Mike's Astro Photos

Tag: Slashdot

Jul.09 2009

Update on Baltimore / PA Meteor

by , under Mason Dixon Meteor

Enhanced version of baltimore fireball picture

Enhanced version of baltimore fireball picture

Today has been crazy. I’ve got over 2 dozen emails from scientists, meteorite hunters and astronomers.

The feedback I have gotten on my picture has been amazing and everyone really seems to love it. I think I may be the first person in the world to photograph a meteor thru a telescope — its basically almost impossible to do. especially a meteor like this.If anyone knows if this has ever been done before please let me know.

I have had several meteorite hunters contact me and I have learned that they are actively looking for a crash site and have people on the ground now in PA.

The #1 most world famous meteorite hunter Steve Arnold contacted me today and said he was on a plane to Baltimore. The guy has a show called meteorite men on the science channel and said he might want to come out and check out the site where I took the picture.

Baltimore PA Meteor Picture
Baltimore PA Meteor Picture

Another group of meteorite hunters told me I could go out to the field with them if I wanted, they would share all their data with me and they said they would give me some meteorites if they find any and there is enough to go around. How cool is that!? These meteorite hunters remind me of Indiana Jones.

I’ve asked some of the meteorite experts if they can guess the size and they speculate the meteor was 1-2 meters big which is huge in meteor terms considering most shooting stars are about the size of a grain of rice. Other experts have scoffed at estimating it saying its simply impossible to know. I personally think it is very possible to calculate the size from my picture, but I don’t know how.

There is a lot of confusion about how much meteorites cost or are worth. This article from astronomy.com gives a pretty good explaination of the costs. Like most things the cost is based on supply and demand.

The most common meteorites generally cost between $3-$6 per gram while exotic meteorites  filled filled with space gems or carbon based diamonds that contain life’s building blocks may cost $30,000 per gram (these are super rare.) Meteorites that originated from Mars or the Moon are also very expensive. The most expensive meteor on ebay.com has a buy it now price of $3,500,000. Its over 2000 grams and comes in at $1500 per gram. It is billed as the ‘rarest’ meteor in the world. More than half of the 1900 metorites for sale on ebay right now are selling for less than $20. Most of them are under $5 and the more expensive ones are ones that have been made into jewlrey already. I found this pretty comprehensive chart of prices for meteorites that details prices for the different types of metiors.

If you are a landowner near a meteor crash site don’t think you’ve hit the jackpot. Most of the meteor hunters that will come knocking at your door are scientists doing research for colleges and museums. Chances are your meteorites will catch a few cents a gram at best. The meteorite hunters that I have met and talked to so far seem like fair people and are in it for the thrill more than the money.  Most of them will want to make a deal with you to pay you for your meteors but you shouldn’t expect a lot of money per gram.

People have told me that from my picture this meteor they think is mostly made out of stone. So its meteorites would fall into the ‘common’ category.  Some people did say there is still a 10% chance this could be space junk. An astro buddy of mine told me that it reminded him of what the space shuttles looked like when they crashed. He also mentioned that spy satelites travel on a south to north orbit so they can easily take pictures of the whole world once per day. The evidence currently supports that the meteor was traveling south to north. So if you are looking for this thing watch out for plutonium batteries!

Baltimore Meteor picture overlayed on star chart.
Baltimore Meteor picture overlayed on star chart.

Skyandtelescope magazine also contacted me and they want to do a story and publish my picture on their website. Kelly sent over this great image of my picture plotted correctly on a star chart. Thanks Kelly! I spent about 2 hours last night unsuccessfully trying to do this exact same thing.

Tonight I recreated the scene of the crime, by telling my scope to go back to the exact date of the picture and then having the goto computer target Andromeda. I was able to determine the RA/DEC numbers. I also took pictures of the sky with a laser to pin point where the meteor would have been. I will post these pictures tomorrow. I want to also make a simulated picture/video of how the sky would have looked in a wider field of view.

I’ve been uploading the WJZ interview to you tube for the last 2 hours. The video file was pretty big. I will post this on the blog once it uploads. A friend of mine re-edited it a bit, it should be pretty good.

Baltimore PA Meteor / Fireball Annontated
Baltimore PA Meteor / Fireball Annontated

I’ve also been plotting all of the sitings reported by different people in different areas, to help determine the trajectory. Alot of really smart people are working on determining the trajectory and I’m confident it will be precisely determined. The American Meteor Society has a meteor log book on line that has detailed reports from over 15 reliable meteor watchers. I’m plugging all of these into google earth to try to map out the path this thing took.

Special thanks to Eric from http://meteoriteblog.com/ who sent me these enhanced versions of the meteor pic. The image enhancements bring out detail in the photo. The little blue arrows indicate the streaking paths of smaller pieces of meteoroid debris.

Here is a video simulation / best guess of how things would have looked with the naked eye that night. Please if you are a meteor expert and have criticism of this simulation please send it to me so we can make improvements to the video.

Special thanks to Doctor Vincent Perlerin and his associates from Paris for analyzing the pictures and working on this video. Vincent you are the man!

I’ll keep you posted, this is really really amazing….


19 Comments :, , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!


All entries, chronologically...