Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meteor Showers: Fire and Water

A flash of our past and our future: the meteor impact near Chelyabinsk, Russia, early Friday morning.

This meteor was about 55 ft. in diameter, weighed 10,000 tons, and is a remnant of the dust and rocks that swirled around the early sun 4.5 billion years ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Comets hitting Earth brought our water, eventually building to our oceans.  

Meteors peppered earth early in its 4.45 billion year history, one impact causing a chunk of earth and debris to rebound away and become our moon.  

Even now 100 tons of material the size of sand or smaller still hits Earth every day, reports Phil Plait on on Slate. 

When I walk on the beach tomorrow morning, I'll thank God for the gift of oceans.

I'll be waiting for the sunset bypass of Asteroid 2012DA14--17,000 miles from Earth and the size of a football field.

In 1908 a meteor exploded above Siberia, flattening trees over a 25-mile area.

The meteor that caused extinction of the dinosaurs about 60 million years ago was about the same size as the asteroid that will pass us by on Friday.

"It is only every 2,000 years or so that an object the size of a football field descends to Earth and causes significant damage, according to NASA," reports the Wall Street Journal, referring to the meteor fly-by on Friday.

As if humans were keeping a list in 4,000 BCE, 2000 BCE, and the turn of the first millennium CE.

In contrast, a much smaller meteor like the one over Chelyabinsk causes damage on Earth about once every one hundred years.

Thank God that 2012DA14 will not be returning us to the dust from which we were formed.

Note of correction: 

In the first hours after the meteor passed over Chelyabinsk, some pranksters posted on YouTube videos of a gas crater in Darwaza, Turkmenistan, claiming it to be the site of impact of a part of the meteor.  I fell for it and posted the link below on my blog.  The footage also appears in the first link above of various Chelyabinsk videos pasted together, some from news broadcasts.

In this YouTube video someone walks through the snow around the edge of gas crater nicknamed "Gates of Hell."

Weratu Nectur posted this explanation of the 1971 crater on YouTube on Feb. 16:

In 1971 near the village of Darwaza, geologists discovered an accumulation of underground gas.  As a result of excavation and drilling, they stumbled on an underground void.  Then the earth collapsed and formed a large hole filled with gas.  

The fumes did not go out, so they decided to burn.  Geologists expected the fire would go out after a few days, but they were mistaken.  Since 1971, the natural gas coming from the crater stays lit day and night.

At any rate, this gas crater gives us a glimpse of what the meteor crater in Arizona near Flagstaff may have looked like when it happened between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago.