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Suspected meteorite terrorizes US Eastern Seaboard

By jd in Science
Thu Apr 02, 2009 at 02:37:55 AM EST
Tags: meteorite, terrorist (all tags)

Four fireballs, glowing blue and orange, were visible last night over the skies from Virginia to South Carolina, followed by the sound of an explosion described as being like thunder. Reports of hearing the noise were coming in from as far afield as Connecticut. There is currently no word from the US Space Surveillance Network as to what it could be, but it seems improbable that anything non-nuclear the military could put up could be heard over that kind of distance. The suggestion from the Naval Observatory that it was the second stage of Soyuz is, of course, plausible but later observations say that ended up near Taiwan. It would also have been hard to explain the color of the fireballs and the size of explosion through the Soyuz hypothesis. Other sources also claim the tracking rules out the Soyuz hypothesis. It therefore still seems likely to be a very big meteorite.


The next question would be what type of meteorite. This is not an idle question. The one slamming into the Sudan recently was (a) extremely big at an estimated 80 tonnes, and (b) from the extremely rare F-class of asteroid. If this new meteorite is also from an F-class asteroid, then it is likely associated with the one that hit Sudan. This is important as it means we might want to be looking very closely for other fragments yet to hit.

The colors are interesting and allow us to limit what the composition could have been and therefore where it came from. We can deduce this because anything slamming through the atmosphere is basically undergoing a giant version of your basic chemistry "flame test" for substance identification. We simply need to look up what metals produce blue, and in so doing we see that cadmium does produce a blue/violet color, with copper producing more of a blue/green. Other metals also produce a blue glow and tables of these colors abound, but some are more likely in meteoric material than others. For example, studies have been made on the cadmium content of different types of meteorites and meteorites in general.






Ok, what else do we know? The fireballs were also orange. Urelites, such as the Sudan impact, contain a great deal of calcium, which burns brick-red, not orange. This suggests we can rule out the same source, which in turn means we probably don't have to worry about being strafed the way Jupiter was with the Shoemaker-Levy comet (21 impacts).






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Poll
What it really was, was a....
o A very large meteorite 12%
o Emperor Ming the Merciless in a remake of the Flash Gordon movie 31%
o A UFO 6%
o A spy-plane that didn't work 6%
o The International Space Station hurtling out of orbit 6%
o North Korea's satellite launch attempt 12%
o An advertising campaign by coca-cola 18%
o Early 4th July fireworks 6%
o CowboyNeil 0%

Votes: 16
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Four fireballs
o second stage of Soyuz
o later observations
o Other sources also claim the tracking rules out the Soyuz hypothesis.
o Other metals
o tables of these colors abound
o cadmium content of different types of meteorites
o meteorites in general
o Urelites
o Shoemaker- Levy comet
o Also by jd


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Suspected meteorite terrorizes US Eastern Seaboard | 24 comments (8 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
it's not terrorism, you can relax (3.00 / 5) (#1)
by khallow on Mon Mar 30, 2009 at 03:32:33 PM EST

It was just the Soviets testing the US's missile defense system prior to a nuclear first strike.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

Oh, no, we don't know that sky can rain objects (none / 1) (#16)
by United Fools on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:11:54 PM EST

on Earth!

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
Is this an april fools thing? (none / 1) (#18)
by Mylakovich on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 08:18:38 AM EST



Nope, it was real. (none / 0) (#22)
by jd on Thu Apr 02, 2009 at 01:17:34 PM EST

The thing is, nobody is entirely sure what it was that was real. For every claim published so far, there's been a counterclaim.

[ Parent ]
WIPO (3.00 / 2) (#20)
by Enlarged to Show Texture on Wed Apr 01, 2009 at 12:44:51 PM EST

Taepo Dong III


"Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov
weather balloon blah blah blah (none / 0) (#21)
by circletimessquare on Thu Apr 02, 2009 at 01:22:41 AM EST

training exercises blah blah blah

swamp gas blah blah blah


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Planet X (none / 0) (#23)
by chroma601 on Mon Apr 06, 2009 at 09:36:59 AM EST

Perhaps it is an early shard of the approaching Planet X compound (http://www.zetatalk.com)!
aibohphobia: the fear of palindromes
Whatever it was... (none / 0) (#24)
by jd on Mon Apr 06, 2009 at 06:15:50 PM EST

...another fragment was seen over Ireland on sunday.

Suspected meteorite terrorizes US Eastern Seaboard | 24 comments (8 topical, 16 editorial, 0 hidden)
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