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Space Science

Asteroid the 'Size of a Minivan' Exploded Over California 279

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the alien-plot-to-assasinate-ken-grossman-foiled dept.
astroengine writes, quoting Discovery: "The source of loud 'booms' accompanied by a bright object traveling through the skies of Nevada and California on Sunday morning has been confirmed: it was a meteor. A big one. It is thought to have been a small asteroid that slammed into the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second (33,500 mph), turning into a fireball, delivering an energy of 3.8 kilotons of TNT as it broke up over California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Bill Cooke, head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, classified it as a 'big event.' 'I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California,' Cooke told Spaceweather.com. 'I am saying that the meteor possessed this amount of energy before it broke apart in the atmosphere. (The map) shows the location of the atmospheric breakup, not impact with the ground.' Interestingly, this event was bigger than asteroid 2008 TC3 that exploded over the skies of Sudan in 2008 after being detected before it hit."
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Asteroid the 'Size of a Minivan' Exploded Over California

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:12AM (#39778959)

    Always said the damn things were dangerous

  • Planetary Resources has their big announce tomorrow. This was just the size they are looking for.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Surt (22457)

      They are probably going to have to look for a different one.

    • by bentcd (690786)

      Planetary Resources has their big announce tomorrow. This was just the size they are looking for.

      It seems devastating to their business plan though - why spend billions of dollars going out into space to fetch big rocks when they are coming to us?

  • minivan (Score:5, Funny)

    by quenda (644621) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:17AM (#39778975)

    For all the foreigners saying "WTF is a minivan?", it is a large family vehicle, smaller than a mini-bus, like a VW Transporter (Combi) , about 10 hogsheads or 0.00001 Libraries of Congress.

    • SI unit (Score:5, Informative)

      by TWX (665546) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:22AM (#39779001)
      I think that the Minivan has joined Wales as effectively an SI unit. link [wikipedia.org]
    • Or they could just call it a "large MPV".

    • by DinDaddy (1168147)

      People carrier to the British.

    • by EnempE (709151)
      If a mini-bus is smaller than a bus, then a mini van is smaller than a van. How big is a van ?

      Is the order:
      segway, moped, motorbike, motor-trike, smart car, mini, small car, car, family car, SUV, minivan, Bentley, van, mini-bus, bus, truck, one-tonner, 18 wheeler ?
      • by quenda (644621)

        This [auto-rickshaw.com] is a real mini-van.

      • by guises (2423402)
        A Ford Econoline (typical van) is 236 cubic feet, but there's an extended version and other models get larger.

        As for your list... sure, whatever.
      • Is the order:
        segway, moped, motorbike, motor-trike, smart car, mini, small car, car, family car, SUV, minivan, Bentley, van, mini-bus, bus, truck, one-tonner, 18 wheeler ?

        Hey!!!
        Where does a station wagon fit in there?
        I've got a crap-load of discs to transport...I need the bandwidth, you insensitive clod!

    • Re:minivan (Score:5, Funny)

      by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @01:12AM (#39779179)
      For US residents that have trouble understanding metrics: it was traveling at 3 hours walking per second, considering you wouldn't stop once for fast food for those three hours. In those three hours, the meteor would have circled the earth four times at the speed of entry
    • Another way of putting it is it's 2700 kilograms of steel for a soccer mom and one child passenger. You know, for safety.
    • Forget hogsheads, how much is that in Priuses? Or Teslas?
    • Was this an American minivan, or a European one? (traces of Monty Python here...).

      I'm sure an American minivan will be twice the size of a European one - and let's not even think about those super cool minivans you see in Tokyo....

      UK minivan: 1.4 to 2 litre engine, room for 6 people, some bags.

      US minivan? I'm guessing probably twice the size, air conditioning, armour plating, drinks coolers, on board home entertainment systems, 4 wheel drive.... ;-)

      • There's one keeps parking just off our road. It is about the size of the minibus used by our Community Transport to move half a dozen disabled people and their wheelchairs.
    • Re:minivan (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @04:58AM (#39780009)

      For all the Americans saying "WTF is an asteroid?", it is a big space rock made by Jebus 6000 years ago. It has as much blow-uppy power as millions of pounds of dynamite (the calorie equivalent of a billion gallons of Extreme HotPocket PizzaHut Lard Thins), and, if it were to hit California, could result in a a postponed airing of Dancing With the Stars. To prevent this, we must pray for an end to the liberal gay marriage agenda targeting our children in the public schools of Obamamerica, and make sure every patriot has a gun to send future asteroids back across the border before their lazy anchor meteorites take our jobs and food stamps. God bless the troops!

      Thankyouverymuch.

      • by quenda (644621)

        AC, you really should stop watching Fox News. Its obviously not good for your blood pressure.

      • Extreme HotPocket PizzaHut Lard Thins

        I just threw up in my mouth a little.

    • The VW Transporter is firmly in the 'van' or minibus category.
      A minivan is based on a passenger car; examples include the Renault Espace and Chrysler Voyager. They usually weigh less than 2 tons and seat up to 7 people.

    • by Inda (580031)
      One linked story on here says "this meteor was about the size of a washing machine"

      Now I'm imagining four larger than life Americans squeezing into a van 600x600x900mm in size.

      Or do American have really, really big washing machines?
  • The truth! (Score:5, Funny)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:17AM (#39778977)
    This stinks of a coporate cover up. They don't want you to know this but it was actually a Toyota Prius with a hybrid nuclear/tachyon engine that accelerated out of control in the year 2052 due to a software glitch and traveled back in time and...well you can pretty much put the rest together.
    • by azalin (67640)
      My favorite part clearly is:

      ...well you can pretty much put the rest together.

    • It wasn't out of control, it was being driven by a man with big feet who had his foot on the accelerator and thought it was the brake. The speed limiter didn't set in because, as it was going backwards in time, the speed recorded as negative.

      In 2064 the NHSVSA (National Highways and space vehicles safety authority) will still be arguing over what to do about vehicles going backwards in time that are also in reverse, and whether this means that brake lights as well as headlights need to emit tachyons.

  • by wanzeo (1800058) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:19AM (#39778989)

    NASA tracks space debris the size of a golf ball, why didn't they see this? This is yet another example of how asteroid detection need a higher priority.

    • by quenda (644621) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:21AM (#39778995)

      NASA tracks space debris the size of a golf ball, why didn't they see this?

      Because it was not in a low-earth orbit, and space is kind of big.

    • by Osgeld (1900440) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @01:26AM (#39779239)

      who says it wasnt tracked the whole 3 seconds it came into our range and blew up?

  • by simoncpu was here (1601629) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:21AM (#39778993)
    The Autobots have arrived!
  • Too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DinDaddy (1168147) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:23AM (#39779009)

    'I am not saying there was a 3.8 kiloton explosion on the ground in California,' Cooke told Spaceweather.com.

    Love that he has to pre-empt the sound bite stupidity of the press. Too bad t won't work and they'll publish the stupid headline anyway.

    • I think you're actually managing to underestimate the media: it's pretty self-evident that no such explosion has taken place on the ground. Even the dumbest news organizations aren't going to bother reporting on it without some footage of an explosion site.
  • by AbRASiON (589899) * on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:25AM (#39779023) Journal

    Anyone who has an interest in things smashing in to the earth (I do, it's some kind of very fascinating thing for me see: Thanatos) I recommend you check out this film, ideally on a screen absoloutely as large as possible.

  • It is easy to confuse a Winnebago for a mini-van.
  • Does the heat generated as it passes through the atmosphere kill off any organisms that might have been traveling along with it as it flew through the galaxy? Having passed through the cosmos for who only knows how long, would a meteorite chunk be radioactive at all?

  • Who else read that as "NASA's Metroid Environment Office"?

  • by milbournosphere (1273186) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:54AM (#39779113)
    Unless you were in the desert, you didn't get to see it. We had a whole party set to go see the meteor shower; it should've been a great night for it, given the new moon. Too bad there were dense fog advisories all night. I've seen some pretty cool pictures from Arizona though.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:58AM (#39779127)

    It hit in daylight over Reno-Tahoe.

    Imagine if it had hit just a bit further west at night with clear weather. That would have resulted in a very bright flash at night and the aforementioned "rumbling and shaking" over the San Francisco Bay Area.

    Now imagine that the orbital dynamics were such that this happened in 1982 instead of 2012. Then you get a bright flash and a rumble over a major metro area during the Cold War.

    • by Ruie (30480)

      It hit in daylight over Reno-Tahoe.

      Imagine if it had hit just a bit further west at night with clear weather. That would have resulted in a very bright flash at night and the aforementioned "rumbling and shaking" over the San Francisco Bay Area.

      Now imagine that the orbital dynamics were such that this happened in 1982 instead of 2012. Then you get a bright flash and a rumble over a major metro area during the Cold War.

      No worries - that meteorites show up on radar (strongly) was well-known since World War 2.

    • Now imagine that the orbital dynamics were such that this happened in 1982 instead of 2012. Then you get a bright flash and a rumble over a major metro area during the Cold War.

      And then the various systems designed to detect nuclear attacks remain stubbornly silent... And in the days after, no radioactive materials are detected...

      So, it happening in the middle of the Cold War results in pretty much what's happening today, a few hours media sensation. (And much less of a sensation than today, since

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      The story goes that when the US first launched satellite-based nuclear weapons detection systems, they started freaking out over huge explosions occurring all the time over remote ocean areas where nobody lived. Turns out they were just meteorites like this one, which are a lot more common than people realized.

      (Sorry, I can't find a source for this, it's just something I heard at a lecture once.)

    • by mbone (558574)

      You know, there were fireballs during the cold war. The universe didn't stop just because of our geopolitical situation. I can remember hearing of one blast (a meteor over the ocean near South Africa) that caused discussion as being a possible test of a very small nuke. And, famously, the astrophysical gamma ray bursts were first detected by satellites sent up to detect gamma ray bursts from nuclear explosions. Somehow, we survived all these false alarms.

  • by Grayhand (2610049) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:01AM (#39779373)
    We need to start calling asteroids "terrorists" and there needs to be oil found on one. We can waste a trillion dollars fighting a handful of poorly funded religious zealots and yet we struggle to maintain even minimal funding to track objects that can easily take out a city if not most of the life on the planet. I keep hearing how rare they are yet there have been several of these high altitude bursts fairly recently and Tunguska was a little over a hundred years ago. If Tunguska sized blasts happen once in a hundred years aren't we due for one? Also how do we know? We haven't been keeping track of them for a hundred years and even historical evidence is sketchy. The planet would barely notice a city sized blast if there weren't large numbers of people below it. Also it's math not established fact. We can go 200 years with no major strikes then have a dozen in a single year then no more for a thousand years and the statistics may still call them once in a hundred year events. None of us may live to see one yet they can happen at any time. Kind of like a lottery you don't want to win.
    • "Space Terrorists"

    • The future of Big Oil depends on us all getting killed by an asteroid smashing into earth. So they are not going to want to help out with this.
    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Coincidentally, it looks like Planetary Resources (a new company backed by several well-known billionaires) is going to formally announce tomorrow their plans to launch 2-5 orbital telescopes in the next 18-24 months. The primary of the telescopes will be to look for near-Earth asteroids to mine, although this will of course also be useful for detecting potentially-dangerous asteroids. They also plan on selling orbital telescopes at a cost of a few million dollars each, which is cheap enough that you could

    • by nukem996 (624036)
      I can't speak for the rest of the world but Americans are mostly reactionary. Even if there is a high chance something bad will happen no one will care until something bad does happen. Then everyone complains about how something should of been done to prevent it and politations go overboard with an exspensive solution their contributors can profit greatly from while being minamaly effective.
    • by hxnwix (652290)

      If Tunguska sized blasts happen once in a hundred years aren't we due for one?

      Asteroid impact is largely markovian [wikipedia.org], so no. The odds of another Tunguska were the same the month after as they are today.

      • by frith01 (1118539)

        I would think orbital mechanics plays a part that eliminates markovian analysis. ( ie, large object breaks up into smaller pieces, which stay largely in the same orbital path, hence the perseid's meteor showers :)
        Haley's comet as a predictable 75 year orbit, why wouldnt there be stuff with 100, 500, 1000, 10000 year orbits that cross our path ?

  • . . . bongs in hand, and loudly rasped, "Like, wow, man . . . "

  • Picture! (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrQuacker (1938262) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @02:32AM (#39779455)
  • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @03:53AM (#39779783) Homepage Journal

    ....in where it landed. Meteorites are valuable, especially if linkable to a historic event.

    In terms of significance, 100,000 tonnes (110,231 tons) of matter falls into Earth's atmosphere every year. This was 70 tonnes. Not a significant fraction of the total mass per year, but still quite respectable. Besides, you probably wouldn't want the yearly quota in one lump sum.

  • by Scarletdown (886459) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @04:21AM (#39779871) Journal

    Are those Arachnids acting up again? Guess we better invade Klendathu once more before they can lob a bigger rock our way.

  • Was out and about sunday night.

    And I was geek enough to have noted the az/elevation at the time.

    Azmith was 325 to 350 or so, and Elevation was 50 deg down to about 30 degrees.

    It was losing rather large chunks midway through it's burn..very much not like your normal meteorite.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      Was out and about sunday night.

      And I was geek enough to have noted the az/elevation at the time.

      Azmith was 325 to 350 or so, and Elevation was 50 deg down to about 30 degrees.

      It was losing rather large chunks midway through it's burn..very much not like your normal meteorite.

      omg, your saw it and didn't record it with one of the million electronic devices that have a camera in it?

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        omg, your saw it and didn't record it with one of the million electronic devices that have a camera in it?

        Well if he did that he would have had proof, seeing as how he obviously didn't see it that would make it hard to lie.

    • by goodmanj (234846)

      That's the right direction, but the elevation is too high and the time is wrong. This one came down after sunrise, and would be over the horizon from Phoenix. You probably saw a rather large Lyrid meteor: large ordinary meteors will throw off sparks as they fall.

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @06:24AM (#39780195)

    A meteor this big probably didn't vaporize: if you live in the area you should be on the lookout for pieces on the ground.

    I hesitate to say this, because it's a large area with a lot of ordinary rocks lying around, so there's going to be a huge number of not-actually-a-meteorite finds. This site http://meteorites.wustl.edu/what_to_do.htm [wustl.edu] gives the basics on figuring out if you've found a meteorite or not.

    This meteor appears to be bigger than the one that came down over Chicago in 2003: quite a few large pieces were found then. But it's much easier to find meteorites in urban areas.

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