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Bright daytime meteor probably landed near Medicine Hat, experts say – Calgary Herald

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Research assistant Lincoln Hanton (L) and Fabio CIceri. PhD student in Planetary Science and teaching assistant, pose with a meteorite sample at their University of Calgary offices on ipcdow, February 12, 2020. The sample is from the Buzzard Coulee Meteorite found in Saskatchewan in 2008. Reasearchers are investating the recent fireball over Calgary. Jim Wells/Postmedia


Jim Wells/Postmedia

Fireball experts say the meteor that lit up Alberta skies Saturday afternoon likely touched down somewhere north of Medicine Hat.

Meteor researchers at the University of Calgary determined the object’s probable flight path by analyzing online video footage of the fireball, which was clearly visible in eastern skies around 5:08 p.m. Saturday despite it still being bright outside.

“The most unusual thing about this meteor is that it was seen in the daylight. This suggests to us that the fireball was probably relatively big,” said Fabio Ciceri, a PhD student in planetary science who is part of the team investigating the meteor.

“It was probably the size of a microwave when entering the atmosphere, and probably between 100 and 500 kilograms, but we can never be 100 per cent sure.”

Based on footage he’s seen, Ciceri says any meteorites that fell to Earth could be a rare type called carbonaceous chondrites, which account for only about two per cent of all recovered rocks. That potential makes the fireball even more exciting for the U of C team.

“It would be so great to be able to find one of those, because we don’t have many at the university,” Ciceri said.

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The meteor was seen across the province, with reports in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. The International Meteor Organization, which tracks fireballs by soliciting reports from amateur astronomers, received 42 reports of the meteor.

Specialty cameras are set up across the province to help scientists calculate the trajectory of meteors and increase chances of finding space rocks that have fallen to Earth. But since Saturday’s meteor occurred in daylight, the cameras either were not active or didn’t capture the fireball.

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Though having those specially calibrated cameras is a big help in locating possible meteorites, scientists are still able to triangulate flight paths and possible landing areas using video footage of the meteor.

Ciceri asks that those with footage of the meteor, particularly video recorded in southeast Alberta or Saskatchewan, contact him at fabio.ciceri@ucalgary.ca.

“If we get enough video from the public, it could give us a really good idea of the trajectory,” he said. “Since it was over Calgary, we think there’s much more video than what we’ve seen. Most people who have a security camera, if it was pointed east, would have caught the fireball.”

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If scientists are able to narrow down a landing area for the meteorite, they would then start search efforts, using metal detectors and looking for entry holes in the snow to look for pieces of space rock.

Finding meteorites quickly is imperative for scientists, says Chris Herd, a University of Alberta geologist who is among the province’s top meteorites experts.

“The longer time it spends on the Earth’s surface, the more time that things like moisture, especially melting snow, can get into it and modify it,” Herd said. “There’s definitely going to be some luck involved with finding it.”

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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Here's NASA's new idea to get its stubborn Martian drill to work – Mashable

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The InSight lander’s robotic arm.
Image: nasa jpl

Well over a year after NASA’s InSight lander parachuted down to the Martian surface, the space agency still hasn’t been able to drill too far into the red soil. 

NASA has tried a few different techniques to get the drill, known as the “mole,” deeper into the ground to measure the desert planet’s inner temperature —  with the greater goal of understanding geologic activity on Mars. 

On Friday, NASA announced a new idea. From tens of millions of miles away, the space agency will direct the InSight lander to take its robotic arm (which has a black shovel on the end), to “push” on top of the drill. 

“The InSight team hopes that pushing on this location will help the mole it bury itself and enable the heat probe to take Mars’ temperature,” NASA said.  

Eventually, NASA hopes the mole will drill down 16 feet. So far, however, the agency hasn’t gone much more than a foot.

The new extraterrestrial operation is expected to take a few weeks, if it works at all. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that one day we’ll get the mole working again,” Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, the lead InSight arm engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said five months ago, when attempting another drilling scheme.  

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U of A scientist lands spot on NASA Mars 2020 rover mission

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Local scientist Chris Herd is part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, the first attempt to collect samples from the red planet for a possible return to Earth.

He will be lending his expertise in the analysis of rocks and meteorites and select samples that may provide information about the geological history of Mars.

“Mars 2020 will let us choose where to collect samples and will allow us to get context for the rocks that are collected — their location, surrounding features, and more,” said Herd in a news release Thursday.

His role in the mission is making operational and scientific decisions for the mission’s rover to collect and store samples from the surface of Mars.

“Returning samples with that context is the holy grail of Mars exploration. That’s the reason why it’s so important to collect these with an eye to bringing them back,” said Herd.

The objective of the mission is learning about the climate, geology and signs of past microbial life. He was chosen by NASA as one of 10 experts to help to ensure the samples collected will be as useful as possible. He’s also the only Canadian on the team.

“This is a dream come true for me. I will be helping select which rocks might someday be analyzed in labs on Earth,” said Herd.

The launch window for the mission is July 17-Aug. 5, 2020, landing on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, a mission that will take 687 Earth days.

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U of A scientist lands spot on NASA Mars 2020 rover mission – Calgary Herald

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In this illustration, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover uses its drill to core a rock sample on Mars.


supplied / NASA

Local scientist Chris Herd is part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, the first attempt to collect samples from the red planet for a possible return to Earth.

He will be lending his expertise in the analysis of rocks and meteorites and select samples that may provide information about the geological history of Mars.

“Mars 2020 will let us choose where to collect samples and will allow us to get context for the rocks that are collected — their location, surrounding features, and more,” said Herd in a news release Thursday.

His role in the mission is making operational and scientific decisions for the mission’s rover to collect and store samples from the surface of Mars.

“Returning samples with that context is the holy grail of Mars exploration. That’s the reason why it’s so important to collect these with an eye to bringing them back,” said Herd.

The objective of the mission is learning about the climate, geology and signs of past microbial life. He was chosen by NASA as one of 10 experts to help to ensure the samples collected will be as useful as possible. He’s also the only Canadian on the team.

“This is a dream come true for me. I will be helping select which rocks might someday be analyzed in labs on Earth,” said Herd.

The launch window for the mission is July 17-Aug. 5, 2020, landing on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, a mission that will take 687 Earth days.

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