Blue fireball lights up sky over Sweden

A very large blue fireball illuminated the sky over Sweden around 20:30 UTC (21:30 CET) on March 20, 2017. The event was so powerful that the whole sky lit up, Swedish All Sky Meteor Network astronomers said.

blue fireball Sweden 2017

Credits: Jessica Dellsjö

Images of the event immediately started appearing on social networks, with people from the cities of Stockholm, Uppsala and Örebro all reported seeing the event. Reports from eastern Uppland mention sonic boom associated with the event. 

Several cameras from the Finnish Meteor Network have also registered the event.

Eric Stempels, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University, has reassured the public that the fireball was harmless, and that this phenomena is perhaps more common than people think.

“This was something very small that does not pose any threat to us,” said Stempels.  “This is something that happens a few times a year.”

“Because it can happen during the day, when it is cloudy or far from populated areas, these events usually don’t get much attention,” he said, adding that this one fell in the north-eastern Uppland region.

Credits: Jessica Dellsjö

Stempels estimates that the size of the object was between the size of a “fist and a football,” and according to the Swedish Allsky Media Network, its blue coloration was caused by a combination of speed and a majority of magnesium in its composition.

One of the Swedish Allsky Meteor Network‘s cameras in Uppsala managed to capture the bright light. Watch the short video below:

“By combining Finnish observations with the Swedish reports, it is clear that it was a space rock that burned up in the atmosphere. It came from the east and was moving almost due west of northeastern Uppland. The bolide first appeared at an altitude of about 90 km (60 miles), and stopped shining at an altitude of about 35 km (21.7 miles),” Swedish AllSky Meteor Network astronomers explained. 

“It was truly a wonderful sight,” Mikko Suominen of the Finish Meteor Network said.

Mystery blue fireball lights up Swedish night sky, by The Local
Large blue meteor fireball illuminates sky over Sweden, by
Blue Fireball Lights Up Sky Over Sweden, by The Singular Fortean Society

Ancient Platinum Asteroid Wiped Out Native American Civilization

By Peggy Binette, University of South Carolina

No one knows for certain why the Clovis people and iconic beasts — mastodon, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger — living some 12,800 years ago suddenly disappeared. However, a discovery of widespread platinum at archaeological sites across the U.S. by three University of South Carolina archaeologists has provided an important clue in solving this enduring mystery.

clovis people platinum

The discovery of an abundance of platinum at Clovis sites across the U.S. adds to the research that suggests a cosmic event may have wiped out the Clovis people and large beasts that lived around 12,800 years ago. Photo courtesy of NASA.

The research findings are outlined in a new study released Thursday (March 9) in Scientific Reports, a publication of Nature. The study, authored by 10 researchers, builds on similar findings of platinum — an element associated with cosmic objects like asteroids or comets — found by Harvard University researchers in an ice-core from Greenland in 2013.

The South Carolina researchers found an abundance of platinum in soil layers that coincided with the “Younger-Dryas,” a climatic period of extreme cooling that began around 12,800 years ago and lasted about 1,400 years. While the brief return to ice-age conditions during the Younger-Dryas has been well-documented by scientists, the reasons for it and the demise of the Clovis people and animals have remained unclear.

“Platinum is very rare in the Earth’s crust, but it is common in asteroids and comets,” says Christopher Moore, the study’s lead author and an archaeologist at Carolina. He calls the presence of platinum found in the soil layers at 11 archaeological sites in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina an anomaly.

“The presence of elevated platinum in archaeological sites is a confirmation of data previously reported for the Younger-Dryas onset several years ago in a Greenland ice-core. The authors for that study concluded that the most likely source of such platinum enrichment was from the impact of an extraterrestrial object,” Moore says.

“Our data show that this anomaly is present in sediments from U.S. archaeological sites that date to the start of the Younger-Dryas event. It is continental in scale — possibly global — and it’s consistent with the hypothesis that an extraterrestrial impact took place.”

He says the Younger-Dryas coincides with the end of Clovis culture and the extinction of more than 35 species of ice-age animals. Moore says while evidence has shown that some of the animals were on the decline before Younger-Dryas, virtually none are found after it.

Moore says that would indicate an extinction event for North America.

He also says the platinum anomaly is similar to the well-documented finding of iridium, another element associated with cosmic objects, that scientists have found in the rock layers dated 65 million years ago from an impact that caused dinosaur extinction. That event is commonly known as Cretaceous-Tertiary or K-Pg by scientists.

“In both cases, the anomalies represent the atmospheric fallout of rare elements resulting from an extraterrestrial impact,” Moore says.

He says the K-Pg dinosaur extinction was the result of a very large asteroid impact while the Younger-Dryas onset impact is likely the result of being hit by fragments of a much smaller sized comet or asteroid, possibly measuring up to two-thirds a mile in diameter.

“Another difference is that the Younger-Dryas impact event is not yet associated with any known impact crater,” Moore says. “This may be because the fragments of the large object struck the glacial ice-sheet or exploded in the atmosphere. Several candidate craters are under investigation but have not been confirmed.”

Moore says while his team’s data does not contradict the Young-Dryas impact hypothesis, it also does not explain the likely effects that such an impact could have had on the environment, Paleoindians or ice-age animals.

clovis people platinum

UofSC archaeologists Christopher Moore, Albert Goodyear and Mark Brooks were among a research team that found concentrations of platinum, an element rarely found on the earth’s crust, at 11 U.S. Clovis excavation sites.

Contributing to the study are Moore’s university colleagues Mark Brooks, a geo-archaeologist who conducts research and excavations at the Savannah River Site, and archaeologist Albert Goodyear, who has spent decades documenting Clovis culture at the famed Topper site. Topper, located in Allendale County, South Carolina, along the banks of the Savannah River, is considered one of the most pristine U.S. sites for research on Clovis, one of the earliest ancient people.

Goodyear’s work with Moore builds on research in which he found traces of extraterrestrial elements, including iridium, at the Younger-Dryas layer at Topper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012.

Moore, Goodyear and Brooks conduct research through the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology in the university’s College of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to Topper, the remaining 10 archaeological sites that Moore, Goodyear and others on their team conducted research in 2016 included Arlington Canyon on Santa Rosa Island, California; Murray Springs, Arizona; Blackwater Draw, New Mexico; Sheriden Cave, Ohio; Squires Ridge and Barber Creek, North Carolina; and Kolb, Flamingo Bay, John Bay and Pen Point, South Carolina.

Moore says the bottom line of the study and paper in the journal Scientific Reports is the presence of an easily identifiable hemispheric marker (platinum) in sediment layers for the start of Younger-Dryas. That discovery contributes to the body of evidence that a potential cosmic impact event occurred and warrants further scientific investigation. 

Original press release here.

Asteroid Clay Could Solve the Space Radiation Problem

by Rosalie Chan,

Asteroids likely caused the dinosaur apocalypse, and if one hurtles into Earth, we’d probably die, too. But asteroids can be a lifesavers in outer space, by protecting us from space radiation.

In space, humans are prone to fatal radiation from galactic cosmic rays and solar energetic particles, and this is a major obstacle when it comes to deep-space missions. But in a study published Wednesday in Advances in Space Research, University of Central Florida researchers proposed that a shield made of asteroid clay would be a simple and effective way to protect astronauts.

As we prepare to go on more deep space missions, like a mission to Mars or settling on the moon, space radiation poses as a major health risk and can wreak havoc on the body. For example, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, leukemia, and brain damage.

“The implication is extraterrestrial resources are a valid possibility in designing long-term habitats for exploration,” Dr. Daniel Britt, professor from University of Central Florida’s Department of Physics, tells Inverse. “We have a radiation environment we have to build for. If we have to spend more time in deep space, that’s something we’re going to plan for.”

With an asteroid clay shield to be used for space missions or space habitats, high-energy radiation particles can deposit their energy in the shield. Asteroid clay has up to 10 percent better shielding power than materials from the moon and even aluminium, which is currently used for shields during shorter missions.

“It’s kind of expensive to drag things off the surface of the Earth,” Britt says. “If you’re going to do exploration of Mars or the moon, it’s a good idea to use local resources, and one of the local resources are asteroids.”

Current aluminium shields are expensive and heavy. On the other hand, asteroid clay is rich in hydroxyls, the most effective material for shielding from cosmic rays and particles.

“For radiation shielding it’s a good idea to have low atomic mass elements,” Britt says. “They absorb moving neutrons better than things that have a lot of atomic mass.”

 asteroid clay space radiation

Credit: ESA

The next step would be figuring out how we’re going to mine asteroids for their clay. Scientists must locate the volatile-rich asteroids with the right kind of mineralogy. Once we locate those, one possibility is separating other materials in asteroids from clay by using large magnets, since clay is non-magnetic.

Besides mining for shield material, asteroids can be invaluable for water, building material, and fuel. Some countries, like the U.S. and Luxembourg, have already started plans to mine asteroids for resources.

“I think that it’s part of a discussion and the engineering possibilities for designing habitats in space and making it possible to use space resources,” Britt says. “These are studies that need to be done to move the science and engineering along in that direction.”

Original article here.

NEOShield-2 Agent Event in Athens, Greece

Reported by Takis Theodossiou, Athens, Greece

On the 3rd of March it took place in Athens by the LOGOS-SLOVO Α-Ω scientific association a workshop about hazardous Asteroids (NEOs) and the NEOShield-2 project.

In this workshop, members of our association as well as amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts have participated, totalizing 18 participants. Our purpose and main goal was to inform the Greek public and our members about the Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) that are orbiting in the neighborhood of our planet and can become in the future PHAs for Earth.

NEOShield-2 Agent Athens Greece

We have explained what asteroids are and how they are moving inside our solar system, as well as where they are located. We have explained the main groups of NEOs, whose orbits are located very close to the orbit of our planet.

Furthermore, we have explained the nature of impact craters in our solar system and finally on our planet. With video-presentations I have shown the main goals of the NEOShied-2 project.

The audience had the opportunity to watch the entries of significant in size small asteroids by the last few decades on Earth’s atmosphere and I have given further information about the kinetic energy that these asteroids are capable to transfer on the surface of our planet by their impact.

In an about 3 hours workshop, I have presented the NEOShield-2 project in order to explain why we need it and how the NEOShield-2 project  is working on the development of  efficient technology for protecting the future of our planet from PHAs.

NEOShield-2 Agent Athens Greece

The workshop proved to be very successful since the audience have participated very active by putting many relevant questions – that have been answered in order to bring the Greek audience to understand better the nature of the threat that we are dealing with. One of the main targets was to create potential new ambassadors and increasing awareness by the Greek public in the future about hazardous asteroids.

Also for me it was a unique experience that the audience was very much interested in order to be informed about the NEOShield-2 project and to participate very active by my workshop.

In the next couple of weeks and months I am planning different presentations with interactive material and with information about the NEOShield-2 project for schoolboys and girls and for the Greek public, starting on the 31st of March until the 2nd of April by participating in the Science Festival in Athens.

Takis Theodossiou
President of LOGOS-SLOVO Α-Ω
Board of Directors IMCA & Member of the Meteoritical Society


NEOShield-2 Note:

The NEOShield-2 Team heartily welcome Takis as our new Agent in Greece. We thank him for all effort and enthusiasm in helping us to spread awareness about an asteroid impact threat. We are looking forward to his next activities!

Are you also interested in becoming a NEOShield-2 Agent and join the team to protect Earth? Check more information here.