn more about their properties, especially their speeds, which is an important factor in luminous efficiency--i.e., how much of a meteoroid's kinetic energy is converted to light when it disintegrates upon impact. This will help researchers understand the distant flashes they see on the Moon.

Uncovering new meteor showers on Earth is icing on the cake.

"Checking my email," says Cooke, "has never been so much fun."

.


Related Links
Science@NASA
September Perseid Photo Gallery
Asteroid and Comet Impact Danger To Earth - News and Science






Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News





DEEP IMPACT
Iowa State Research Center Sponsors Asteroid Deflection Symposium
Ames IA (SPX) Oct 21, 2008
The Iowa State University Asteroid Deflection Research Center (ADRC) is sponsoring an Asteroid Deflection Research Symposium on October 2324, 2008, at Doubletree Hotel Crystal City-National Airport, Arlington, Virginia. The purpose of this symposium is to exchange technical information and to develop an integrated multidisciplinary R and D program for asteroid deflection/fragmentation ... read more


DEEP IMPACT
First Lunar Orbit Reduction Manoeuvre Of Chandrayaan-1

India's spacecraft enters lunar orbit: officials

India's moon mission enters lunar space

Aspiring lunar entrepreneurs contract for help from NASA

DEEP IMPACT
Europe space chief seeks 9 bln euros, Mars rover delayed again

Step Closer To Crew Selection For Simulated Mars Mission

Mars Phoenix Lander Finishes Successful Work On Red Planet

NASA Hearing Daily From Weak Phoenix Mars Lander

DEEP IMPACT
NASA Awards LockMart Facilities Development And Operations Contract

EXPERT Nose Cap Gets The All Clear

Ukraine, Indonesia Sign Space Cooperation Deal

ESF Launches Humans In Outer Space Book

DEEP IMPACT
The Chinese Space Industry Set For Take Off

China Puts Two Satellites Into Orbit

Souped-Up Rockets For Shenzhou

China Successfully Launches Research Satellites

DEEP IMPACT
Progress Cargo Module To Undock From ISS Friday

Two US astronauts to cast votes from space

Expedition 17 Set To Undock Today

Expedition 18 Takes Charge

DEEP IMPACT
Ariane 5 Is Readied For Arianespace's Initial Mission Of 2009

ILS Proton Successfully Launches ASTRA 1M Satellite

Russia Set To Launch SES Telecoms Satellite

Student Experiments On Board REXUS 4 Launched

DEEP IMPACT
MIT Researchers Find Clues To Planets' Birth

Young Earthlike Planets May Glow Brightly Enough To Be Found

Exotic Weather On Distant Worlds

Tides Have Major Impact On Planet Habitability

DEEP IMPACT
Traffic Management In Outer Space

Military Weather Satellite Achieves Five Years On Orbit

Imaging software makes bridges safer

NOAA-N Prime Satellite Arrives At Vandenberg For Launch




The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement