CSI: Space

Science is always pretty cool, but sometimes it’s WAY cool.  Remember the Chelyabinsk meteor that went streaking through the sky and exploded with the force of half a million tons of TNT earlier this year?  It was caught on video from many different angles thanks to the prevalence of Russian dash cams.  All those videos allowed scientists to triangulate it’s trajectory back into space and find out which larger chunk of rock hurled this warning shot across our bow.  The likely culprit?  The notorious 2011 EO40!  Dun dun DUUUUUNNNNN!

Yeah, I’ve never heard of it either.  It’s just one of many large chunks of space rock screaming through space and happens to cross Earth’s orbit.  But how cool is it that we were able to use the tools of science to track the origins of a fireball that exploded in our atmosphere and sprinkled to the ground?

Phil Plait’s article that I linked to above also pointed out something that is obvious once it’s pointed out, but I had never really thought about it before.  Many asteroids travel in packs, following very similar orbits to each other.  Scientists believe that the pack mentality of asteroids is the result of them all being part of a larger asteroid that had broken up.  This makes sense because many asteroids aren’t really all that solid.  They’re just giant balls of rock and dust loosely glommed together by their own gravity.  Strike them hard enough with another streaking rock and a new asteroid family is born!  Awww, how cute, he has your chemical composition!