The astronomers just got the goods on the meteor which flared up over Cuba at the beginning of this month.
Heaven's inspired thousands of people in western Cuba on February 1. Many of these people took pictures of the meteor or trace of debris he left behind when burnt and made possible the reconstruction of the way of space rock.
"We were lucky enough to have at least three relatively reliable videos, including one with an incredible quality, it could be available on the Internet in such a short time," said Jorge Zuluaga, a professor at the Institute of Physics (IoP) of the University of Antioquia in Colombia, in a statement. How to see the best meteor showers of 201
"Reconstructing the trajectory of a meteor requires at least three observers on the ground," added Zuluaga. "Although several satellite images were taken and were available online without any observations from the ground, the exact reconstruction is not possible."
Zuluaga and his team discovered that the meteor had penetrated the Earth's atmosphere about 76.5 kilometers above the Caribbean Sea, at a point 26 kilometers. off Cuba's southwest coast. At that time, the rock – a few feet wide and weighing about 360 tons – at a speed of 64,800 km / h (40,800 km / h), the researchers found.
The meteor moved north. Northeast in a relatively straight line. When the object reached a height of 27.5 km, it developed a smoky trail of burnt debris that fell countless observers to the ground.
At an altitude of 22 km, the meteor exploded in an airburst, the researchers reckoned. Hundreds of small pieces rained down on the island. Many of these cosmic pieces landed in the Viñales Natural Park near the western tip of Cuba, but some chunks hit homes in the area. If a large piece survived the breakup, it probably landed in the ocean off the northwest coast of the island, the scientists said.
Zuluaga and his colleagues also further reduced their model of rock. They found that they originally occupied an elliptical orbit at an average distance from the Sun of 1.3 astronomical units. (An astronomical unit or AU is the average distance between Earth and Sun – about 93 million miles or 150 million kilometers). The stone took 1.32 years to complete an orbit around our star.
Scientists used similar methods to reconstruct the path of the object that in February 2013 over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk exploded 400 times brighter than the recent event in Cuba, and the airburst of the earlier was far from that stronger: The shockwave destroyed thousands of windows in Chelyabinsk and injured at least 1,200 people with broken glass.
In the newly submitted study, they can be read for free on the online preprint site arXiv.org . The researchers also tested a method developed last year by Zuluaga and IoP researcher Mario Sucerquia (who is also the author of the present work).
This method, known as gravitational beam tracing (GRT), uses computer algorithms to guide fictitious impactors back to their origins in space. The scientists tagged modeled rocks that had landed in similar orbits to Earth's true asteroids and argued that in real life such orbits could have an acceptable chance of producing rocks impacting the earth.
Such work The researchers said they "predicted" the Chelyabinsk and Cuba meteorites. For example, the GRT models indicated that an impactor hitting Chelyabinsk would likely arrive at a horizon of 20 degrees to the horizon from a part of the sky northeast of that location. The actual object came from an eastern angle of exactly 20 degrees.
Two examples are far from sufficient to prove that the method works. But it's a start, the team members said.
"It was only after the recent digital boom that we realized how frequent and potentially dangerous the impact of small meteoroids could be on the populated areas," said Sucerquia in statement . "Unfortunately, we are not yet able to defend our society against these threats and our work suggests that, in principle, we could at least be prepared for future effects with some knowledge."
Mike Wall's book on the Quest for Extraterrestrial Life " Out There " (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate ) has now appeared. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .