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Meteor put on a 90-second light show in 2017 before escaping back to space

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Old April 27th 20, 03:45 AM posted to alt.astronomy
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Default Meteor put on a 90-second light show in 2017 before escaping back to space


Meteor put on a 90-second light show in 2017 before escaping back to space
It came for a visit, got lit on fire, but toughed it out before making a
quick exit. It's rare to spot such a long-lasting Earth-grazer.

Eric Mack mugshot
Eric Mack
Dec. 13, 2019 10:56 a.m. PT
- 02:06
An Earth-grazing fireball seen over the US in 2014

On a winter evening in southern Australia in 2017 a bright fireball
streaked across the sky for a full minute and a half. There was no need
to duck and cover though, because after its extended display in our
atmosphere, the meteoroid flew back out into deep space.

The so-called Earth-grazing meteor was caught by Australia's Desert
Fireball Network on July 7, 2017, as it scorched a path over southern
and western Australia, traveling over 808 miles (1,300 kilometers)
through the atmosphere before making its exit to go cool off in
interplanetary space. In a new draft of a paper submitted to the
Astrophysical Journal, a team of researchers estimate that the fireball
weighed about 132 pounds (60 kilograms) with a diameter of around a foot
(30 centimeters).

It's almost as if the small space rock was bouncing off our planet, but
not quite. What's really happening with an Earth-grazer is the meteoroid
is entering our atmosphere at a very shallow angle. If it's moving fast
enough and doesn't get slowed down so much by our atmosphere that
Earth's gravity pulls it down to the surface, it can actually escape
back out to space. That is, if it doesn't totally burn up in the process.

It's rare to spot such a long-lasting Earth-grazer, but with today's
modern observatories scientists have been able to document and study a
handful over the last couple of decades. The July 2017 event was the
second longest to be scientifically observed.

See the Perseid meteor shower make a celestial scene worldwide
An Earth-grazer thought to be about the size of a truck scorched its way
across Canada and the northwestern US in 1972 for almost 100 seconds,
but later research found that the original data analysis of the event
contained mistakes. That makes the 2017 event, which was captured from
multiple spots on the ground by the DFN's network of over 50
observatories in Australia, perhaps the most significant Earth-grazing
meteoroid observed in modern times.

As for the little space rock that temporarily found itself lit on fire
by its trajectory, it's likely to spend a few hundred thousand years
zipping around the solar system and having a number of close encounters
with Jupiter before going on to other adventures.

"Eventually the meteoroid will likely be ejected from the solar system
or be flung into a trans-Neptunian orbit," the researchers write.

Sounds a lot more chill than its 90 seconds visiting Earth.


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