Meteors-A A +A
By Rox Peña
Thursday, February 21, 2013
LAST week, there were two spectacular cosmic events. One was a close encounter with an asteroid and the other a meteoroid which actually entered the Earth and caused damages. The almost simultaneous occurrence of the two events make others think they are related. According to Scientists however, they are not linked.
The meteoroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere last February 14 and exploded in the airspace above Russia. According to NASA, the estimated size of the object is 55 feet and its estimated mass is 10,000 tons. The explosion of the meteor released approximately 500 kilotons of energy, the equivalent of about 33 Atomic bombs that exploded in Hiroshima, Japan.
The meteor disintegrated in about 30 seconds in the atmosphere. I saw several amateur videos in the internet which captured the meteor as it streaked into the sky and exploded with a bright flash of light. Chances are we won’t be seeing the same phenomenon within our lifetime. Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office said an event of this magnitude occurs once every 100 years on average.
The meteor explosion was believed to have left fragments on the Earth’s surface. One news report I read in the internet claims that fragments were indeed discovered and collected. Scientists at the Urals Federal University were the first to announce the finding of 53 small, stony, black objects around the area where the meteor disintegrated.
Groups of people have started combing through the snow and ice to look for space debris. One amateur space enthusiast estimated chunks could be worth anything up to $2,200 per gram which is more than 40 times the current cost of gold. If they are that precious, will they be used for jewelries?
The other cosmic event was the flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14. The closest it got into the Earth’s surface is 27,000 kilometers. That’s approximately 330 times the distance from Mabalacat to Manila. Too close or too far?
Difference between meteoroid, meteor and meteorites
Here is some basic information from NASA about our recent visitors from space. Asteroids and comets are believed to be ancient remnants of the earliest years of the formation of our solar system more than four billion years ago. Comets are bodies of ice, rock, and organic compounds that can be several miles in diameter. Most asteroids are made of rock, but some are composed of metal, mostly nickel and iron.
An interesting trivia: A meteoroid is a small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Earth. A meteor is a light phenomenon which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes. It is also known as shooting star. A meteorite on the other hand is a meteoroid that survives it passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on February 22, 2013.