A Massive Meteor Hit Earth Last Year; Almost No One Noticed

Bering_Sea_Meteor

A massive meteor explosion over the Bering Sea three months ago went completely unnoticed until just now, when scientists reviewed low-frequency acoustic wave data picked up by global recording stations. The 32-foot diameter meteor exploded on Dec. 18, releasing 173 kilotons of energy – about 10 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This latest meteor explosion was the second largest impact in the past 30 years, coming in behind the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013 which caused a number of injuries and was widely captured on video.

But unlike Chelyabinsk, this recent explosion took three months to be detected by a scientist studying infrasound data, which is inaudible to humans, but recorded by 16 monitoring stations around the world. The explosion is even being compared to the Tunguska event of 1908, during which a meteorite leveled an area of Siberia that included somewhere in the range of 80 million trees.

The explosion occurred in an incredibly remote area of the planet over an ocean where, luckily, no air traffic was passing through at that moment. But the fact that meteors this size with devastating potential, can enter the atmosphere almost undetected is a little unsettling.

While it wasn’t witnessed or officially recognized until now, footage from a Japanese weather satellite happened to capture an image of the explosion as it entered the atmosphere between Russia and Alaska.

The meteor explosion caught by the Japanese Himawari-8 satellite Simon Proud, University of Oxford/Japan Meteorological Agency

 

Scientists often refer to a meteorite this size as a city-buster due to its potential to level an entire city, and bolides this size tend to enter our atmosphere a few times per century.

Reassuringly, most of the larger asteroids floating in our general vicinity have been mapped out and are regularly monitored by scientists at various observatories – even if we don’t necessarily have the means to deflect them if they were on a crash course with Earth.

But these mid-size rocks are particularly troubling, especially as man-made space debris can lead to collisions and changes in trajectory.

The technology and cataloging of 90 percent of all near-Earth asteroids larger than 450 feet in diameter is underway, but may take several decades. But these are only the rare nation-busters that would wipe out an entire country; mapping out all of the smaller city-busters is something that hasn’t really been considered, if it’s even possible.

Seems like it might be time someone builds a machine learning algorithm to do that for us.

 

For more on near-miss asteroids check out this episode of Beyond Belief with Dan Durda:

Near Miss Asteroids


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Scientists Say They've Discovered Martian Life in Form of Fungi

The days of scientists dismissing all signs of life on the Martian surface as pareidolia or just a trick of shadows may be over, as a statistically significant majority of 70 scientists agree they’ve identified evidence of life on the red planet.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Astrobiology, as well as the consortium of believing scientists, the Mars Curiosity Rover seems to have photographed evidence of life on Mars in the form of algae, lichens, and fungi.

In addition to a number of pictures showing these prokaryotes and eukaryotes seeming to thrive on the surface of Martian rocks, other photos depict what appear to be fungi growing on the rover itself.

The evidence supports a number of hypotheses that these types of “puff-balls,” or fungal organisms would be able to survive the Martian atmosphere, despite exposure to intense space radiation and harsh atmospheric conditions.

 

Though this information is just now being released to the public, other scientists are claiming they identified equaling compelling evidence decades ago detected by the 1976 Viking mission, yet for some reason NASA still didn’t equip subsequent missions with the proper tools to test for life. And despite the substantial photographic evidence of this life, the only way to truly prove whether it’s living is to sample it and send it back to Earth for testing.

 

“There are no geological or other abiogenic forces on Earth which can produce sedimentary structures, by the hundreds, which have mushroom shapes, stems, stalks, and shed what looks like spores on the surrounding surface,” said the study’s lead author Dr. Regina Dass of the Department of Microbiology at India’s School of Life Sciences. “In fact, fifteen specimens were photographed by NASA growing out of the ground in just three days!”

Dass and team also argued that there are fluctuations in methane levels on the ground as well as in the Martian atmosphere that vary between seasons, much like methane fluctuations seen on Earth. 90 percent of that methane is the direct result of living organisms.

NASA denies the assertion that these photos are proof of living organisms, calling into question the validity of the journal making the claims. Instead the administration says the photos simply depict minerals like hematite.

But if this scientific consortium is correct and there are basic life forms able to survive Mars’ hostile atmosphere, how they ended up on the red planet is a bit of a mystery.

Considering that certain cyanobacteria and fungi have been observed to survive the vacuum of space and cosmic radiation, some believe these microorganisms on Mars may have come from Earth, either blasted from meteorite impacts or having caught a ride with one of the rovers.

And then there’s also the other hypothesis that says they could be remnants of an ancient civilization that once resided on Mars, before some cataclysmic event turned the planet into the inhospitable rock it is today. At least that’s what remote viewers working for the CIA claim they saw.

 

For more on the potential habitability of Mars watch Dr. Robert Zubrin on this episode of Beyond Belief:

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