Remember when we watched all the videos from Russian dashboard cameras back in Feb.? The house sized meteor that broke up over Chelyabinsk Russia, streaking through the sky like so many end-of-the-world type movies? That one event, while not extinction level by any means, has allowed NASA satellites to track the dust pattern in the atmosphere, but there may be more meteors to come.
NASA, with the use of the NASA-NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, has been able to track the dust cloud from the Chelyabinsk meteor that entered our atmosphere on Feb. 15 of this year. The meteor broke up 14 and one half miles above the Russian city with the force of about 30 atomic bombs, similar to the one used on Hiroshima at the end of WWII. The event destroyed some property and left about 1,000 people injured.
The event did leave some debris to fall to the ground, but the more interesting thing, to meteorologists, was the dust cloud that was left behind. The NASA-NOAA satellite began tracking the cloud in earnest in order to have a detailed picture of how meteor dust clouds move across our planet.
A meteor this size has not entered our atmosphere since 1908, which devastated a forrest in Siberia. This has created quite the opportunity to understand and more accurately model what may have not only happened to the dinosaurs, but what a larger meteor may do in the future.
The dust cloud reached East and was over the Aleutian Islands, a cluster of islands off the coast of Alaska, within about 24 hours. Four days later the dust cloud had circumnavigated the Northern Hemisphere and returned to Chelyabinsk. Now, three months after the event, a noticeable dust belt still exists around the Northern Hemisphere. This provides scientists with a fairly clear picture on the movement and time it would take for a large dust cloud to move around the Earth.
A couple of scientists from the University of Madrid, Carlos Marcos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos, published a letter in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters detailing their research into where the meteor came from and if there are possibly more to come.
The pair ran billions of simulations for possible trajectory of the Chelyabinsk meteor and from that narrowed it down to the 10 most likely paths it could have taken. From this information, Marcos and Marcos searched NASA’s catalogue of known asteroids that are following a similar path, which lead them to infer that more meteors may be on their way to Earth.
In the letter they stated, “we assume that the meteoroid responsible for the Chelyabinsk event was the result of a relatively recent asteroid break-up event and use numerical analysis to single out candidates to be the parent body or bodies.”
In fact, their analysis has lead them to believe that the parent asteroid may be EO40, a 200m-wide object. Marcos and Marcos assume that this asteroid has broken up creating a cluster of meteoroids that are on a similar path to Earth. In their estimation there could be a number of smaller meteors, like the one that hit near Chelyabinsk, and possibly two much larger ones as a part of the group.
Assuming that their calculations are correct and the gravitational pull of planets and other stars do not alter their course, we may see more meteors entering our atmosphere. With NASA’s tracking and modeling of the Chelyabinsk meteor dust cloud, we will at least be better prepared if more do show up in the future.
By Iam Bloom