Taxonomy term


Red Planet Roundup: November 2015

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.
14 Nov 2015

Meteorite reveals rare irregular crystals

Scientists have found naturally occurring quasicrystals for the second time in a meteorite recovered from eastern Russia, according to a new study in Scientific Reports. Some of the researchers, including the lead author, Luca Bindi of the University of Florence in Italy, reported the discovery of the first natural quasicrystal, a mineral called icosahedrite, in the same meteorite in 2012. The researchers say that both quasicrystals probably formed under the high temperatures and pressures of a violent cosmic collision about 4.5 billion years ago, shortly after the formation of the solar system.
05 Aug 2015

Giant bolide hit South Africa 2.5 billion years ago

Some of the oldest scraps of continental crust on Earth cling to the southern tip of Africa and the western edge of Australia. In both places, geologists have found rock layers rich in tiny particles called spherules. Scientists think spherules form when meteorites strike the planet, vaporizing surface rocks that then condense into small droplets, blanketing the surrounding landscape. Now, research published in Geology confirms the extraterrestrial origin of a 2.5-billion-year-old layer of spherules in South Africa, which scientists say was produced by a bolide at least as large as the one that doomed the dinosaurs.
06 Jun 2015

Benchmarks: January 3, 1970: Lost City meteorite is tracked and recovered

On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 3, 1970, residents of northeastern Oklahoma saw a fireball as bright as a full moon blaze across the sky. The nine-second light display was accompanied by a sonic boom heard over a 1,000-square-kilometer area.

03 Jan 2015

Mineral in Chelyabinsk meteorite reveals past collision

A new analysis of fragments of the Chelyabinsk meteorite — which burst over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 2013 — reveals that its parent asteroid collided with another asteroid nearly 300 million years before it struck Earth.

20 Dec 2014

Lessons from the Russian meteor burst

Scientists can thank the high motor vehicle accident rate in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk for providing the most stunning videos ever recorded of a meteor burst. Because of the many traffic accidents in that city, dashboard cameras abound, constantly recording everything in front of a car — the road, other vehicles, pedestrians, and, incidentally, the sky.

At about 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2013, many of those cameras recorded the explosion of a large meteor 23 kilometers above the city. As was widely reported at the time, the air blast shattered windows, and meteorite fragments rained down in and around Chelyabinsk, causing damage to some 7,000 buildings and sending about 1,600 people to hospitals. Although no one was killed, it marks “the first ever asteroid impact disaster in human history,” according to Clark R. Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Planetary Science Directorate in Boulder, Colo., who presented research on the event at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San, Francisco, Calif., last December.

18 May 2014

Iowa impact crater confirmed

An airborne geophysical survey mapping mineral resources in the Midwest has confirmed that a 470-million-year-old impact crater nearly five times the size of Barringer (Meteor) Crater in Arizona lies buried several hundred meters beneath the town of Decorah, Iowa.

07 Jul 2013

Ancient Egyptian artifact is otherworldly

In ancient Egypt, iron was a rare and symbolic metal, but scientists and historians have long wondered about the prehistoric civilization’s knowledge of metallurgy. Now, one part of that mystery has been solved: The oldest-known iron artifacts were made from meteorites. The evidence comes in the form of iron beads from approximately 3300 B.C., more than 2,000 years before the Iron Age in Egypt, and before there is record of trade in iron goods with other civilizations.

03 Jul 2013

Geologic Column: Sometimes, the sky really is falling

Airplane pilots have a long history of using euphemisms to minimize the sense of risk in their work. Pilot-speak for crashing an airplane, for example, is “ruining your entire day.” In the same parlance, encountering an asteroid could cause all of us to have a very, very bad day. But maybe our close calls — such as the fireball that flew over Russia in February — can serve as reminders to renew our focus on searching for and understanding objects that could, literally, impact our planet.

12 May 2013

Down to Earth With: Antarctic meteorite hunters

Dotted with snow dunes and nunatak mountain ranges, Antarctica’s glacial landscapes give the continent an otherworldly feel — but the scenery isn’t what’s truly alien. Antarctica is littered with meteorites, hundreds of thousands of which have been untouched since the moment of impact. For more than 35 years, the volunteer scientists of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program have been scouring the icy plains in search of meteorites from meteoroids, the moon and even Mars.

15 Dec 2012