Scientists identify visible, infrared imagery left by meteor across Russia

Feb 18, 2013

Visible and infrared imagery of the meteor that made a fiery entry into the Earth's atmosphere over the Ural Mountains of Russia has been captured by Colorado State University scientists.

Steve Miller, deputy director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA), a partnership with NOAA, analyzed imagery from the Defense (DMSP) weather and captured several images of the condensation trail left behind the meteor as it entered the Earth's atmosphere at an estimated 33,000 mph (54,000 km/h.)

The meteor, which scientists estimate to have been roughly 15 meters across and with a mass of 10-11 tons, has caused widespread damage and 1,000 injuries across the Chelyabinsk region, approximately 900 miles east of Moscow.

"We were extremely lucky to have a satellite crossing the immediate area, literally moments after the event. The imagery can help us understand some details of the entry that may have been more difficult to infer from the surface observations alone." Miller said.

CIRA researchers conduct cutting-edge research using a variety of satellite observations. CIRA was established as in interdisciplinary partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CSU in 1980.

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User comments : 5

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5 / 5 (1) Feb 18, 2013
There's not much to really say about this except that I really love the information we can get from satellites in this day and age. I hope to hell we keep on funding them.

Oh yeah... one more thing: When I finally go I'd like to leave a plume like that.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2013
the TV chat about this mentioned that this sort of meteor fall went on quite often but over the seas,polar regions and other uninhabited areas.the question is has anyone looked over other satellite images for plumes? i would think these photos could be searched by volunteers in a Boinc program.
not rated yet Feb 19, 2013
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2013
I find the channel in the condensation trail to be very interesting. Upon reflection the channel appears to be a channel through which the meteor was moving. Connections at the top of the channel between the left and right sides are seen, indicating to me that the meteorite was rotating such that the bottom was rotating toward the leading surface causing cool air to be drawn down from the upper surface into the condensation trial and clearing it.

The condensation trail is mostly white and grows larger up to a point where it abruptly decreases in width past which there is a red/brown color in portions of the trail.

This is clearly the point where the primary disintegration of the meteor took place.

The top of the condensation trail seems to be pulled down at this point which would indicate to me that it was the leading edge of the meteor that exploded with a substantial portion of the trailing section continuing forward.

There is a regular period to the contrail which may cont
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2013
cont indicate the rotation frequency of the meteor which looks to me to be about 1.5 rotations per second both before and after the primary explosion.

Fragments are going to be difficult to find I think because a 500 kilotonn explosion is going to randomize the fragment velocities pretty well causing them to be distributed over a wide area.

I find it interesting that there is no explosion evidence in the contrail itself other than an abrupt reduction in it's size.

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