How satellites, radars and drones track meteorites

(ORDO NEWS) — On July 31, 2013, a group of American satellites recorded the collision of an asteroid with the Earth.

The impact resulted in a massive explosion.

It was so powerful that more than 1,500 kilometers from the impact site in Tasmania, the explosion was detected by detectors used to listen to low-frequency sounds from illegal nuclear weapons tests.

Scientists have calculated that somewhere north of Port Augusta there must be a piece of land covered with meteorites. The researchers used weather radar and drones to search for meteorites.

In 2019, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology began making their weather radar data publicly available.

Using this data and information obtained from the Desert Fireball Network, scientists were able to figure out that the 2013 event took place near the Woomera radar station.

The weather was clear and the radar footage showed some small reflections in the right place at the right time.

Using weather data, the researchers calculated how the wind might have moved meteorites on their way to Earth and compiled a map showing their location. Using this map, the team managed to detect 10 meteorites in a couple of hours.

This was the first time that meteorite detection using weather radar was used outside of the US NEXRAD radar network.

To search for the remaining meteorites, it was decided to use drones. The scientists used a method developed by Seamus Anderson to automatically detect meteorites from drone images.

As a result, the researchers collected 44 meteorites with a total weight of just over 4 kg. Together they form what scientists call a “strewn field.”

Such fields tell about how asteroids are destroyed in the Earth’s atmosphere. This is very important information, because their energy, according to the researchers, is comparable to that of a nuclear weapon.

For example, a 17-meter asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk in 2013 produced an explosion 30 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

With new telescopes and improved technology, scientists can see some asteroids before they hit Earth.

More data will be available when projects like the Vera Rubin Observatory and the Last Asteroid Impact Alert System (ATLAS) are launched.

They can give us days’ notice that an asteroid is headed for Earth. It’s too late to make any effort to deflect it, but we’d have plenty of time to take action to mitigate the potential damage.

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