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Fire in the Sky


US: Officials Believe Meteorite Hit Basking Ridge Lawn

Township officials believe a small meteorite impacted the front lawn of a township home last Friday morning at about 11:35 a.m., creating a trench and spewing dirt and debris on the lawn, driveway and street near the residence.

The residents were not home at the time, members of the Township Committee said when discussing the event at Tuesday night's meeting, although police later said the homeowner was on the property, but heard nothing. No one was injured, Township Mayor John Malay and other officials said.

The address of the home has not been released. However, Township Committeeman John Carpenter said the home is in the southern end of the township.

© Bernards Township Police
A trench created on a township lawn believed to have been created by a small meteorite. No One was injured, officials said.


Virginia, US: 'Unnerving' rumble felt across Hampton Roads remains a mystery

We may only ever know it as The Night the Earth Rattled.

The seconds-long reverberation at approximately 7:20 p.m. Tuesday sent neighbors to porches, piqued slumbering pets and launched a thousand theories. But nobody can say for sure what it was - not police or seismologists or meteorologists or NASA or Oceana Naval Air Station or the Virginia National Guard.

"No clue," said Scott Mohr, a spokesman for Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.

People reported feeling it from Suffolk to Newport News to the Eastern Shore and beyond. The intensity of the grumble was perhaps greatest in Virginia Beach, where five calls came in to 911 and firefighters set out in search of the source of an explosion.

None was found, said Lori Stiles, communications operations manager for the city. She felt it, too, from her home in Dam Neck, a sensation like that of an approaching storm that caused the house to creak.

View Loud Boom on 05/10/11 in a larger map


Virginia, US: Meteor Likely Caused Mysterious Boom

Virginia Beach is a city full of sound. Waves crash at the Oceanfront and fighter jets scream overhead. However, a boom Tuesday night caught hundreds of normally unfazed residents from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore completely off-guard.

"It shook my house," said one man.

"It almost felt like an earthquake and then I had to think about it. We're in Virginia Beach we don't get earthquakes," said Pam Trotter.

10 On Your Side called the military, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy. Turns out the answer may be found out of this world.

"It's most consistent with a meteor coming into the Earth's atmosphere and creating a large sonic boom," said NASA scientist Dr. Joe Zawodny.

Dr. Zawodny said sonic booms are not uncommon. Two years ago, hundreds of people across the region heard a similar boom most likely caused by a meteor.


Fireball or UFO photographed in Scotland?

A picture of a UFO was taken yesterday by a photographer in Melrose, Scotland. The photographer, who asked to remain anonymous, supplied the UFO photo to the Border Telegraph. He described the object in the picture as "moving pretty fast at around 45 degrees towards the sky - as you can see by the close up it appears to have a tail showing the direction." The Border Telegraph contacted both the Met Office (the UK's national weather service) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to see if either group could shed any light on the UFO in question. The Met Office had no record of a weather balloon in the area, and the MOD declined to comment.

© Border Telegraph
UFO in Scotland. Zoomed image in lower left.
Fireball UFOs certainly aren't a new phenomenon, and they have been seen all around the world. While meteorites and other debris entering Earth's atmosphere can account for some of the observed fireball objects, some of these UFOs reportedly display unusual behavior like directional changes, shape-shifting, and color changes.

The cameraman who photographed the fireball in Scotland doesn't know what he saw, but he told the Border Telegraph, "It was probably nothing, but I still don't understand what could explain something like that in the sky."


Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are aligning at dawn May 11th

No coffee? No problem. To wake up any morning this week, all you need to do is look out the window. Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are aligning in the eastern sky for a spectacular dawn conjunction. Mariano Ribas photographed the gathering on May 9th from his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina:

© Mariano Ribas
"It was an awesome morning with an unforgettable view: four planets packed in just a 7º piece of sky," says Ribas. "The very compact Venus-Mercury-Jupiter triangle was simply hypnotic. And Mars, below them, was faint but still clearly visible to naked eye. Marvelous planetary gathering, but the best is yet to come."

Indeed, on May 11th, Venus and Jupiter, the two brightest planets in the Solar System, will converge to form a pair less than 1/2 degree apart. Set your alarm for Wednesday morning and begin the day with an eye-opener--no caffeine required.


X Crater: First Class

When an asteroid or comet impacts a planet, the explosion ejects huge amounts of material, sending it flying in all directions. But there are also plumes of material, long fingers of rock and dust that stream out as well. The boulders and such inside this plume then fall back to the ground, making liner chains of secondary craters. We see lots of these on our Moon, moons in the outer solar system, and Mercury, too.

If these features are long enough, it's inevitable two chains from two different primary craters would cross somewhere. And it turns out this has been seen... but where?

Well, X marks the spot!

This MESSENGER image of Mercury shows exactly that: two crater chains from two separate impacts crossing over each other (and a third, shorter chain is at the bottom, too). They're almost exactly perpendicular to each other, which is cool, and the intersection happens to lie in a big, shallow crater about 120 km (72 miles) across that fills this image. Unfortunately, MESSENGER hasn't been orbiting Mercury long enough to have surveyed the whole planet yet, so I wasn't able to find the source craters of these two chains.


Comets gases may have led to Titan's atmosphere

© Unknown
Saturn's Moon Titan
A study has suggested that comets blasting gases out of its icy crust could have created the unique atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.

Several theories have come up earlier behind the origin of Titans nitrogen-rich air. Titan is the only moon in the solar system with much atmosphere.

Some theories suggest that volcanic activity might have belched it out, or sunlight may have broken up a primordial atmosphere's ammonia molecules. But these suggestions assume that the young Titan was a warm world, whereas measurements by the Cassini spacecraft imply that Titan has always been fairly cold.

The latest idea is that the atmosphere was created 3.9 billion years ago in a period known as the late heavy bombardment, when comets swarmed through the solar system.

"Huge amounts of cometary bodies would have collided with outer icy satellites, including Titan," New Scientist quoted Yasuhito Sekine of the University of Tokyo, Japan, as saying.

To mimic the effects of such high-speed impacts, Sekine and his colleagues fired projectiles into a mixture of ammonia and water ice similar to Titan's crust.

The impacts converted some of the ammonia into nitrogen gas, and Sekine's team calculated that ancient comet impacts could have liberated enough nitrogen to build Titan's atmosphere.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.


U.S.: May 7, 2011- Georgia Visited by Another Bright Meteor!

© Steve E. Farmer Jr.
Georgia Fireball Bolide

Once again, on May 7, 2011, Georgia's night skies are lit up by a bright meteor - also known as a Bolide or Fireball.

On the night of Monday May 2, 2011, sightings of a bright meteor appearing over Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and other states were reported to news stations and meteor reporting organizations. According to the reports, around 10:00 PM EST a very bright meteor made its appearance high in Earth's atmosphere and produced quite a light show for those fortunate enough to witness the event. Five day's later; Georgia was once again visited again by another bright Bolide. This time it was captured on video.

Video of the actual event can be found at the following link: May 7, 2011 Bolide Over Georgia.


Sun Haloes

Yesterday in Belgium, sky watchers were stunned when they witnessed a heavenly apparition in broad daylight. "It was one of the brightest and most complex displays of sun haloes I have seen in 25 years of observing," reports Philippe Mollet, who took this picture:

© Philippe Mollet
Image Taken: May 6, 2011
Location: Meise/Grimbergen, Belgium
"The phenomenon lasted for more than 30 minutes, long enough to phone and e-mail many friends and colleagues," he adds. "[It looks like] this was observed over a large part of our (little) country."

Sun haloes are caused by ice crystals in high clouds. "This wonderfully bright display proves that you do not need to be in polar regions to see them," notes atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "Temperatures in 3 to 6 mile high cirrus are more than cold enough to make the needed hexagonal prism shaped ice crystals. There are two sets of halos, those nearest the sun are made by rays that pass between crystal faces inclined at 60 degrees. The outer halos with widely separated colors are from faces inclined at 90 degrees. See the labeled image for halo names. The huge colourful halo is a supralateral arc. This halo is often very hard to distinguish from the much less common 46 degree circular halo but there are several clues to look for to tell them apart."

Better Earth

Giant asteroid to pass between earth and moon in November

© unknown
An asteroid a little smaller than the CN Tower is hurtling toward earth and astronomers have their cameras ready for a spectacular glimpse.

Called 2005 YU55, the asteroid will nudge closer to earth than the moon, passing by just 325,000 kilometres away.

Although modern technology will give astronomers the best-ever look at the travelling piece of cosmological history, there is no fear it will actually smack into earth.

"At one time we had classified 2005 YU55 as a potential threat," said Steve Chesley, a scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Near-Earth Object Program Office.

Radar tracking last month, with the asteroid 2.3 million kilometres away, meant "we were able to rule impacts out entirely for the next 100 years."