Above is a visual astronomy image of a fireball trail with some burning still visible from a meteor as it passed overhead in Chelyabinsk, Russia, on February 15, 2013.
Such meteors are within the size range for consideration in meteor astronomy.
From a radiation point of view many entities and objects can be or appear radiated from a source. They travel faster than a local environment or atmosphere and as such are perceived as traveling through. Size can range from electrons to galaxy clusters. Those radiated entities or objects from the size of a nucleus down to an electron are studied by the type of particles. Radiated electrons are studied with electron astronomy. Radiated nuclei are usually studied as cosmic ray astronomy. The larger entities and objects are here studied as meteor astronomy, where the term meteor is generalized with a theoretical definition to encompass these larger entities and objects.
For example, Jupiter is usually considered a gaseous giant planet in orbit around the Sun. But, it is also a large radiated object, a special object for study by meteor astronomy, that is now in an orbit around an apparently stationary object called the Sun. The Sun in turn is in an orbit around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. From this point of view the Sun can be studied with meteor astronomy as a radiated object.
- 1 Theoretical meteor astronomy
- 2 Lithometeors
- 3 Emissions
- 4 Absorptions
- 5 Hydrometeors
- 6 Cryometeors
- 7 Rains
- 8 Clouds
- 9 Aerometeors
- 10 Plasma meteors
- 11 X-rays
- 12 Ultraviolets
- 13 Opticals
- 14 Visuals
- 15 Atmospheres
- 16 Meteorites
- 17 Sun
- 18 Venus
- 19 Earth
- 20 Meteor showers
- 21 Jet streams
- 22 Meteoroids
- 23 Moon
- 24 Mars
- 25 Jupiter
- 26 Saturn
- 27 Uranus
- 28 Neptune
- 29 Locations on Earth
- 30 Craters
- 31 Geophysics
- 32 Earth sciences
- 33 Nebulas
- 34 Hypervelocity stellar meteors
- 35 Hypotheses
- 36 See also
- 37 References
- 38 External links
Theoretical meteor astronomy
- any "atmospheric phenomenon" or
- "a fast moving streak of light in the night sky caused by the entry of extraterrestrial matter into the earth's atmosphere" is called a meteor.
"These were sometimes classified as aerial or airy meteors (winds), aqueous or watery meteors (hydrometeors: clouds, rain, snow, hail, dew, frost), luminous meteors (rainbows and aurora), and igneous or fiery meteors (lightning and shooting stars [...])."
For this resource, an alternative theoretical definition to handle all sizes of radiated entities or objects is proposed.
Here's that theoretical definition:
Def. any natural object radiating through a portion or all of the Earth's or another natural, astronomical object's atmosphere is called a meteor.
These are usage notes:
- Such an object may be as small as an electron or much larger.
- Astronomical objects that are atoms, nuclei, or subatomic particles are part of cosmic-ray astronomy.
- Astronomical objects larger than atoms, nuclei, or subatomic particles that are fast-moving relative to perceived, almost motionless objects, radiating through another natural object's atmosphere or gaseous environment are also here referred to as meteors.
- These can be a high-velocity star moving through the interstellar medium or a larger object moving through an intergalactic medium.
- At the extreme a meteor can be a galaxy cluster moving relative to apparently stationary clusters in its neighborhood of the universe.
Here's another theoretical definition:
Def. an astronomy of meteors (as a form of radiation) is called meteor astronomy.
Def. "[a] suspension of dry dust ... in the atmosphere" is called a lithometeor.
"A lithometeor consists of solid particles suspended in the air or lifted by the wind from the ground."
"A lithometeor is the general term for particles suspended in a dry atmosphere; these include dry haze, smoke, dust, and sand."
"Dry haze is an accumulation of very fine dust or salt particles in the atmosphere; it does not block light, but instead causes light rays to scatter. Dry haze particles produce a bluish color when viewed against a dark background, but look yellowish when viewed against a lighter background. This light-scattering phenomenon (called Mie scattering) also causes the visual ranges within a uniformly dense layer of haze to vary depending on whether the observer is looking into the sun or away from it."
Heavy metal pollution may occur in lithometeors.
"The rise of airborne dust is constantly augmenting from the desert (Bilma) to the southern Sahelian stations (Niamey) where it has increased by a factor five. ... the Sahelian zone with airborne dust during the 80s ... All stations have recorded a general increase of wind velocity. The increase of lithometeors frequency as well as the wind velocity during the drought period is not explained by the aridification."
Def. "[t]he solid material thrown into the air by a volcanic eruption that settles on the surrounding areas" is called tephra.
"[T]ephra, is a general term for fragments of volcanic rock and lava that are blasted into the air by volcanic explosions or carried upward in the volcanic plume by hot, hazardous gases. The larger fragments usually fall close to the volcano, but the finer particles can be advected quite some distance. ... [Fine ash] can contain rock, minerals, and volcanic glass fragments smaller than .1 inch in diameter, or slightly larger than the size of a pinhead."
"[T]he carbonaceous material [is] known from observation to dominate the terrestrial [micrometeorite (MM)] flux."
"Ureilites occur about half as often as eucrites (Krot et al. 2003), are relatively friable, have less a wide range of cosmic-ray exposure ages including two less than 1 Myr, and, like the dominant group of MM precursors, contain carbon."
"Condensation or sublimation of atmospheric water vapor produces a hydrometeor. It forms in the free atmosphere, or at the earth's surface, and includes frozen water lifted by the wind. Hydrometeors which can cause a surface visibility reduction, generally fall into one of the following two categories:
- Precipitation. Precipitation includes all forms of water particles, both liquid and solid, which fall from the atmosphere and reach the ground; these include: liquid precipitation (drizzle and rain), freezing precipitation (freezing drizzle and freezing rain), and solid (frozen) precipitation (ice pellets, hail, snow, snow pellets, snow grains, and ice crystals).
- Suspended (Liquid or Solid) Water Particles. Liquid or solid water particles that form and remain suspended in the air (damp haze, cloud, fog, ice fog, and mist), as well as liquid or solid water particles that are lifted by the wind from the earth’s surface (drifting snow, blowing snow, blowing spray) cause restrictions to visibility. One of the more unusual causes of reduced visibility due to suspended water/ice particles is whiteout, while the most common cause is fog."
"A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice ... sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms."
"A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice which, despite sharing many textural, hydro-chemical and isotopic features detected in large hailstones, is formed under unusual atmospheric conditions which clearly differ from those of the cumulonimbus cloud scenario (i.e. clear-sky conditions). They are sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms. Jesus Martinez-Frias, a planetary geologist at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, pioneered research into megacryometeors in January 2000 after ice chunks weighing up to 6.6 pounds (3.0 kg) rained on Spain out of cloudless skies for ten days."
Def. "pieces of ice falling as precipitation" are called hail.
Def. "[a] single ball of hail" is called a hailstone.
Def. water ice crystals falling as light white flakes are called snow.
Def. liquid moisture that falls visibly in separate drops is called rain.
"The Kerala red rain phenomenon was a blood rain (red rain) event that occurred from July 25 to September 23, 2001, when heavy downpours of red-coloured rain fell sporadically on the southern Indian state of Kerala, staining clothes pink. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported. Colored rain was also reported in Kerala in 1896 and several times since, most recently in June 2012."
"Red rains were also reported from November 15, 2012 to December 27, 2012 occasionally in eastern and north-central provinces of Sri Lanka, where scientists from the Sri Lanka Medical Research Institute (MRI) are investigating to ascertain their cause."
"The colored rain of Kerala began falling on July 25, 2001, in the districts of Kottayam and Idukki in the southern part of the state. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported. Many more occurrences of the red rain were reported over the following ten days, and then with diminishing frequency until late September."
"According to locals, the first colored rain was preceded by a loud thunderclap and flash of light, and followed by groves of trees shedding shriveled grey "burnt" leaves. Shriveled leaves and the disappearance and sudden formation of wells were also reported around the same time in the area. It typically fell over small areas, no more than a few square kilometers in size, and was sometimes so localized that normal rain could be falling just a few meters away from the red rain. Red rainfalls typically lasted less than 20 minutes. Each milliliter of rain water contained about 9 million red particles, and each liter of rainwater contained approximately 100 milligrams of solids. Extrapolating these figures to the total amount of red rain estimated to have fallen, it was estimated that 50,000 kilograms (110,000 lb) of red particles had fallen on Kerala."
"The brownish-red solid separated from the red rain consisted of about 90% round red particles and the balance consisted of debris. The particles in suspension in the rain water were responsible for the color of the rain, which at times was strongly colored red. A small percentage of particles were white or had light yellow, bluish gray and green tints. The particles were typically 4 to 10 µm across and spherical or oval. [Transmission electron microscope] Electron microscope images showed the particles as having a depressed center. At still higher magnification some particles showed internal structures."
"In November 2001, commissioned by the Government of India's Department of Science & Technology, the Center for Earth Science Studies (CESS) and the Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) issued a joint report which concluded that:"
"The color was found to be due to the presence of a large amount of spores of a lichen-forming alga belonging to the genus Trentepohlia. Field verification showed that the region had plenty of such lichens. Samples of lichen taken from Changanacherry area, when cultured in an algal growth medium, also showed the presence of the same species of algae. Both samples (from rainwater and from trees) produced the same kind of algae, indicating that the spores seen in the rainwater most probably came from local sources."
Def. "[a] large white puffy cloud" is called a cumulus cloud.
Def. "[a] visible mass of
- water droplets suspended in the air ...
- steam ...
- smoke ...
- a group or swarm" is called a cloud.
Def. a discrete unit of air, wind, or mist traveling or falling through or partially through an atmosphere is called an aerometeor.
Def. "[a] wind whose direction and speed are determined by a balance of the horizontal pressure gradient force and the force due to the earth's rotation to the left in the northern hemisphere and to the right in the southern hemisphere" is called a geostrophic wind.
Def. "[a] warm dry wind blowing down the side of a mountain" is called a foehn, or foehn wind, or chinook.
"The chinook generally blows from the southwest, but its direction may be modified by topography. When it sets in after a spell of intense cold, the temperature may rise by 20–40°F in 15 minutes due to replacement of a cold air mass with a much warmer air mass in minutes."
"Wind shear is a change in wind direction, wind speed, or both, along a given direction in space (e.g., along a horizontal or vertical distance)."
Def. "[a] strong, abrupt rush of wind" is called a gust.
A coronal cloud is a cloud, or cloud-like, natural astronomical entity, composed of plasma and usually associated with a star or other astronomical object where the temperature is such that X-rays are emitted. While small coronal clouds are above the photosphere of many different visual spectral type stars, others occupy parts of the interstellar medium (ISM), extending sometimes millions of kilometers into space, or thousands of light-years, depending on the size of the associated object such as a galaxy.
"[A] medium-strength flare erupted from the sun on July 19, 2012. The blast also generated the enormous, shimmering plasma loops, which are an example of a phenomenon known as "coronal rain," agency officials said."
"Hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region" slowly falling back to the solar surface as plasma "rain".
At right is the only available X-ray image, by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, of Mira A on the right and Mira B (left). "Mira A is losing gas rapidly from its upper atmosphere [apparently] via a stellar wind. [Mira B is asserted to be a white dwarf. In theory] Mira B exerts a gravitational tug that creates a gaseous bridge between the two stars. Gas from the wind and bridge accumulates in an accretion disk around Mira B and collisions between rapidly moving particles in the disk produce X-rays."
At left is a radiated object and its associated phenomena.
"Ultra-violet studies of Mira by NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) space telescope have revealed that it sheds a trail of material from the outer envelope, leaving a tail 13 light-years in length, formed over tens of thousands of years. It is thought that a hot bow-wave of compressed plasma/gas is the cause of the tail; the bow-wave is a result of the interaction of the stellar wind from Mira A with gas in interstellar space, through which Mira is moving at an extremely high speed of 130 kilometres/second (291,000 miles per hour). The tail consists of material stripped from the head of the bow-wave, which is also visible in ultra-violet observations. Mira's bow-shock will eventually evolve into a planetary nebula, the form of which will be considerably affected by the motion through the interstellar medium (ISM)."
"A skydiver may have captured the first film ever of a meteorite plunging down at terminal velocity, also known as its “dark flight” stage."
"The footage was captured in 2012 by a helmet cam worn by Anders Helstrup as he and other members of the Oslo Parachute Club jumped from a small plane that took off from an airport in Hedmark, Norway."
“It can’t be anything else. The shape is typical of meteorites -- a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded.”
“It has never happened before that a meteorite has been filmed during dark flight; this is the first time in world history.”
"Having the rock in hand would certainly help. But despite triangulations and analyses, Helstrup and his recruits still haven’t found it."
The image at the top of the article shows "[t]he trail of a falling object ... seen above the Urals city of Chelyabinsk [on] February 15, 2013".
""Meteors become visible between about 75 to 120 kilometers (34 - 70 miles) above the Earth. They disintegrate at altitudes of 50 to 95 kilometers (31-51 miles). ... Most meteors are ... observed at night, when darkness allows fainter objects to be recognized. ... Most meteors glow for about a second." "A fireball is a brighter-than-usual meteor. The International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as "a meteor brighter than any of the planets" (magnitude −4 or greater). The International Meteor Organization (an amateur organization that studies meteors) has a more rigid definition. It defines a fireball as a meteor that would have a magnitude of −3 or brighter if seen at zenith. This definition corrects for the greater distance between an observer and a meteor near the horizon. For example, a meteor of magnitude −1 at 5 degrees above the horizon would be classified as a fireball because if the observer had been directly below the meteor it would have appeared as magnitude −6. For 2011 there are 4589 fireballs records at the American Meteor Society."
Def. a fireball reaching an magnitude −17 or brighter is called a superbolide.
At left is a cell phone camera image of the green fireball over San Mateo, California, that left meteorite fragments. "The asteroid entered at a speed of 14 km/s, typical but on the slow side of other meteorite falls for which orbits were determined. ... The orbit in space is also rather typical: perihelion distance close to Earth's orbit (q = 0.987 AU) and a low-inclination orbit (about 5 degrees). ... 2012, October 17 - At 7:44:29 pm PDT this evening, a bright fireball was seen in the San Francisco Bay Area."
"The distribution of photographic meteors in iron, stony, and porous meteors is given in this paper". "[A]mong all the 217 meteors for which we know the beginning there are 70 iron meteors, i. e. about 32 p. c., and 147 stony meteors, i. e. 68 p. c." The meteor streams: Perseids, Geminids, Taurids, Lyrids, κ Cygnids and Virginids, are quite stony.
"The dominant group in all cases are stony meteors."
Atmospheric astronomy has three basic aspects: astronomy conducted through an atmosphere, astronomy of an atmosphere, and astronomy conducted using an atmosphere.
Gaseous objects have at least one chemical element or compound present in the gaseous state. These gaseous components make up at least 50 % of the detectable portion of the gaseous object. Atmospheric astronomy determines whether gaseous objects have layers or spherical portions predominantly composed of gas.
Within these spherical portions may occur various gaseous meteors such as clouds, winds, or streams.
Def. "[a]ny or all of the forms of water particles, whether liquid or solid, that fall from the atmosphere" are called precipitation.
Imaged at right is an igneous Martian shergottite meteorite. "The perimeter exhibits a fusion crust from the heat of entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a fresh sample of NWA 6963, an igneous Martian shergottite meteorite found in September 2011 in Morocco. Meteorites are often labeled NWA for North West Africa, not because they land there more often, but because they are easy to spot as peculiar objects in the desert sands. From the geochemistry and presence of various isotopes, the origin and transit time is deduced. The 99 meteorites from Mars exhibit precise elemental and isotopic compositions similar to rocks and atmosphere gases analyzed by spacecraft on Mars, starting with the Viking lander in 1976. Compared to other meteorites, the Martians have younger formation ages, unique oxygen isotopic composition (consistent for Mars and not for Earth), and the presence of aqueous weathering products. A trapped gas analysis concluded that their origin was Mars quite recently, in the year 2000."
"The formation ages of meteorites often come from their cosmic-ray exposure (CRE), measured from the nuclear products of interactions of the meteorite in space with energetic cosmic ray particles. This one is particularly young, having crystallized only 180 million years ago, suggesting that volcanic activity was still present on Mars at that time. Volcanic flows are the youngest part of a planet, and this one happened to be hit by a meteor impact, ejecting" it from the youthful Mars.
"Sun-grazing comets almost never re-emerge, but their sublimative destruction near the sun has only recently been observed directly, while chromospheric impacts have not yet been seen, nor impact theory developed." "[N]uclei are ... destroyed by ablation or explosion ... in the chromosphere, producing flare-like events with cometary abundance spectra."
"The death of a comet at r ~ Rʘ has been seen directly only very recently (Schrijver et al 2011) using the SDO AIA XUV instrument. This recorded sublimative destruction of Comet C/2011 N3 as it crossed the solar disk very near periheloin q = 1.139Rʘ."
"The phenomenon of flare induced sunquakes - waves in the photosphere - discovered by Kosovichev and Zharkova (1998) and now widely studied (e.g. Kosovichev 2006) should also result from the momentum impulse delivered by a cometary impact."
"Coronal clouds, type IIIg, form in space above a spot area and rain streamers upon it."
The solar wind originates through the polar coronal holes.
In visual astronomy "[a]lmost no variation or detail can be seen in the clouds. ... The surface is obscured by a thick blanket of clouds. ... Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. ... [It has] thick clouds of sulfur dioxide ... [There are] lower and middle cloud layers ... [The] thick clouds consisting mainly of sulfur dioxide and sulfuric acid droplets. These clouds reflect and scatter about 90% of the sunlight that falls on them back into space, and prevent visual observation of the Venusian surface. The permanent cloud cover means that although Venus is closer than Earth to the Sun, the Venusian surface is not as well lit."
"Strong 300 km/h winds at the cloud tops circle the planet about every four to five earth days. Venusian winds move at up to 60 times the speed of the planet's rotation, while Earth's fastest winds are only 10% to 20% rotation speed."
The Earth is home to showers, jet streams, and meteoroids.
"Meteors may occur in showers, which arise when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet, or as "random" or "sporadic" meteors, not associated with a specific single cause. A number of specific meteors have been observed, largely by members of the public and largely by accident, but with enough detail that orbits of the meteoroids producing the meteors have been calculated. All of the orbits passed through the asteroid belt."
The Perseid meteor shower, usually the richest meteor shower of the year, peaks in August. Over the course of an hour, a person watching a clear sky from a dark location might see as many as 50-100 meteors. Most meteors are actually pieces of rock that have broken off a comet and continue to orbit the Sun. The Earth travels through the comet debris in its orbit. As the small pieces enter the Earth's atmosphere, friction causes them to burn up.
"The Orionid meteor shower [leftover bits of Halley's Comet] is scheduled to reach its maximum before sunrise on Sunday morning (Oct. 21 ). This will be an excellent year to look for the Orionids, since the moon will set around 11 p.m. local time on Saturday night (Oct. 20) and will not be a hindrance at all ... The orbit of Halley's Comet closely approaches the Earth's orbit at two places. One point is in the early part of May producing a meteor display known as the Eta Aquarids. The other point comes in the middle to latter part of October, producing the Orionids."
"At 66 kilometers (41 miles) per second, they appear as fast streaks, faster by a hair than their sisters, the Eta Aquarids of May. And like the Eta Aquarids, the brightest of family tend to leave long-lasting trains. Fireballs are possible three days after maximum."
"The Leonid meteor shower peaked early Saturday (Nov. 17 ), and some night sky watchers caught a great view. The Leonids are a yearly meteor display of shooting stars that appear to radiate out of the constellation Leo. They are created when Earth crosses the path of debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which swings through the inner solar system every 33 years."
Def. "any of the high-speed, high-altitude air currents that circle the Earth in a westerly direction" is called a jet stream.
"Jet streams are fast flowing, narrow air currents found in the atmospheres of some planets, including Earth. The main jet streams are located near the tropopause, the transition between the troposphere (where temperature decreases with altitude) and the stratosphere (where temperature increases with altitude). The major jet streams on Earth are westerly winds (flowing west to east). Their paths typically have a meandering shape; jet streams may start, stop, split into two or more parts, combine into one stream, or flow in various directions including the opposite direction of most of the jet. The strongest jet streams are the polar jets, at around 7–12 km (23,000–39,000 ft) above sea level, and the higher and somewhat weaker subtropical jets at around 10–16 km (33,000–52,000 ft). The Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere each have both a polar jet and a subtropical jet. The northern hemisphere polar jet flows over the middle to northern latitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia and their intervening oceans, while the southern hemisphere polar jet mostly circles Antarctica all year round."
Def. a "relatively small (sand- to boulder-sized) fragment of debris in a solar system" is called a meteoroid.
"As of 2011 the International Astronomical Union officially defines a meteoroid as a solid object moving in interplanetary space, of a size considerably smaller than an asteroid and considerably larger than an atom".
"The visible path of a meteoroid that enters the Earth's atmosphere (or another body's) atmosphere is called a meteor, or colloquially a shooting star or falling star. If a meteoroid reaches the ground and survives impact, then it is called a meteorite."
"Beech and Steel, writing in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, proposed a new definition where a meteoroid is between 100 µm and 10 m across. Following the discovery and naming of asteroids below 10 m in size (e.g., 2008 TC3), Rubin and Grossman refined the Beech and Steel definition of meteoroid to objects between 10 µm and 1 m in diameter. The [near-Earth object] NEO definition includes larger objects, up to 50 m in diameter, in this category. Very small meteoroids are known as micrometeoroids (see also interplanetary dust)."
"The composition of meteoroids can be determined as they pass through Earth's atmosphere from their trajectories and the light spectra of the resulting meteor. Their effects on radio signals also give information, especially useful for daytime meteors which are otherwise very difficult to observe."
"The light spectra, combined with trajectory and light curve measurements, have yielded various compositions and densities, ranging from fragile snowball-like objects with density about a quarter that of ice, to nickel-iron rich dense rocks."
In meteoroid ablation spheres from deep-sea sediments, "[t]he silicate spheres are the most dominant group."
"From these trajectory measurements, meteoroids have been found to have many different orbits, some clustering in streams (see Meteor showers) often associated with a parent comet, others apparently sporadic. Debris from meteoroid streams may eventually be scattered into other orbits. ... Meteoroids travel around the Sun in a variety of orbits and at various velocities. The fastest ones move at about 26 miles per second (42 kilometers per second) through space in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The Earth travels at about 18 miles per second (29 kilometers per second). Thus, when meteoroids meet the Earth's atmosphere head-on (which would only occur if the meteors were in a retrograde orbit), the combined speed may reach about 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second). Meteoroids moving through the earth's orbital space average about 20 km/s."
"Lunar origin is established by comparing the mineralogy, the chemical composition, and the isotopic composition between meteorites and samples from the Moon collected by Apollo missions."
"Cosmic ray exposure history established with noble gas measurements have shown that all lunar meteorites were ejected from the Moon in the past 20 million years. Most left the Moon in the past 100,000 years."
"All six of the Apollo missions on which samples were collected landed in the central nearside of the Moon, an area that has subsequently been shown to be geochemically anomalous by the Lunar Prospector mission. In contrast, the numerous lunar meteorites are [likely to be] random samples of the Moon and consequently provide a more representative sampling of the lunar surface than the Apollo samples. Half the lunar meteorites, for example, likely sample material from the farside of the Moon."
At top left is a NASA photograph showing the bright flash of light from a meteor impact that occurred on the Moon on March 17, 2013. According to NASA, a 0.3 m rock slammed into the lunar surface at 90,120 km/h, creating a fresh crater 20 m wide.
"The crash caused the biggest and brightest explosion scientists have seen since they started monitoring lunar meteorite strikes in 2005. ... The lunar blast was the equivalent of 5 tons of TNT going off".
"The flash was so bright it saturated the camera".
At right is a Hubble Space Telescope image of a dust storm on Mars. The picture was snapped on October 28, 2005. The regional dust storm on Mars had "been growing and evolving over the past few weeks. The dust storm, which is nearly in the middle of the planet in this Hubble view is about 930 miles (1500 km) long measured diagonally, which is about the size of the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico combined. No wonder amateur astronomers with even modest-sized telescopes have been able to keep an eye on this storm. The smallest resolvable features in the image (small craters and wind streaks) are the size of a large city, about 12 miles (20 km) across. The occurrence of the dust storm is in close proximity to the NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's landing site in Sinus Meridiani. Dust in the atmosphere could block some of the sunlight needed to keep the rover operating at full power. ... The large regional dust storm appears as the brighter, redder cloudy region in the middle of the planet's disk. This storm has been churning in the planet's equatorial regions for several weeks now, and it is likely responsible for the reddish, dusty haze and other dust clouds seen across this hemisphere of the planet in views from Hubble, ground based telescopes, and the NASA and ESA spacecraft studying Mars from orbit. Bluish water-ice clouds can also be seen along the limbs and in the north (winter) polar region at the top of the image."
At left is an image of a "newly formed impact crater, observed by HiRISE on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The impact that formed the crater exposed the water ice beneath the surface. Some of the ice can be seen scattered at the adjascent area in the subimages. The blast zone (excavated dark material) is almost 800 meters (half a mile) across. The crater itself is just over 20 meters (66 feet) across".
"This crater is one of a special group that have excavated down to buried ice. This ice gets thrown out of the crater onto the surrounding terrain. Although buried ice is common over about half the Martian surface, we can only easily discover craters in dusty regions. The overlap between areas that both have buried ice and surface dust is unfortunately small. So even though we have discovered over 100 new impact craters we have only discovered 7 new craters that expose buried ice."
"When craters excavate this buried ice it tells us something about the extent and depth of buried ice on Mars (controlled by climate); this information is used by planetary scientists to figure out what the recent climate of Mars was like. It has also been a surprise that this ice is so clean. Scientists expected this buried ice to be a mixture of ice and dirt; instead this ice seems to have formed in pure lenses. Yet another surprise that Mars had in store for us!"
The ice (presumably water ice) is white in the image, but take note of the blue dust or regolith also exposed.
The second image at right is a subimage of the one at left. It is natural color and shows in better detail both the ice (white) and the blue material.
At second left is an image showing an impact crater on Planum Boreum, or the North Polar Cap, of Mars, as observed by HiRISE on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in natural color.
"Impact craters on the surface of Planum Boreum, popularly known as the north polar cap, are rare. This dearth of craters has lead scientists to suggest that these deposits may be geologically young (a few million years old), not having had much time to accumulate impact craters throughout their lifetime."
"It is also possible that impacts into ice do not retain their shape indefinitely, but instead that the ice relaxes (similar to glass in an old window), and the crater begins to disappear. This subimage shows an example of a rare, small crater ( approximately 115 meters, or 125 yards, in diameter). Scientists can count these shallow craters to attain an estimate of the age of the upper few meters of the Planum Boreum surface."
"The color in the enhanced-color example comes from the presence of dust and of ice of differing grain sizes. The blueish ice has a larger grain size than the ice that has collected in the crater. The reddish material is dust. The smooth area stretching to the upper right, away from the crater may be due to winds being channeled around the crater or to fine-grained ice and frost blowing out of the crater."
The third image at right shows a freshly formed impact crater that occurred on Mars between February 2005 and July 2005. Note the blue material expelled from the crater rock onto the nearby Martian landscape.
"Jupiter has been called the Solar System's vacuum cleaner, because of its immense gravity well and location near the inner Solar System. It receives the most frequent comet impacts of the Solar System's planets."
"A 1997 survey of historical astronomical drawings suggested that the astronomer [Giovanni Domenico Cassini] Cassini may have recorded an impact scar in 1690. The survey determined eight other candidate observations had low or no possibilities of an impact. A fireball was photographed by Voyager 1 during its Jupiter encounter in March 1979. During the period July 16, 1994, to July 22, 1994, over 20 fragments from the comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 (SL9, formally designated D/1993 F2) collided with Jupiter's southern hemisphere, providing the first direct observation of a collision between two Solar System objects. This impact provided useful data on the composition of Jupiter's atmosphere."
"On July 19, 2009, an impact site was discovered at approximately 216 degrees longitude in System 2. This impact left behind a black spot in Jupiter's atmosphere, similar in size to Oval BA. Infrared observation showed a bright spot where the impact took place, meaning the impact warmed up the lower atmosphere in the area near Jupiter's south pole."
"[2010 Jupiter impact event] A fireball, smaller than the previous observed impacts, was detected on June 3, 2010, by Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer in Australia, and was later discovered to have been captured on video by another amateur astronomer in the Philippines. Yet another fireball was seen on August 20, 2010."
The second image at right shows the atmospheric impact sites for the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fragments. "Spectroscopic studies revealed absorption lines in the Jovian spectrum due to diatomic sulfur (S2) and carbon disulfide (CS2), the first detection of either in Jupiter, and only the second detection of S2 in any astronomical object. Other molecules detected included ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). The amount of sulfur implied by the quantities of these compounds was much greater than the amount that would be expected in a small cometary nucleus, showing that material from within Jupiter was being revealed."
"The upper clouds are composed of ammonia crystals"
"In 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope imaged an enormous white cloud near Saturn's equator that was not present during the Voyager encounters and in 1994, another, smaller storm was observed. The 1990 storm was an example of a Great White Spot, a unique but short-lived phenomenon that occurs once every Saturnian year, roughly every 30 Earth years, around the time of the northern hemisphere's summer solstice. Previous Great White Spots were observed in 1876, 1903, 1933 and 1960, with the 1933 storm being the most famous. If the periodicity is maintained, another storm will occur in about 2020."
"Infrared imaging has shown that Saturn's south pole has a warm polar vortex, the only known example of such a phenomenon in the Solar System. Whereas temperatures on Saturn are normally −185 °C, temperatures on the vortex often reach as high as −122 °C, believed to be the warmest spot on Saturn."
"[Uranus] has a complex, layered cloud structure, with ... methane thought to make up the uppermost layer of clouds. ... With a large telescope of 25 cm or wider, cloud patterns ... may be visible. ... When Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986, it observed a total of ten cloud features across the entire planet. ... Besides the large-scale banded structure, Voyager 2 observed ten small bright clouds, most lying several degrees to the north from the collar."
“In the 1990s, the number of the observed bright cloud features grew considerably partly because new high resolution imaging techniques became available. Most were found in the northern hemisphere as it started to become visible. An early explanation - that bright clouds are easier to identify in the dark part of the planet, whereas in the southern hemisphere the bright collar masks them - was shown to be incorrect: the actual number of features has indeed increased considerably. Nevertheless there are differences between the clouds of each hemisphere. The northern clouds are smaller, sharper and brighter. They appear to lie at a higher altitude. The lifetime of clouds spans several orders of magnitude. Some small clouds live for hours, while at least one southern cloud may have persisted since Voyager flyby. Recent observation also discovered that cloud features on Uranus have a lot in common with those on Neptune. For example, the dark spots common on Neptune had never been observed on Uranus before 2006, when the first such feature dubbed Uranus Dark Spot was imaged. The speculation is that Uranus is becoming more Neptune-like during its equinoctial season."
"On August 23, 2006, researchers at the Space Science Institute (Boulder, CO) and the University of Wisconsin observed a dark spot on Uranus's surface, giving astronomers more insight into the planet's atmospheric activity."
"The wind speeds on Uranus can reach 250 meters per second (900 km/h, 560 mph). ... The tracking of numerous cloud features allowed determination of zonal winds blowing in the upper troposphere of Uranus. At the equator winds are retrograde, which means that they blow in the reverse direction to the planetary rotation. Their speeds are from −100 to −50 m/s. Wind speeds increase with the distance from the equator, reaching zero values near ±20° latitude, where the troposphere's temperature minimum is located. Closer to the poles, the winds shift to a prograde direction, flowing with the planet's rotation. Windspeeds continue to increase reaching maxima at ±60° latitude before falling to zero at the poles. Windspeeds at −40° latitude range from 150 to 200 m/s. Since the collar obscures all clouds below that parallel, speeds between it and the southern pole are impossible to measure. In contrast, in the northern hemisphere maximum speeds as high as 240 m/s are observed near +50 degrees of latitude. ... Observations included record-breaking wind speeds of 229 m/s (824 km/h) and a persistent thunderstorm referred to as "Fourth of July fireworks"."
"[A]t the time of the 1989 Voyager 2 flyby, the planet's southern hemisphere possessed a Great Dark Spot ... In 1989, the Great Dark Spot, an anti-cyclonic storm system [spanned] 13000×6600 km, was discovered by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft. ... Some five years later, on 2 November 1994, the Hubble Space Telescope did not see the Great Dark Spot on the planet. Instead, a new storm similar to the Great Dark Spot was found in the planet's northern hemisphere."
"The Scooter is another storm, a white cloud group farther south than the Great Dark Spot. Its nickname is due to the fact that when first detected in the months before the 1989 Voyager 2 encounter it moved faster than the Great Dark Spot. Subsequent images revealed even faster clouds."
"The Small Dark Spot is a southern cyclonic storm, the second-most-intense storm observed during the 1989 encounter. It initially was completely dark, but as Voyager 2 approached the planet, a bright core developed and can be seen in most of the highest-resolution images."
"The persistence of companion clouds shows that some former dark spots may continue to exist as cyclones even though they are no longer visible as a dark feature. Dark spots may dissipate when they migrate too close to the equator or possibly through some other unknown mechanism."
"The upper-level clouds occur at pressures below one bar, where the temperature is suitable for methane to condense."
"High-altitude clouds on Neptune have been observed casting shadows on the opaque cloud deck below. There are also high-altitude cloud bands that wrap around the planet at constant latitude. These circumferential bands have widths of 50–150 km and lie about 50–110 km above the cloud deck."
"Because of seasonal changes, the cloud bands in the southern hemisphere of Neptune have been observed to increase in size and albedo. This trend was first seen in 1980 and is expected to last until about 2020. The long orbital period of Neptune results in seasons lasting forty years."
On Neptune "winds [reach] speeds of almost 600 m/s—nearly attaining supersonic flow. More typically, by tracking the motion of persistent clouds, wind speeds have been shown to vary from 20 m/s in the easterly direction to 325 m/s westward. At the cloud tops, the prevailing winds range in speed from 400 m/s along the equator to 250 m/s at the poles. Most of the winds on Neptune move in a direction opposite the planet's rotation. The general pattern of winds showed prograde rotation at high latitudes vs. retrograde rotation at lower latitudes. The difference in flow direction is believed to be a "skin effect" and not due to any deeper atmospheric processes. At 70° S latitude, a high-speed jet travels at a speed of 300 m/s."
Locations on Earth
Def. "distinctively shaped [natural] projectiles ... which acquired their shape essentially before landing" are called bombs.
Def. a bomb "ejected from a volcanic vent" is called a volcanic bomb.
"Volcanic bombs can be thrown many kilometres from an erupting vent, and often acquire aerodynamic shapes during their flight."
The image at top right is an "[a]ccretionary lava ball [coming] to rest on the grass after rolling off the top of an ‘a‘a flow in Royal Gardens subdivision. Accretionary lava balls form as viscous lava is molded around a core of already solidified lava."
"[Volcanic bombs] cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground. Because volcanic bombs cool after they leave the volcano, they do not have grains making them extrusive igneous rocks. Volcanic bombs can be thrown many kilometres from an erupting vent, and often acquire aerodynamic shapes during their flight."
"[Volcanic bombs] can be extremely large; the 1935 eruption of Mount Asama in Japan expelled bombs measuring 5–6 m in diameter up to 600 m from the vent." A large volcanic bomb is shown in the third image at right from Strohn, Germany.
"Volcanic bombs are known to occasionally explode from internal gas pressure as they cool, but ... explosions are rare ... Bomb explosions are most often observed in 'bread-crust' type bombs."
"Ribbon or cylindrical bombs form from highly to moderately fluid magma, ejected as irregular strings and blobs. The strings break up into small segments which fall to the ground intact and look like ribbons. Hence, the name "ribbon bombs". These bombs are circular or flattened in cross section, are fluted along their length, and have tabular vesicles."
"Spherical bombs also form from high to moderately fluid magma. In the case of spherical bombs, surface tension plays a major role in pulling the ejecta into spheres."
"Spindle, fusiform, or almond/rotational bombs are formed by the same processes as spherical bombs, though the major difference being the partial nature of the spherical shape. Spinning during flight leaves these bombs looking elongated or almond shaped; the spinning theory behind these bombs' development has also given them the name 'fusiform bombs'. Spindle bombs are characterised by longitudinal fluting, one side slightly smoother and broader than the other. This smooth side represents the underside of the bomb as it fell through the air."
"Cow pie bombs are formed when highly fluid magma falls from moderate height; so the bombs do not solidify before impact (they are still liquid when they strike the ground). They consequently flatten or splash and form irregular roundish disks, which resemble cow-dung."
"Bread-crust bombs are formed if the outside of the lava bombs solidifies during their flights. They may develop cracked outer surfaces as the interiors continue to expand."
"Cored bombs are bombs that have rinds of lava enclosing a core of previously consolidated lava. The core consists of accessory fragments of an earlier eruption, accidental fragments of country rock or, in rare cases, bits of lava formed earlier during the same eruption."
Def. "[a] hemispherical pit ... [a] basinlike opening or mouth ... about which a cone is often built up ... any large roughly circular depression or hole" is called a crater.
The image at right shows a chain of 13 craters (Enki Catena) on Ganymede measuring 161.3 km in length. "The Enki craters formed across the sharp boundary between areas of bright terrain and dark terrain, delimited by a thin trough running diagonally across the center of this image. The ejecta deposit surrounding the craters appears very bright on the bright terrain. Even though all the craters formed nearly simultaneously, it is difficult to discern any ejecta deposit on the dark terrain."
"Most meteoroids that cause meteors are about the size of a pebble."
"Meteors have roughly a fifty percent chance of a daylight (or near daylight) collision with the Earth."
"A relatively small percentage of meteoroids hit the Earth's atmosphere and then pass out again: these are termed Earth-grazing fireballs (for example The Great Daylight 1972 Fireball)."
"Terminal velocity of hail, or the speed at which hail is falling when it strikes the ground, varies by the diameter of the hail stones. A hail stone of 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter falls at a rate of 9 metres per second (20 mph), while stones the size of 8 centimetres (3.1 in) in diameter fall at a rate of 48 metres per second (110 mph). Hail stone velocity is dependent on the size of the stone, friction with air it is falling through, the motion of wind it is falling through, collisions with raindrops or other hail stones, and melting as the stones fall through a warmer atmosphere."
Def. "[a] particle classification system ... based on diameter" is called the Wentworth scale.
Def. "[a] particle less than 1 micron in diameter" is called a colloid.
Def. "[a] particle less than 3.9 microns in diameter" is called a clay.
Def. "[a] particle from 3.9 to 62.5 microns in diameter" is called a silt.
Def. "[a] particle less than 62.5 microns in diameter" is called a mud.
Def. "[a] particle from 62.5 microns to 2 mm in diameter" is called a sand.
Def. "[a] particle from 2 to 64 mm in diameter" is called a gravel.
Def. "[a] particle from 2 to 4 mm in diameter" is called a granule.
Def.' "[a] particle from 4 to 64 mm in diameter" is called a pebble.
Def. "[a] particle from 64 to 256 mm in diameter" is called a cobble.
Def. "[a] particle [or large piece of stone] greater than 256 mm in diameter [that can theoretically be moved if enough force is applied]" is called a boulder.
"Rain is measured in units of length per unit time, typically in millimeters per hour,  or in countries where imperial units are more common, inches per hour. The "length", or more accurately, "depth" being measured is the depth of rain water that would accumulate on a flat, horizontal and impermeable surface during a given amount of time, typically an hour. One millimeter of rainfall is the equivalent of one liter of water per square meter."
"The standard way of measuring rainfall or snowfall is the standard rain gauge, which can be found in 100-mm (4-in) plastic and 200-mm (8-in) metal varieties. The inner cylinder is filled by 25 mm (0.98 in) of rain, with overflow flowing into the outer cylinder. Plastic gauges have markings on the inner cylinder down to 0.25 mm (0.0098 in) resolution, while metal gauges require use of a stick designed with the appropriate 0.25 mm (0.0098 in) markings. After the inner cylinder is filled, the amount inside it is discarded, then filled with the remaining rainfall in the outer cylinder until all the fluid in the outer cylinder is gone, adding to the overall total until the outer cylinder is empty."
Def. "the study of the atmosphere and its phenomena, especially with weather and weather forecasting" is called meteorology.
Def. "[t]he study of the theoretical effects of astronomical bodies and forces on the Earth’s atmosphere" and on the atmosphere of other astronomical objects is called astrometeorology.
Def. "[a] system of winds rotating around a center of low atmospheric pressure ... [t]he more or less violent small-scale circulations such as tornadoes, waterspouts, and dust devils" is called a cyclone.
"The Horsehead Nebula, a part of the optical nebula IC434 and also known as Barnard 33, was first recorded in 1888 on a photographic plate taken at the Harvard College Observatory. Its coincidental appearance as the profile of a horse's head and neck has led to its becoming one of the most familiar astronomical objects. It is, in fact, an extremely dense cloud projecting in front of the ionized gas that provides the pink glow so nicely revealed in this picture. We know this not only because the underside of the 'neck' is especially dark, but because it actually casts a shadow on the field to its east (below the 'muzzle')."
Hypervelocity stellar meteors
Def. "a star moving faster than 65 km/s to 100 km/s relative to the average motion of the stars in the Sun's neighbourhood" is called a high-velocity star.
Def. a high-velocity star "moving through space with an abnormally high velocity relative to the surrounding interstellar medium" is called a runaway star.
Def. a star whose elliptical orbit takes it "well outside the plane of [its galaxy] at steep angles" is called a halo star.
- Meteors range in size from that of small molecules to galaxy filaments.
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