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Space Science

Astronomer Photographs Meteor Through Telescope 81

Matt Rogers writes "Amateur astronomer Mike Hankey may be the first person on earth to take a picture of a fireball meteor through a telescope. The picture has been confirmed authentic by numerous professional astronomers and asteroid hunters. This picture could possibly be the first of its kind. Taking a picture of a meteor is a very difficult thing to do, taking a picture of a meteor through a telescope is near impossible. The hunt is on in southern PA for the meteorites that broke away from this space rock. Using Hankey's picture, as well as security tape, meteorite hunters have been able to narrow down the crash site to a smaller area. Even with the trajectory roughly determined, professional meteorite hunters think finding these meteorites may be near impossible. However if they are found they will be immensely valuable and could be very large."
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Astronomer Photographs Meteor Through Telescope

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  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @10:54PM (#28790957)

    Meteors get images in astronomical photo's all of the time - they do, after all, tend to be time exposure, frequently quiet long. There
    have been lots of these.

    It looks, from this image, that this was possibly a bolide and that there were pieces coming off. (It also could have been a re-entering satellite.) I don't see what that tells you about the orbit of the meteor, except that it passed through a patch of sky. Meteor patrols, such as the Prairie Network and the one at Ondrejov Observatory in the former Czechoslovakia, used wide-angle cameras with rotating fans in front of the telescope, so you can determine the velocity of the bolide from the breaks in the streak. So, I doubt this picture helps to determine the orbit of the meteor much. Survellience camera images would be much more useful - it is fairly routine now-a-days for local imagery to determine the orbit of meteorites well enough to find falls.

    Also, while it is true that some meteorites are very expensive, that is precisely because they are rare. The chances of this body, assuming it reached the ground, being rare are also rare.

    If anyone reading this does find pieces, try not to touch them and use tongs or a shovel etc. to put them into a baggy or baggies. If they are fresh, seal these and put them in the freezer. That will reduce contamination and this enhance their scientific usefulness. Pictures of the pieces on the ground before they are moved would also be good.

  • by e9th ( 652576 ) <e9th@NospAM.tupodex.com> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:08PM (#28791063)
    Comet Hale-Bopp [wikipedia.org] was discovered independently by Alan Hale, a professional astronomer, and Thomas Bopp, a construction worker. At the time, Hale ran something called the Southwest Institute for Space Research, which referred to Bopp as an "amateur astronomer". [swisr.org]
  • Awesome. (Score:5, Informative)

    by FlyingSquidStudios ( 1031284 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:40PM (#28791275) Homepage
    It has always been my personal belief that everyone should own a telescope so that they can look at the vastness and complexity of our universe in awe when they see it with their own eyes. You probably won't be able to replicate this photo, but I just got my Galileoscope, a simple backyard 50mm achromatic refractor which the International Astronomer's Union is selling for $12.95. It's not the greatest telescope in the world, but for an amateur stargazer, it's perfect... and it's thirteen dollars. Plus, the whole thing is non-profit. https://www.galileoscope.org/gs/ [galileoscope.org]
  • by MetBlog ( 1602873 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @03:38AM (#28792605)
    You're right it could have been space debris from a satellite or rocket. However most agree it's most likely a meteor fireball and not flaming space junk. A "meteor" doesn't have an orbit. A meteoroid (asteroid) does have an orbit while in space. A meteorite is the rock that survives impact with the Earth. And a meteor is the fiery phenomena while entering our atmosphere, better known as a shooting star. Meteors are usually seen in meteor showers such as the famous Leonids, and Perseids meteor showers. Meteors are small grain of sand sized particles, while fireballs are the result of a much larger mass entering our atmosphere. Small meteors are in fact captured on film all the time, however to actually capture a large bolide event such as this while zoomed in to focus on a galaxy, through a telescope with a field of view that is a small fraction of the visible night sky is a one-in-a-million shot. Fireballs are just large meteors. The value of meteorite fragments to science and collectors around the world is great, however it depends on the type of meteorite it is. Many museum, private collectors, and scientists can and do receive pieces of new meteorite falls all the time. Many meteorites fall every year, and pieces of these space rocks are studied, classified, and distributed throughout the worlds private collections and scientific institutions. Colleges and universities also may receive pieces for scientific study and course work in many related fields including mineralogy, chemistry, geology, and of course astronomy. The study of meteorites, their composition, and their origins is called meteoritics. The chances of actually capturing this meteor/fireball on film are truly astronomically small. Every pun intended.
  • by Archon-X ( 264195 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @05:49AM (#28793159)

    I didn't see anything about it in /. Why?

    ..perhaps because you're too busy writing smary comments to search?
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/09/07/20/0114250/Something-May-Have-Just-Hit-Jupiter [slashdot.org]

  • by jrms ( 1347707 ) on Thursday July 23, 2009 @06:32AM (#28793325)
    Just because I need this for my Boy Scout "Pedant" badge, an amateur is someone who pursues something for the love of it, and without pay. I don't think it has anything to do with being self-taught or not.
  • Note that 'amateur' comes from the French for "lover" and has a primary meaning someone who loves what they are doing, someone who is not paid being a secondary meeting. I would say that almost all astronomers are amateur. Some are even paid for doing it as well.

    Argh, no! The English definition of Amateur (from Dictionary.com) is the following:

    1. a person who engages in a study, sport, or other activity for pleasure rather than for financial benefit or professional reasons. Compare professional.
    2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.
    3. a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity: Hunting lions is not for amateurs.
    4. a person who admires something; devotee; fan: an amateur of the cinema.

    Your definition is the fourth down, under three definitions that state either lack of skill or lack of pay. Are you telling me that 1 through 3 are only "secondary definitions?" Because I think it's the other way around. Please do not confuse etymology with definition, either unintentionally or (as I see so often) as a rhetorical trick. The former is somewhat interesting, but only useful in this context if we happen to be posting on a French version of Slashdot.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.