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Soyuz Fireball seen over Colorado

Friday, January 5, 2007

Something from space disintegrated over Denver, Colorado, this morning around 6:20 am MST (1320 UT). Witnesses describe it as "brilliant, slow, twinkling, sparkly and full of rainbow colors." It was not a meteor. The fireball was the decaying body of a Soyuz U rocket that launched the French COROT space telescope on Dec. 27th. The re-entry caused no damage on the ground--just a beautiful display in the sky.


Story Credit: Spaceweather.com, January 4, 2007

More: Cloudbait Observatory January 4, 2007 Fireball

Link: CNES - COROT Space Telescope

Meteor impacts on the Moon

Friday, January 5, 2007

"On Dec. 14, 2006, we observed at least five Geminid meteors hitting the Moon," reports Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, AL. Each impact caused an explosion ranging in power from 50 to 125 lbs of TNT and a flash of light as bright as a 7th-to-9th magnitude star.

The explosions occurred while Earth and Moon were passing through a cloud of debris following near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This happens every year in mid-December and gives rise to the annual Geminid meteor shower: Streaks of light fly across the sky as rocky chips of Phaethon hit Earth's atmosphere. It's a beautiful display.

More: Science@NASA - Lunar Geminids

Scientists make simulated lunar soil

Friday, January 5, 2007

Life is tough for a humble grain of dirt on the surface of the Moon. It's peppered with cosmic rays, exposed to solar flares, and battered by micrometeorites--shattered, vaporized and re-condensed countless times over the billions of years. Adding insult to injury, Earthlings want to strip it down to oxygen and other elements for "in situ resource utilization," or ISRU, the process of living off the land when NASA returns to the Moon in the not-so-distant future.

Living with moondust and striping it down may be trickier than anyone supposes. To find out how tricky, researchers would like to test their ideas for ISRU and their designs for lunar rovers on real lunar soil before astronauts return to the Moon. However, such testing requires tons of lunar material. Since large quantities of lunar material aren't available here on Earth, researchers at NASA's Space Flight Center are working on developing material which simulates lunar material.

More: Science@NASA - True Fakes: Scientists make simulated lunar soil