We Did It Come From?

Astronomers have calculated the orbit and origin of the Russian fireball that exploded over Siberia a little over a week ago.

Reconstructed orbits for the Chelyabinsk meteoroid. Credit: Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin, University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia

Researchers Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia used an unusual resource to make their calculation.  Numerous videos of meteor were taken by CCTV, dashboard cameras and smart phones.  Most of the images also had time stamps and some even were geotagged when they were taken.


These helped the researchers to reconstruct the original orbit and identify the meteor’s origin.  Using the trajectories shown in videos posted on YouTube, the researchers were able to calculate the trajectory of the meteorite as it fell to Earth and use it to reconstruct the orbit in space.

AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru

Although the results are preliminary, researchers are working on getting more precise results. But through their calculations the researchers have determined the rock originated from the Apollo asteroids.

The Apollo Asteroids are Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) that are divided into groups (Aten, Apollo, Amor) according to their perihelion distance (q), aphelion distance (Q) and their semi-major axes (a) by the Near Earth Objects Program.

Group Description Definition
NECs Near-Earth Comets q<1.3 AU, P<200 years
NEAs Near-Earth Asteroids q<1.3 AU
Atiras NEAs whose orbits are contained entirely with the orbit of the Earth (named after asteroid 163693 Atira). a<1.0 AU, Q<0.983 AU
Atens Earth-crossing NEAs with semi-major axes smaller than Earth’s (named after asteroid 2062 Aten). a<1.0 AU, Q>0.983 AU
Apollos Earth-crossing NEAs with semi-major axes larger than Earth’s (named after asteroid 1862 Apollo). a>1.0 AU, q<1.017 AU
Amors Earth-approaching NEAs with orbits exterior to Earth’s but interior to Mars’ (named after asteroid 1221 Amor). a>1.0 AU, 1.017<q<1.3 AU
PHAs Potentially Hazardous Asteriods: NEAs whose Minimum Orbit Intersection Distance (MOID) with the Earth is 0.05 AU or less and whose absolute magnitude (H) is 22.0 or brighter. MOID<=0.05 AU, H<=22.0

Obviously, the asteroid, nee meteor, that exploded has probably been upgraded to PHA status.  What’s even better is that the NEO program has identified a paltry 1381 PHA’s.

Using triangulation, the researchers used two videos specifically: one from a camera located in the Revolutionary Square in Chelyabinsk and one video recorded in the a nearby city of Korkino, along with the location of a hole in the ice in Lake Chebarkul, 70km west of Chelyabinsk believed to be left by the explosion.


Stefen Geens who writes the Ogle Earth blog originally pointed out that it was possible that images and videos taken of the event might have inadvertently gathered data about the trajectory and speed of the meteorite.  Geens used this data and Google Earth to reconstruct the path of the rock as it entered the atmosphere and showed that it matched an image of the trajectory taken by the geostationary Meteosat-9 weather satellite.

But figuring out the meteroid’s orbit around the Sun is more difficult because the researchers need six critical parameters.  However, they do not have all six parameter, so they had to estimate using mathematical methods to “calculate the most probable orbital parameters and their dispersion.”

Astronomers also estimated that the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk was about 50 feet (15 meters) in diameter and weighed about 7,000 metric tons.

Isn’t technology wonderful!

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +.  If you need help with any patent, trademark, or copyright issue, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation by sending me an email or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.


One thought on “We Did It Come From?

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