The Caracas Meteorite Fireball -Revolutionary Findings
Follow the Daily Galaxy
Add Daily Galaxy to igoogle page AddThis Feed Button Join The Daily Galaxy Group on Facebook Follow The Daily Galaxy Group on twitter
 

« Were Vikings Dandies? | Main | Test Drive the New "GalaxyExtra!" -Post and Share News from Planet Earth & Beyond (3/17) »

March 14, 2008

The Caracas Meteorite Fireball -Revolutionary Findings

Meteorite_3The meteorite that struck ground near Carancas, Peru on Sept. 15, 2007, at about 15,000 miles per hour, totally upended the traditional thinking by planetary scientists that stony meteorites would be destroyed when they passed through Earth’s atmosphere.

Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and an expert in extraterrestrial impacts, went to Peru to learn more. What Schultz and his team found was surprising. The object that slammed into a dry riverbed in Peru was a meteorite, and it left a 49-foot-wide crater. Soil ejected from the point of impact was found nearly four football fields away. When Schultz’s team analyzed the soil where the fireball hit, he found “planar deformation features,” or fractured lines in sand grains found in the ground. Along with evidence of debris strewn over a wide area, the shattered sand grains told Schultz that the meteorite had maintained a high rate of speed as it shot through the atmosphere. Scientists think it was traveling at roughly 15,000 miles per hour at the moment of impact.

“Normally with a small object like this, the atmosphere slows it down, and it becomes the equivalent of a bowling ball dropping into the ground,” Schultz said. “It would make a hole in the ground, like a pit, but not a crater. But this meteorite kept on going at a speed about 40 to 50 times faster than it should have been going.”

Scientists have determined the Carancas fireball was a stony meteorite – a fragile type long thought to be ripped into pieces as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and then leaves little more than a whisper of its journey. Yet the stony meteorite that struck Peru survived its passage mostly intact before impact.

“This just isn’t what we expected,” Schultz said. “It was to the point that many thought this was fake. It was completely inconsistent with our understanding how stony meteorites act.”

Schultz said that typically fragments from meteorites shoot off in all directions as the object speeds to Earth. But he believes that fragments from the Carancas meteorite may have stayed within the fast-moving fireball until impact. How that happened, Schultz thinks, is due to the meteorite’s high speed. At that velocity, the fragments could not escape past the “shock-wave” barrier accompanying the meteorite and instead “reconstituted themselves into another shape,” he said.

That new shape may have made the meteorite more aerodynamic – imagine a football passing through air versus a cinderblock – meaning it encountered less friction as it sped toward Earth, hitting the surface as one large chunk.

“It became very streamlined and so it penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere more efficiently,” Schultz said.

Schultz’s theory could upend the conventional wisdom that all small, stony meteorites disintegrate before striking Earth. If correct, it could change the thinking about the size and type of extraterrestrial objects that have bombarded the Earth for eons and could strike our planet next.

“You just wonder how many other lakes and ponds were created by a stony meteorite, but we just don’t know about them because when these things hit the surface they just completely pulverize and then they weather,” said Schultz, director of the Northeast Planetary Data Center and the NASA/Rhode Island University Space Grant Consortium.

Schultz’s research could have implications for Mars, where craters have been discovered in recent missions. “They could have come from anything,” he said. “It would be interesting to study these small craters and see what produced them. Perhaps they also will defy our understanding.”

Posted by Casey Kazan.

http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2007-08/07-113.html

Comments

it is a great pleasure to be hear

salut à tout
c'est tres geniale de troiuver une nouvelle pmeteorite au perou. mais pour quoi tembe il dans cette place coutiere .est lance de quel region ? bravo


Post a comment

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bf7f753ef00e5512312ae8834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Caracas Meteorite Fireball -Revolutionary Findings:

« Were Vikings Dandies? | Main | Test Drive the New "GalaxyExtra!" -Post and Share News from Planet Earth & Beyond (3/17) »




1


2


3


4


5


6


7


8





9


11


12


13


14


15

Our Partners

technology partners

A


19


B

About Us/Privacy Policy

For more information on The Daily Galaxy and to contact us please visit this page.



E