Syracuse, you still there?


Of course you are, but maybe you didn’t notice the meteor that tried to kill you. I have to say, though, that the news report is full of admirable scientific detail.

This meteor was so bright that it was captured by a NASA satellite that monitors lightning. The bits of debris scattered after the meteor exploded could likely be seen on National Weather Service radar. And the sonic boom was detected in Ontario by a seismograph, the instrument that records earthquakes.

When the meteor finally got hot enough to explode, Cooke said, it released as much energy as 66 tons of dynamite.

“When it broke apart it produced a shock wave that produced the sonic boom that people heard,” he said.

The meteor was just under 3 feet across and weighed about 1,800 pounds, NASA estimated. That’s hefty as meteors go: The shooting stars seen in annual meteor showers are not bigger than small pebbles or golf balls.

Wednesday’s meteor crashed into the atmosphere at 56,000 mph.

“That’s slow for a meteor, actually,” Cooke said. “Some, like the Leonids, move at 150,000 mph.”

The relatively sluggish speed indicates that the meteor probably broke loose from the asteroid belt that lies between Mars and Jupiter, about 92 million miles from Earth. That’s as far from Earth as the sun is.

As the meteor pushed through Earth’s increasingly thickening atmosphere, it reached an estimated temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, the surface of the sun is a little less than 10,000 degrees.

Cooke said the rock – technically called a meteoroid before it hits the Earth’s atmosphere and becomes a meteor — was the color of pencil lead. As it burst into a fireball, it emitted light 100 times brighter than a full moon.

So, Syracuse, how’s it feel to have not been destroyed by an 1800 pound rock traveling at 56,000 mph, exploding with the force of 66 tons of dynamite, that has been traveling for millions of years to get you? You should feel special.

Comments

  1. Andrew Watts says

    See, I feel cheated by this meteor, because I live in Brighton (south-east inner ring suburb of Rochester) and I know of people in Buffalo/Niagra and Syracuse who saw the flash or heard the boom, but I somehow didn’t despite my desk looking out an east facing window.

  2. zippythepinhead says

    An optimist says a meteor missed Syracuse while a pessimist says a meteor missed Syracuse.

  3. wzrd1 says

    I remember seeing a wonderful green trailing fireball that was headed east before it shattered.
    Two regrets: I was driving on I-95 and couldn’t safely stop to give it the attention it deserved and that I didn’t have a spectrograph to aim at it, accident risk be damned.

  4. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    3 feet sounds similar to the size of those monoliths popping up around the world. Maybe Syracuse was the next target and they overcranked its speed. [giggles]
    –making light of the monoliths as much as possible, already tried to associate them with the Arecibo disaster, to be cheeky

  5. davidc1 says

    A thousand years ago in Europe things like this might have resulted in citizens killing all their fellow Jewish citizens ,just to be on the safe side .

  6. rrutis1 says

    I happened to be at our office Wednesday, we were working on a project and heard the sonic boom but assumed that a car or truck hit a pole of one of the buildings around us (our building is very near a busy intersection and it has happened before). Apparently there is some footage from someone wearing a gopro while dog-sledding of all things; https://youtu.be/TvBVauu1MW4

  7. pavium says

    The sooner you Americans start using the same units of measurement as the rest of the world, the better. I can’t be bothered translating miles, fahrenheit, tons, etc, any more.

    I’m an engineer and I was told by an expatriate US colleague that the US signed up to the metric system years ago but the people don’t want to change.

    Is it something to do with mistrust of science?

  8. consciousness razor says

    We should do better with place names too. When you just say “Syracuse,” I’m thinking of Sicily. But then an alarm went off when I read “National Weather Service radar” and “Ontario,” It was quite a ride, for about 5 seconds there.

  9. unclefrogy says

    If i am not mistaken those pieces of rock or iron that fall through the atmosphere from some where in outer space are worth the trouble to go and try find $$$
    uncle frogy

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