Blog Archives

Meteors May Make Your Hair Hiss

Meteors typically occur about 50 to 75 miles above the ground. This one was photographed from above by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the ISS in August 2011. (NASA image)

Meteors typically occur about 50 to 75 miles above the ground. This Perseid meteor was photographed from above by astronaut Ron Garan aboard the ISS in August 2011. (NASA image)

Have you ever gone outside on a cold, clear night to watch a meteor shower and witness a super-bright fireball racing across the sky so brilliantly that you could swear you could hear it? Turns out the sizzling noise might not have been all in your head after all…but rather on it. (And here’s science to prove it.)

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Chelyabinsk: a Blast From the Not-Too-Distant Past (or, How’s That Space Program Coming Along?)

Dashcam video of the Chelyabinsk meteor exploding on Feb. 15, 2013 (Source:

Dashcam video of the Chelyabinsk meteor exploding on Feb. 15, 2013 (Source:

Four years ago today an explosion shattered the morning sky over the Chelyabinsk region in southwestern Russia, the result of a 60-foot-wide fragment of an asteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere at over 40,000 mph and brilliantly blowing itself to smithereens at 97,000 feet up. Even at that altitude, the resulting flash of light and air blast was powerful enough to cause extensive damage on the ground, shattering windows, knocking in doors, and causing injury to nearly 1,500 people across towns in the area—several of them seriously.

This was the largest observed meteor since the famous 1908 Tunguska event, but thanks to the prevalence today of dashboard and CCTV cameras in Russia this one was well-recorded. (I remember seeing the videos online within an hour after it happened!) The footage has allowed scientists to not only determine the energy of the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion—about 500 kilotons—but also the object’s trajectory and origin.

Watch a video below of footage captured from various locations of the Chelyabinsk meteor:

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Fireball Explodes Over Russia… Again

Why does Russia seem to get so many bright meteors? Well, at 6.6 million square miles it’s by far the largest country in the world plus, with dashboard-mounted cameras being so commonplace (partly to help combat insurance fraud) mathematically it just makes sense that Russians would end up seeing more meteors, and then be able to share the experience!

A bolide detonated over Murmansk, Russia on April 19, 2014

A bolide explodes over Murmansk, Russia on April 19, 2014 (Credit: Alexandr Nesterov)

This is exactly what happened early this morning, April 19 (local time), when a bright fireball flashed in the skies over Murmansk in the Kola Peninsula, located in northwest Russia near the border of Finland. Luckily not nearly as large or powerful as the Chelyabinsk meteor event from February 2013, no sound or air blast from this fireball has been reported, and details on the object aren’t yet known (could be a meteor, could be space debris). The video above, captured in part by Alexandr Nesterov from a dashcam, shows the object lighting up the early morning sky. Check it out, and follow me on Twitter for more details as they are released. Heads up!


Meteor Strike: Can We Spot The Next Big Asteroid in Time?

Dashboard cameras captured footage of the Chelyabinsk meteor from all across the city

Dashboard cameras captured footage of the Feb. 15 Chelyabinsk meteor from all across the city

On the morning of February 15, 2013, around 9:26 a.m. local time, the sky above the Siberian town of Chelyabinsk was sliced by a bright streak of light, ending in a flash brighter than the Sun and sending glass-shattering shockwaves thundering across the region several minutes later, breaking windows and injuring over 1,000 people. The culprit was a 10,000-ton chunk of rock and iron that impacted Earth’s atmosphere, exploding 15 miles up with the force of 3o Hiroshima bombs. Not much physically was left of the meteor afterwards, but one thing that has remained is the unnerving question: will this happen again, and where?

That question is what sent scientists scrambling for answers, even traveling halfway around the world to find out more about this brief — but volatile — visitor from outer space. And in a tradition of learning spanning nearly 40 years, PBS’s NOVA series takes you right along with the research in the excellent program “Meteor Strike.”

Find out how you can win a free copy of the DVD below…

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Apocalypse? NO. (Despite What Chevy Says)

Chevrolet's commercial plays on 2012 fears (and rips off Ian O'Neill's pyramid image)

So the buzz is buzzing about Chevy’s Super Bowl ad and its tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the aftermath from the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. Of course the message is typical — drive a Chevy truck and survive, drive anything else and perish. Which is cute and of course the production value is high, but the problem is that to more than a few people, this is something they are on the fence about already, or even honestly believe in. Which, being bad science, is something I am 100% against.

Luckily there are plenty of science sources that are more than happy to offer fact-based consolation that there is no actual evidence that anything cosmically bad is expected to occur on Dec. 21 (or any other date, for that matter) but the “doomsday” talk continues, hot and heavy, on many pseudoscience sites and forums. Which I would otherwise pay no attention to except that it seems that many honestly uninformed people seem to be running into their wrong science more often than the actual science, due to their prolific postings and unfortunately strong search-engine visibility. This has done nothing but spread confusion, fear and, in at least one case that I heard recently (via Phil Plait of BadAstronomy) a suicide by a young man who feared the coming apocalypse. That’s just sad and intolerable, in my opinion, and should make all those who continue to purposely spread such disinformation ashamed of themselves.

Sadly, I’m sure such people are going to love the aforementioned truck ad.

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