Video Shows Meteorite Bouncing Off Earth’s Atmosphere
It’s not every day that a meteorite uses Earth’s atmosphere as a trampoline, and it’s even rarer to catch it happening on camera.
‘Earthgrazers’ are small meteorites that bounce off the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the European Space Agency, only a handful are recorded every year, and luckily, in September, a camera happened to be pointing at exactly the right bit of sky to catch one in action.
The meteroid, which skipped past Earth on September 22, was spotted in the skies above northern Germany and the Netherlands. Astronomers say that the mini meteor made it as low as 56 miles above the Earth in altitude – lower than any satellite – on its brief visit before heading off back into space.
A video posted by the Global Meteor Network shows the meteor making a low swoop across the night sky, giving us a unique look at the trajectory of ‘Earthgrazers’, which resemble skimming stones across a lake.
Universe Today reports that scientists have traced this particular Earthgrazer back to a family of meteorites in Jupiter’s orbit, but found no conclusive parent body. This isn’t exactly surprising, as tracing meteorites back to their original source is an incredibly difficult task. Of the tens of thousands of meteorites that have made it through Earth’s atmosphere to actually land on the planet, only 40 have ever had their parental asteroid conclusively identified.
Capturing Earthgrazers on camera has also proved a difficult task. Hundreds of meteorites enter Earth’s atmosphere every day, and with most of them disintegrating as they get closer to the Earth’s surface, it’s impossible to predict when an Earthgrazer is going to appear.
The Global Meteor Network is hoping to change that. It is aiming to cover the Earth in meteor cameras over the next couple of years to fulfil its ‘No Meteor Unobserved’ mission statement, with the hope that it will be able to provide the public with localised meteor shower alerts, and build a better picture of the meteoroid environment around our planet.
In a blog post published by the ESA, Denis Vida, the founder of the Global Meteor Network, said:
The network is basically a decentralized scientific instrument, made up of amateur astronomers and citizen scientists around the planet each with their own camera systems.
We make all data such as meteoroid trajectories and orbits available to the public and scientific community, with the goal of observing rare meteor shower outbursts and increasing the number of observed meteorite falls and helping to understand delivery mechanisms of meteorites to Earth.
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