More About Meteors

Posted by Kurt Maurer on Oct 7, 2004

Meteors rarely make it the Earth's Surface. Even great big ones get splattered by our atmosphere, which is what probably happened in Tungusta, Siberia, in 1908. That event left results that look very much like a nuclear bomb went off... whole forest of old-growth trees leveled for a 60-mile radius -- that's a 120-mile circle of devastation, folks! The estimated size of the "bolide" (LOL) is like the size of a boxcar. Yes, a boxcar like you see on a freight train.

Most of the "zingers" (what we call normal meteors) we see are the size of a grain of sand or smaller (!). The bolide our Rob-man saw was likely the size of an M&M, or even more likely, a small early pea... How 'bout them apples? Fact is, anything getting tangled up in our atmosphere while traveling at typical space speeds makes a hell of a splash. Spacecraft make much less of a show, pound for pound, because they are specifically (and carefully!) aimed to hit at a user-friendly angle, and also because they travel so much more slowly than the space-crap out there just cruising around aimlessly for millenium on end.

Satellites and other specimens of assorted man-made space junk in Earth orbits are fun to watch, and every year we see more an more of them. Check out www.heavens-above.com to get a heads-up so you can see it for yourself (go ahead and register; you can't ask for a more innocuous website). Most of what you see up there is stuff like spent rockets (boosters) and such, and so when you see 'em flashing, which you will occaisionally do, it means you're looking at true space JUNK, that's tumbling along with no control, and thus reflecting the Sun in pulses.

Once again, I better stop... :-) But have mercy on me; I haven't sat in a yak in two weeks! I'm gettin' tired of being injured...

Cheers, Kurt

In Response to: Re: Off Topic: Kurt... by Kurt Maurer on Oct 7, 2004

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