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Researchers who studied pieces of the meteor collected near Lake Cherbarkul say it was a common chondrite meteor. The largest of the 53 fragments was one centimeter in diameter. Photo provided by the Urals Federal University Press Service.
The meteor that caused at least 1,000 injuries in Russia after a startling and powerful daytime explosion one week ago has been identified as a chondrite. Russian scientists who analyzed fragments of the meteor, whose large size and well-documented impact made it a rarity, say that its composition makes it the most common type of meteor we encounter here on Earth.
“The fragments contain a standard number of minerals, including olivine, pyroxene, troilite and kamacite,” scientist Viktor Grokhovsky of the Urals Federal University, told the Voice of Russia. “These minerals that can be discovered only in outer space confirm the fragments’ extraterrestrial nature.”
That means that before it shattered windows in the city of Chelyabinsk and turned people around the world into gawkers fascinated by a calamity — and by the amazing video footage of it — the meteor spent billions of years traveling through space.
When it detonated over Russia, the explosion was powerful enough to be “detected by 17 nuclear monitoring stations around the globe,” as The Christian Science Monitor reports.
The meteor, which may have weighed as much as 10,000 tons and measured about 55 feet across, was traveling at an estimated 11 miles per second when it reached Earth, according to a report at io9.
“Chondrites are some of the most primitive rocks in the solar system,” says Britain’s Natural History Museum. “These 4.5-billion-year-old meteorites have not changed much from the asteroid they came from.”
The museum says the meteor’s name — pronounced with a hard “K” sound — comes from the Greek word for grains of sand.
But in the region where the meteor fell, the chondrite goes by another title: a chance to cash in. As NPR’s David Greene tells Linda Wertheimer on Morning Edition, people have been scrambling to collect pieces of the famous meteor.
“A 16-year-old pulled one out of his pocket and said, ‘Here’s a piece of the meteor, right here,” David says. “And this black market is developing. People have been coming to these villages and offering $100, $200 for little handfuls of space debris. The government’s worried that people are going to be trying to sell it fraudulently. So, this whole new economic reality is developing around this stuff.”
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The world’s first “smartphone-sat” is ready for launch.
Known as Strand-1, the British-built spacecraft will be fully controlled by a Google Nexus device during part of its six-month mission in orbit.
Strand-1 was packed off to India this week for a rocket launch that is likely to occur at the end of the month.
The Nexus One has not been physically modified in anyway and will be an interesting test of everyday consumer electronics, says Dr Chris Bridges, SSC’s lead engineer on the venture.
“We haven’t gutted the Nexus. We’ve done lots and lots of tests on it; we’ve put our own software on it. But we’ve essentially got a regular phone, connected up the USB to it and put it in the satellite,” he told BBC News.
“This is about looking at the latest technologies that are out there and seeing whether they are up to the harsh challenge of space.”
The smartphone will fly pressed up against a side panel of the 30cm-long, 4.3kg “cubesat”.
This will allow its 5-megapixel camera to look out through a hole and take pictures of the Earth and the Moon.
Strand is an acronym that stands for Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration. It is part of a quest to find new thinking and new technologies.
SSTL, which is a world leader in the production of small commercial spacecraft, hopes some of the Strand lessons can filter through to its more traditional products.
For the first part of the mission, the satellite will be controlled by a new high-speed Linux-based cubesat computer developed at SSC, which is part of the University of Surrey.
An important goal during these early weeks will be to test two innovative propulsion systems.
One uses the ejection of a water-alcohol mixture to provide thrust. The system is tiny but has a grand name - Warp Drive (Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-orbit Re-entry Velocity Experiment).
The second propulsion technology on Strand is its pulsed plasma thrusters. These use an electric current to heat and ablate a material, producing a charged gas that can then be accelerated in one direction in a magnetic field to push the cubesat in the other direction.
Both propulsion systems produce only small amounts of thrust but are very efficient in terms of how much “propellant” they consume.
- UK ‘phone-sat’ ready for orbit (bbc.co.uk)
- Strand-1, The Space-Bound Smartphone Is Nearly Ready For Lift-Off (fastcompany.com)
- Strand-1, The Space-Bound Smartphone, Is Nearly Ready For Liftoff (fastcompany.com)
- UK Scientists Are Launching a Satellite Powered By… a Google Nexus One? (gizmodo.com)
- UK Scientists Are Launching a Satellite Powered By… a Google Nexus One? (gizmodo.co.uk)