2011 Draconid meteor shower deposited a ton of meteoritic material on Earth

Jun 06, 2013
meteorite

A study led by researchers from the Spanish National Research Council shows that about a ton of material coming from comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner was deposited in the Earth's atmosphere on October 8th and 9th 2011 during one of the most intense showers of shooting starts in the last decade, which registered an activity of more than 400 meteors per hour.

Every 6.6 years, the Giacobini-Zinner circulates through the and passes through the perihelion, the closest point to the Sun of its . Then, the comet sublimates the ices and ejects a large number of particles that are distributed in filaments. The oldest of these particles have formed a swarm that the Earth passes trough every year in early October. The result is a Draconid meteor shower –meteors from this comet come from the northern constellation Draco–, which hits the Earth's atmosphere at about 75,000 km/h, a relatively slow speed in comparison with other meteoric swarms.

Josep Maria Trigo, researcher from the CSIC Institute of Space Sciences (ICE), states: "When a comet approaches the Sun, it sublimates part of its superficial ice and the gas pressure drives a huge number of particles that adopt orbits around the Sun, forming authentic swarms. The study shows that in the evening from October 8th to 9th 2011, the Earth intercepted three dense spindles of particles left behind by the comet when it crossed through the perihelion".

The researchers, who published their results in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society magazine, have obtained the orbits of twenty meteors in the solar system. Thus, they have confirmed the origin of the particles that caused the outbreak in that . For this, they have count on 25 video-detection stations operated by the Spanish Meteor and Firewall Network (SPMN) and the collaboration of .

Two of those filaments of , which had been theoretically predicted already, have been identified by scientists with those left by the comet in 1874, 1894 and 1900. Nevertheless, researchers have confirmed that there was another dense region intercepted by the Earth which had not been predicted and that involves a new challenge for theoretical models.

In a second article, researchers analyze the chemical composition of six fireballs from that swarm of the comet recorded during the outbreak. José María Madiedo, researcher from the University of Huelva and coordinator of this second study, asserts: "One of them, with an initial mass of 6 kg and nearly half a meter in diameter, named Lebrija in honor of the city it over flew, came to compete with the brightness of the moon that night".

The six analyzed fragments have a possibly similar composition to the carbonaceous chondrites (a type of organic-rich meteorites) but they are much more fragile. Trigo emphasizes: "They don't seem to have suffered any chemical alteration during their brief stay in the interplanetary environment, which turns out to be very interesting to confirm the astrobiological role of these particles in the continuous transportation of water and organic material to the Earth".

Explore further: NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Watching the dragon spit fire

Oct 26, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- This video catches the moment when a Draconid meteor exploded in Earth's atmosphere earlier this month. The dramatic footage comes from a campaign to observe this important meteor shower using aircraft to ...

Draconid meteor outburst

Oct 05, 2011

On October 8th Earth is going to plow through a stream of dust from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner, and the result could be an outburst of Draconid meteors.

Saturday's Draconid meteors may be no-see-ums

Oct 05, 2011

(AP) -- Heads-up, meteor fans. As many as 750 meteors an hour are expected Saturday, as Earth travels through streams of dust and ice from Comet Giacobini-Zinner. The comet passes through the inner solar ...

Hubble brings faraway comet into view

Apr 23, 2013

(Phys.org) —The NASA Hubble Space Telescope has given astronomers their clearest view yet of Comet ISON, a newly-discovered sun grazer comet that may light up the sky later this year, or come so close to ...

Leonid Meteor Shower Peaks Wednesday

Nov 12, 2010

The Leonid meteor shower best viewing this year will be in the two to three hours before dawn on Nov. 17 and 18, according to the editors of StarDate magazine.

Recommended for you

NASA craft set to beam home close-ups of Pluto

7 hours ago

Nine years after leaving Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft is at last drawing close to Pluto and on Sunday was expected to start shooting photographs of the dwarf planet.

Elon Musk's SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

17 hours ago

A spacecraft company run by billionaire Elon Musk has dropped a lawsuit alleging the U.S. Air Force improperly awarded a contract to launch military satellites to a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed ...

NASA spacecraft almost to Pluto: Smile for the camera!

Jan 23, 2015

It's showtime for Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has traveled 3 billion miles and is nearing the end of its nine-year journey to Pluto. Sunday, it begins photographing the mysterious, unexplored, icy ...

Gullies on Vesta suggest past water-mobilized flows

Jan 23, 2015

(Phys.org)—Protoplanet Vesta, visited by NASA's Dawn spacecraft from 2011 to 2013, was once thought to be completely dry, incapable of retaining water because of the low temperatures and pressures at its ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.