I am a staunch believer in leading with the bad news, so let me get straight to the point. Earth, our anchor and our solitary haven in a hostile universe, is in a precarious situation. The solar system around us is rife with instability.[more inside]
Remember the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year, injuring hundreds and giving us dozens of spectacular dashcam videos? It may have friends.
For the first time ever, a meteor has grazed in and out of Earth's atmosphere, slowing enough to become a temporary satellite that lasted a full orbit. In other astronomical news, a comet was discovered by a couple of Russian astronomers that appears to have all of the ingredients to be one of the greatest comets in our lifetimes, and maybe one of the greatest in human civilization's history. New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon This will be the second great comet of 2013.
Spacedex has well organized worldwide viewing information for meteor showers, like the brief Quadrantids on Tuesday and Wednesday. [more inside]
One hundred years ago today, the Nakhla meteorite fell to earth in Abu Hommos, Egypt, bearing possible evidence of life on Mars. And possibly vaporizing a dog. [more inside]
The Perseids Meteor shower will peak Thursday night through early Friday morning. Use the Dark Sky Finder to find a good place to watch. The Perseids is visible every year, but it's easier to see during the new moon. [more inside]
Fireballs are not altogether uncommon. They are often associated with known meteor showers (and other times not). They are sometimes "earth crosser" asteroids, cometary debris, or simply man-made space junk. Sometimes they are extremely well documented. The March 7, 2003 Park Forest fireball/meteorite (pdf) was recovered and recorded by police car cameras: (AVIs: 1, 2, 3) Perhaps the most incredible is the one that got away on August 10, 1972. Recorded by many still and movie cameras as it was seen in daylight over the Grand Tetons, it was also recorded by a previously secret satellite during it's 1-1/2 minute skip off the earth's atmosphere. See also: How to observe, and report fireballs.
An interactive map of the 174 major meteor impact craters. The largest crater we know of is the Vredefort Dome in South Africa, caused by a meteor some 10 km in diameter. Almost as large in the Sudbury Structure, located in Ontario, which contains some of the world's richest nickel and copper reserves, and has been only confirmed recently to be a crater. Third largest is the now-famous Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan, which probably killed the dinosaurs. Then take a look at an animation of asteroids near Earth [animated gif] and the list of minor planets that could hit us. Want to find out what happens when an meteor impacts in your area? Use the handy Earth Impacts Effects Program!