Thanks for joining us here today! This was great fun. We got a lot of questions about meteors, meteor showers and fireballs. We tried to answer as many questions as we could. If we didn't answer yours directly, check other locations in the thread. Keep in touch with us through our "Watch the Skies" blog at http://blogs.nasa.gov/Watch_the_Skies/.

Thanks again!

Bill Cooke, Lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office Danielle Moser, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office Rhiannon Blaauw, NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office

Comments: 287 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

Arcterion25 karma

Silly question: have any of you ever accidentally misread test results and for a split second thought you were dealing with an apocalypse scenario? :P

MarshallMeteorWatch22 karma

No, but that would sure make for an interesting day! (DM)

greengrasser1115 karma

How useful are the minerals we can obtain from meteors or are they just as easily obtainable on earth?

MarshallMeteorWatch25 karma

Meteorites contain basically the same elements as found on Earth, just in different abundances. So it is easier to get them here on Earth than wait for them to come to us. Exceptions may be iridium, which is more abundant in meteorites than on Earth, so if you're constructing an inter-dimensional portal like in the movie "Thor," you may have a need for such. B.C.

RideMonkeyRide14 karma

What's a way that I, a typical guy in Los Angeles, can be more involved with NASA and space exploration?

MarshallMeteorWatch15 karma

There are numerous citizen science opportunities out there. Go to http://science.nasa.gov/citizen-scientists/ and see if there is anything that strikes your fancy. B.C.

Robmoney13 karma

What is the hardest part of your job?

MarshallMeteorWatch18 karma

Trying to predict the intensity or strength of meteor showers as this is important for astronauts to know if they go outside the space station on EVA. Have to get this right. B.C.

Frajer12 karma

What are my chances of being killed by a meteor?

MarshallMeteorWatch23 karma

No one in recorded history has been killed by a meteorite, so I would say very small. A lady in Alabama was hit by a meteorite crashing through the roof of her bedroom in the 1950s. It bruised her side and she had to see her doctor, but no long term damage. B.C.

FightinRndTheWorld11 karma

The public is always told when we have the meteors that are passing really close by Earth...should there be one that is on a collision course, are we going to be told abou that one, or would it cause too much chaos to tell us? What is the protocal for such an event?

MarshallMeteorWatch26 karma

The answer is yes. Should an asteroid be detected on a collision course, the public would be informed. As a matter of fact, you can see all known close approaches of asteroids by going to http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ The protocol for such events is that NASA would inform the appropriate government agencies such as FEMA and the Dept. of Defense, who would coordinate a response. If time is short before an impact, that would probably consist of evacuating the area. B.C.

FightinRndTheWorld7 karma

Even if it were an Earth-killer size?

MarshallMeteorWatch16 karma

There are no objects that big of which we are currently aware. I sincerely doubt we would have to face this scenario. B.C.

Darkneutrino5 karma

What's the largest object that could possible come anywhere near us?

MarshallMeteorWatch19 karma

An object a few tens of kilometers across - won't destroy the planet, but would make it very uncomfortable for life for a few decades. Mass extinction and all that stuff. B.C.

Owl_10 karma

What motivated you all to put your efforts toward meteors?

Also, you guys have awesome jobs.

MarshallMeteorWatch16 karma

Yes, we do have an awesome job. I always found the idea of rocks falling from the skies fascinating, so I decided to pursue that when I came to NASA. Who can resist the idea of playing Chicken Little. B.C.

MarshallMeteorWatch11 karma

Meteors are something that I can observe with my own eyes. That makes them more real to me (and more understandable) than other fields in astronomy. And despite seeing a lot of meteors, I still feel a sense of awe and wonder when I see another. It's that sort of continuing excitement that makes this an awesome job!

It doesn't hurt that I'm a night owl! (DM)

CanITalkToTheManager10 karma

Have you found any precious or new elements at a meteor impact site?

MarshallMeteorWatch14 karma

Nope. Pretty mundane stuff. No platinum, no gold, though from the prices meteorites command on eBay, you'd think they were made of this stuff. B.C.

KunaEditor8 karma

What did "Gravity" get wrong in regards to how objects orbit and move in space? Specifically in regards to re-entry?

MarshallMeteorWatch26 karma

"Gravity" had a the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, the Russian space station, which no longer exists, and a Chinese space station, fairly close to each other in space. This is very wrong. But I go to movies to be entertained, not to evaluate their scientific accuracy. Star Wars would be very boring without sound accompanying all the explosions. B.C.

ShamelessDistraction7 karma

I've heard that some people think microorganisms like tardigrades came to earth on meteorites. If so, how would one of those rocks get off a planet and into space to carry it somewhere?

MarshallMeteorWatch6 karma

A possibility -- There would have to be an energetic enough collision between the planet and a minor body to eject some debris. After that the debris would be affected by gravity from the Sun & other planets, radiation pressure, P-R drag, etc. which would change its orbit and place it on an intercept course with another planet. (DM)

Orangeamp6 karma

What dangers, if any, do meteors pose to things like space stations and satellites? Thanks for doing this, keep up the good work!

MarshallMeteorWatch4 karma

The Space Station has armor so it is protected against meteors.

Meteors do post a risk to spacecraft, but one of the products of the Meteoroid Environment Office (us!) are models that predict that risk - how many meteors of various sizes and speeds a spacecraft may encounter on its mission. That helps them decide how much shielding to put on their spacecraft to minimize that risk.

And thanks! We enjoy it.

garybell-kentucky5 karma

Did you have any more details about the large fireball that was seen over the eastern U.S. on February 27th?

MarshallMeteorWatch7 karma

I'm not sure what you know already so I'll just summarize. The American Meteor Society received 290 witness reports about a fireball seen on Feb 27 around 19:10 EST (Feb 28 00:10 UTC) from Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Washington DC, and North and South Carolina. It was also featured on CNN. The fireball was detected at EXTREME range (hundreds of kilometers) by two NASA all sky meteor cameras located in Brevard, North Carolina and Hiram, Ohio. Because of this range a trajectory is difficult to determine. Our cameras first detected it on February 27 at 7:07:58 PM EST at an altitude of 80 km above the town of Montebello, Virginia, moving SW towards Roanoke with a speed of around 15 km/s (33,500 mph). Our cameras lost track of the meteor around an altitude of 68 km as it disappeared below the horizon, though it undoubtedly penetrated lower in the atmosphere. Magnitude was approximately -8.5, which is brighter than the crescent Moon. Taking into account the speed, we are dealing with an object having a diameter of about 1 foot (30 cm) and a mass in the vicinity of 50 lbs (23 kg). (DM)

KunaEditor5 karma

Is there anything classified about your work?

MarshallMeteorWatch16 karma

If we told you we'd have to kill you. ;-) (DM)

BrawnWithBrain5 karma

Lets say an Asteroid as big as the one in the movie "Armageddon" is on a collision course with Earth.

How do you guys plan to stop it?

MarshallMeteorWatch18 karma

Call Bruce Willis. :-)

Seriously, it all depends on the amount of time before the collision. If we have decades or longer, we can try using the gravity of a massive space ship to gently tug the asteroid off course or paint one side of it a reflective color so that the difference in heat radiation off the asteroid will change its trajectory. If we don't have a long time, we may have to resort to the movies favorite planetary defense scheme, i.e. nuclear weapons. B.C.

KunaEditor5 karma

If a meteor were to fall in the ocean or a body of water, how large does it need to be to create a coastal flooding/tsunami event?

MarshallMeteorWatch8 karma

The Earth's atmosphere breaks up most meteors, so it would take a meteor about 300 meters across. This size of meteor hits the Earth about every 100,000-300,000 years (that is an estimate!) so it is highly unlikely. -RB

majus234 karma

Concerning the the product of good meteors--Meteorites.

Last week in the journal Astrobiology was published "Putative Indigenous Carbon-Bearing Alteration Features in Martian Meteorite Yamato 000593"

With the last sentence of the study concluding: "...textural and compositional similarities to features in terrestrial samples, which have been interpreted as biogenic, imply the intriguing possibility that the martian features were formed by biotic activity"

Question: Are you intrigued? And just personally, if you were forced to give a probability to this possibility, how would you place the likelihood of a biogenic vs abiogenic origin to these features in Yamato, Nakhla, etc.?

MarshallMeteorWatch4 karma

  1. Mars and Earth are not isolated systems; they have been exchanging rocks since their formation. If we find evidence of life on Mars, the question of whether or not it originated there or came from Earth would have to be asked. I sometimes wonder the reverse, i.e. are certain people on this planet from Mars. :-)
  2. The article also said possibility of formation by biotic activity. This is by no means conclusive, it just suggests this is one possible explanation. B.C.

Universu4 karma

Greetings Dr. Bill Cooke, Mesdames Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw! I have 10 questions to ask curiously:

  1. What caused the breaking up of Asteroid P/2013 R3? What is it made of? And will it not threaten earth?
  2. What is the present condition of the comet Shoemaker Levy 9 impact zone on Jupiter? Will JUNO image this site?
  3. Why is Europa chosen as the next destination for comprehensive exploration instead of Ganymed, Callisto, Io or Titan?
  4. Will New Horizons encounter meteor risk during its travel to Pluto and the kuiper belt?
  5. How many impacts on the lunar surface had been imaged?
  6. Is there an explanation why Russia seems to be the destination of recent major meteor like Tunguska and Chelyabinsk?
  7. Is it confirmed that ISON is gone or are there still remnants?
  8. Will MRO, Odyssey, Mars Express, MAMEN or MOM be impacted by Comet Siding Spring c/2003A1?
  9. What NASA Mission inspires you most today?
  10. What future missions would you like NASA to pursue?

Thank you for having this IAMA

MarshallMeteorWatch6 karma

Going to take a couple of your questions... 5) We have seen over 300 impacts from meteoroids on the lunar surface. 6) Because of how big it is! Another popular place for large meteors to occur is over the ocean because... well... it is about 2/3 of the surface of Earth. 8) It is possible, and The Meteoroid Environment Office has done work to try to predict this risk but it is hard to say definitely if and which spacecraft will be affected. However, the risk has been decreasing as time has gone by and we have been able to get more accurate understanding of the dust production of comet Siding Spring. It is currently a factor of 20 less than the original calculated risk.

-RB

bhumish3 karma

Which are better for getting to know the meteors? The telescopes (on earth / in space) or the radar-like scanners?

Which is your "Oh that's something extraordinary!" moment?

MarshallMeteorWatch7 karma

The Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) uses telescopes, cameras, and radars all to detect meteors. There are benefits to each. Radars are great because the forward-scatter radar that the MEO uses sees a huge area of the sky resulting in over 10,000 meteor detections every 24 hours. So we get a lot of data from there. Radar also sees the very smallest meteors (sub-millimeter). Cameras are great for millimeter-sized meteors and centimeter-sized meteors. And telescopes are used to observe meteors hitting the moon which are from meteors several centimeters across. So to say which one is 'better' is hard as we need to observe meteors in all those size-regimes. I'm personally partial to radars as I worked with radar data for my MSc thesis. :-)

My ''wow!" moment in my career was the Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia last February. So crazy! Loved getting to work on that event. -RB

JllX3 karma

In your opinion, what happened at Tunguska?

MarshallMeteorWatch4 karma

Large meteor (could be considered asteroid) exploded several miles above the Earth's surface, blowing over millions of trees. If you google some of the reports of Tunguska they are pretty crazy! -RB

StrandedInThoughts3 karma

Have you ever found something our of the ordinary on a meteor? (undiscovered elements, fossils, etc). Ps. I think its awesome that you work with NASA, I absolutely love outerspace!

MarshallMeteorWatch9 karma

Nope, we have not found any unusual elements in meteorites. I am very disappointed; my comic book studies indicated I should find Kryptonite in a few. :-) B.C.

abyssmalstar3 karma

What inspired you to go into a field of math & science, and why specifically meteors?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

I found physics challenging and thought math was a great puzzle so I knew that's what I wanted to do. I also wanted my work to have applications, so engineering was a good fit too. I kindof fell into meteors through various Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) opportunities while in school. I really liked the fact that meteors were something I could see in our atmosphere -- much more tangible than other areas of astronomy. I'm also a trekkie/trekker at heart. (DM)

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

I grew up loving astronomy and decided to study what I was already passionate about. As for meteors specifically, I had a research opportunity after my 3rd year of undergrad to work with meteor radars, and I found I really enjoyed such an applied area of study. I like things that have very practical applications and studying meteors is a very interesting combination of science and engineering (we study meteors because of the danger they pose to spacecraft). I continued on with meteors after undergrad, doing MSc thesis in meteor physics. -RB (Rhiannon Blaauw)

Twinkie_Zombie3 karma

[deleted]

MarshallMeteorWatch12 karma

In theory, such a thing can be done, but I don't think this is a practicable weapon at least for the next few centuries. By that time, we will probably have phaser banks and photon torpedos. B.C.

KunaEditor3 karma

Have space missions/people ever been cancelled or returned to earth early because of anticipated meteor showers?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

In 1993 the Perseids delayed a Shuttle launch.

The Meteoroid Environment Office generates forecasts for meteor showers to give to the International Space Station which helps them determine when to do EVAs.

-RB

DanyelW2 karma

My 9yo daughter is an aspiring NASA rocket scientist. What resources would you recommend (websites, books, games, toys?) to further her interest in space?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

NASA has some good stuff at http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/

I also find "The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth" at http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/ inspiring. (DM)

F311X2 karma

How long we got before being wiped out by a meteor?

MarshallMeteorWatch9 karma

There are currently no large asteroids (greater than a mile across) projected to strike Earth for the next few centuries. Have fun for a long time to come. B.C.

crispybac0n2 karma

So, um, what do you guys do for fun on the weekends?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

Build rockets, play World of Warcraft, watch bad science fiction on MeTV. B.C.

trutheality2 karma

Anyone playing KSP? Or would that feel too much like work?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

I know this is gonna make me sound really uncool, but I just had to look KSP up. :-/ (DM)

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

I just got a mountain bike -- I'm waiting for nicer weather to hit the trails. In the meantime I read a lot and play board games. (DM)

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Tennis is my current new hobby. It is such a great sport!

-RB

batcowsbestfriend2 karma

Is Bruce Willis still on staff?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

I wish! ;-) (DM)

metsfanapk2 karma

With more and more stuff getting launched every day into space is it getting harder or easier to track and model potential collisions with meteors?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

If you're referring to asteroids, no, those encounters are rare. If you are referring to meteors, which are the small rocks, we can't pick them up until they hit the atmosphere and leave an ionization trail or the streak of light you call a "shooting star." So we can track asteroids and orbital debris, "space junk," in space, but because meteors have a weak radar cross-section, they have to burn up in the atmosphere, before we can track them. B.C.

Scrunchii2 karma

Do you work with Les Johnson? I've had the privilege of meeting and chatting with him in New York a few years back...

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

I know Les --- he does fun stuff, but he works in another group, so I don't see him very often. B.C.

NostalgicForever2 karma

As a college student in aerospace engineering, I've been working towards working at NASA for a very long time. I did interview once but did not get the job. What could a student do to make him/her stand out?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

Get as much experience related to the area you want to study. Even if that is volunteering to work for a professor who does related research. Also NASA has a great internship program to get your foot in the door. nasajobs.nasa.gov

Good luck! -RB

pseudolobster2 karma

Okay this isn't really about meteors, but in the movie Gravity, Russia uses a missile to destroy one of their satellites, and the debris from this explosion starts a "chain reaction" blowing up other satellites, which then takes out the ISS, the space shuttle, and a Chinese space station.

THEN, the debris continues in the same orbit, going much faster than the ISS, goes all the way around the earth and ends up hitting the ISS again, 3 consecutive times.

So, first of all, how likely is it that any debris from any satellite could hit any other satellite? I understand the earth is very large. Is there any chance debris could ever cause a "chain reaction"? How would this compare to, say, a comet trail?

Secondly, if there was debris in the same orbit as the ISS, but going thousands of km/h faster, is there any chance it would meet the same object when it came around again?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

Any explosive event in Earth orbit generates fragments. If this event occurs in a region where there is a concentration of satellite orbits like sun-synchronous altitudes, the fragments could collide with satellites in those orbits and create more fragments, sort of like in a chain reaction. However, it would only affect satellites in those orbits and would not be quick like in "Gravity." The collisions would occur over many years, not just in a few hours. As far as your second question, it depends on the nature of the debris; if it is strongly affected by atmospheric drag, it's trajectory will be changed enough that it will not pass near the ISS or some other object it previously encountered. B.C.

pattymayonegg2 karma

Any updates on the Apophis asteroid?

MarshallMeteorWatch4 karma

Not recently, but it is definitely going to miss us. B.C.

aqhtran2 karma

Which showers do you enjoy observing the most?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

Perseids would be my favorite because they are in August so it is usually warm enough throughout the night to really enjoy being outside. Plus the rates are great (up to 100 if you are in a very dark place). The Geminids are also nice to observe but since they are in December it is a little less enjoyable to be outside at 3 am. :-) -RB

Fivesense2 karma

If humans eventually live on Mars, how would asteroids affect living on Mars?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

Mars has a thinner atmosphere, so smaller asteroids can make it to the ground, which means the odds of a Martian colony being hit by one are greater than that of a similar size settlement on Earth. B.C.

Berry1112 karma

What is it like working with NASA?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Most days, a lot of fun. I like coming into the office and seeing where fireballs occurred the night before. We also have had a lot of snow days with the crazy weather lately, which helps me get some reading done. Seriously, NASA is a great place to work and I can't imagine doing anything else. B.C.

SirEbabalot2 karma

Hey guys! Thanks for the AMA! What are your favourite bands/musicians? Which is better, Star Wars or Star Trek? Thanks again guys?

MarshallMeteorWatch6 karma

Star Wars! As for bands... I am currently I am into the Head and the Heart. -RB (Rhiannon Blaauw)

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

I <3 Jonathan Coulton! Since we are on a space theme, check out his song "I'm Your Moon".

Star Trek! STTNG best! (DM)

MMOD_2 karma

What do you get at the On-On truck outside?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

Pork nachos. ;-) Are you the owner? -RB

grizzlyking2 karma

Who are the smartest people at NASA? I realize NASA is huge and in many spots but am curious if the smartest are the designers or if that is mostly outside design or the astronauts, you guys, etc.

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

Bill Cooke, the Meteoroid Environment Office lead, of course! :-) Bill is a very very smart guy, but I would honestly say that in my time at NASA I have learned that there are so many different kinds of 'smart'. Some people are better at theoretical work, some people better at application, some people better at hands-on, some people better at detail-work, some at being able to grasp the big-picture. I know this is a very politically-correct answer, but I honestly feel it is true. I think our team (the MEO) has a really good combination of people right now. Makes for a great working environment.

As for astronauts - yes, the astronauts that I have met or heard speak here are all brilliant.

-RB

ChessmansGambit2 karma

Here's the tremendously vague but obligatory question we have to ask all NASA scientists who do AMAs.

What blows your mind the most about space in general? Anything that pops into your head is a suitable answer. Thanks for coming out!

MarshallMeteorWatch6 karma

The endless opportunities for exploration. I grew up with Star Trek - the old series - and am a firm believer in humanity exploring the stars. B.C.

Darkneutrino1 karma

[deleted]

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Meteors hit the Earth everyday. That is what we study. :-) A comet has never hit the Earth but one of the projects we do at the MEO is to image comets and analyze them to study their dust production.

-RB

SirachaCupcake1 karma

How large does a meteor have to be to do any significant damage were it to hit the earth? Is there a minimum size or is it more about speed?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

It depends on what you mean by 'significant damage'. The Earth's atmosphere breaks up most meteors smaller than a football field. Take Chelyabinsk, for example, it exploded before impacting the Earth. It was about the size of a 3 story building but and only pieces made it to the ground. Still, the explosion did damage - many windows broken and many people injured in Chelyabinsk. Thankfully no reported deaths. Something larger than a football field would likely impact the Earth and create even more destruction.

-RB

airliners3211 karma

What path did you take during and after high school to get to where you are today?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

In highschool I took a couple astronomy courses - one at a community college and one online. Then in University I tried to get as much research experience as possible. I worked for a professor for a couple summers and then did my Masters under her (Dr. Margaret Campbell-Brown) and she taught me a lot about meteor science. -RB

DTFpanda1 karma

Any tips for an engineering student in college who wants to intern at NASA?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

StellarSloth has posted some good intern sites. From my experience, it's good to first get some work experience at your university. It makes you a stronger candidate when NASA mentors choose their interns. (DM)

Ethan_May1 karma

Where are the best places on earth to see meteor showers?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Somewhere with excellent weather (clear skies) and very very dark skies! And seeing as much of the sky as possible is good - so no obstructions by trees, buildings, etc. Probably a dessert would be ideal. :-) Oh and if you have a new Moon that is ideal. A bright Moon washes out the dimmer meteors. My most favorite meteor shower watching experience was in a field in the middle-of-nowhere Ontario watching the Perseids several years ago. :-)

-RB

mizary11 karma

Which is currently a bigger threat to satellites/spacecraft meteors or space junk? If it's meteors do you think that will change over time as the amount of space junk increases?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

It depends on the vehicle, but orbital debris is currently a bit bigger threat than meteors - for space shuttle, orbital debris was 60% of the risk. -RB

ConnorTLaw1 karma

In the recent Bill Nye & Ken Ham debate on creationism, Mr. Ham stated that the age of the Earth was not determined based on any sample from Earth, but using data from nearby asteroids. Is this true? Can you elaborate on this?

MarshallMeteorWatch5 karma

Mr. Ham is wrong. We have radioactively dated Earth rocks and those were definitely not from asteroids. B.C.

energyAlchemist1 karma

How are fireball sighting collected, is there a database or web-service that has this info? And, when they are sighted does anyone investigate to search for any debris that may have survived entry?

Thanks!!

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

The American Meteor Society collects fireball reports from all over the world. Making a report is pretty easy. http://amsmeteors.org/ go to 'Fireballs' then 'Report a Fireball'. They also have a searchable database. I check it weekly as one way to stay aware of what's going on over our skies. NASA also has a website where we post fireballs seen with the NASA All Sky Fireball Network at fireballs.ndc.nasa.gov -- it's got images, movies, and info about fireballs seen by our network of 12 cameras. Meteorite hunters and others can use this information to investigate any possible meteorites. Since our group is mainly interested in meteors and meteoroids, we rarely hunt for meteorites ourselves. Last meteorite hunt we did was exciting, but I ended up breaking out in hives. ;-) (DM)

energyAlchemist1 karma

Thanks for all the Info. Do you guys work with the NEO JPL Team as far as any data sets or collaboration? Just curious.

Also, Awesome work. Space rocks! (yes, i had to say that) :)

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

We collaborate with the NEO office at JPL with regard to fireballs, which are brighter meteors caused by meteoroids larger than a foot or so in diameter. The line between asteroid and meteoroid is fuzzy so we work together a lot. B.C.

garybell-kentucky1 karma

Have any spacecraft been sent towards the asteroid belt to study the meteoroids/asteroids in that area? Are there any plans to do that if not?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Spacecraft have passed through the asteroid belt --- Voyager, Pioneer, New Horizons and so forth. The Dawn mission is there right now, studying the asteroids Ceres and Vesta. So, yes, we are studying the asteroid belt. B.C.

HorrifiedBuckets1 karma

As someone who is very interested in space exploration, astronomy, and things of the sort but who is not very mathematical savey, what sort of career involving astronomy would you suggest for me?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

Unfortunately, professional astronomers need to know a lot of math, which is one reason why many people don't become astronomers. However, a lot of good work - measuring asteroid light curves, looking for novae (exploding stars) and comets, and so forth - is done by amateurs who don't know a lot of math. All you have to have is a decent-sized scope and some software you can download off the Internet. B.C.

hipstercouver1 karma

If a 1km rock were to hit the Pacific, how big would the wave be?

(I live on the West Coast)

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

Don't know about a 1 km asteroid, but a 250 meter diameter asteroid would produce a tidal wave about ten meters high if it struck off the West Coast. B.C.

glegarda1 karma

Could a meteor passing close to Earth have any gravitational effects strong enough to divert satellites or space stations from their orbits?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Meteoroids are very small, less than ten meters across, so the answer is no as far as meteoroids are concerned. I think you are referring to asteroids and even there, their gravity is very weak and would not affect satellites unless it passed extremely close. B.C.

mizary11 karma

What countries are most responsible for orbital debris? percentage wise... like USA 22% - China 55% - USSR/Russia 18%, etc Or are the numbers not really known. It seems like this problem is going to get bigger before it gets smaller.

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

I am not an orbital debris person, but I do know that the USSR/Russia and the U.S. are the top two. China is coming on strong though with its recent anti-satellite tests. B.C.

mack123abc211 karma

What is the current on the NASA moon missions? Are we going to get the funding to go back anytime soon?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

NASA currently has no plans to return astronauts to the Moon in the near future. B.C.

Vamking121 karma

When should the next Meteor Come near us?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

If you are referring to an asteroid, go to http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/ That will give you a list of coming asteroid close approaches. B.C.

Vamking121 karma

How does the moon affect Meteors?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Its gravity slightly alters the trajectory of objects passing near it. B.C.

dbfvhfdb1 karma

Yeah crap. I'm always late to the party. If you're still here though, I'd like to know how you work. Do you sit in front of desks all day long like the conventional office, or do you have more fun than that? Also, I'd like to know if I can help with your initiatives in any way as a citizen scientist. I'd be perfectly happy to do something like running [email protected]. Also, here's another one, for me personally. If I have the knowledge, is a college degree still required to work for NASA? Its my childhood dream.

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

A lot of our work invovles analyzing data from a desk in a conventional office. But we also observe at our local observatory and control observatories remotely. Occasionally we will deploy teams to collect meteor data with special cameras/equipment, e.g. for the Genesis spacecraft re-entry and the May Camelopardalids. A few times I've gotten to do some hands on work in the lab, inspecting returned spacecraft surfaces from Hubble and the Space Shuttle. (Waaay cool btw!)

Regarding citizen science, check out the Meteor Counter app for recording meteors during meteor showers. Also you can look into observing the moon for lunar impacts to support LADEE.

A college degree is a good idea... (DM)

KunaEditor1 karma

I know meteor showers have good years and bad years. What is an upcoming meteor shower that has a good chance of wowing watchers?

MarshallMeteorWatch5 karma

There's a brand new meteor shower expected this year -- the May Camelopardalids (that's a mouthful!). It's expected to peak on May 24, 2014 with a rate of 200 meteors per hour (possibly more). But since it's a new shower, never seen before, all of this is very uncertain. (DM)

Ammo_Can1 karma

What is the speed of meteors that enter the earth atmosphere? At what altitude do they start to heat up and how many make it all the way to the ground a day? How hot do they get on entry into the atmosphere? Thanks for doing this AMA!!

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

Meteors travel fast, 25,000 - 160,000 mph! A Perseid traveling 132,000 mph travels almost 100 times faster than the Concorde jet. They start burning up quite high in the atmosphere typically around 90-100 km. Very few make it to the ground, they burn up completely by heights of 60-80 km. They reach temps of several thousand degrees Kelvin. (DM)

Berry1111 karma

Would you ever like to go into space? and also is there anyway for us ordinary people to get involved?

MarshallMeteorWatch1 karma

No, I'm afraid of heights. As far as your second question, if you are talking about becoming an astronaut, you might want to contact Richard Branson at Virgin Galactic. There are sub-orbital flight opportunites opening up for those with money and more guts than I. B.C.

aparolin1 karma

sorry if repost; if this asteroid came at the earth point blank, is it possible for it to reach the earths surface and with what results? in your opinion...

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

If the asteroid is bigger than a football field in diameter, it has a chance of reaching the Earth's surface intact. The consequences of such a collision would depend on the size of the asteroid, but a crater would be produced anywhere between five to ten times the size of the asteroid. Shock waves would propagate out tens or hundreds of miles. Trees or houses nearby would be blown down, etc. B.C.

DisGuyHere1 karma

Hi! Thank you all for doing this ama! I am a 17 year old boy in Norway, really hoping for a career in astronomy. I just want to know if you have any tips on what to do when it comes to education, university etc. And what education did you take?

EDIT: grammar

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

You are welcome! :-) Thanks for joining us! I did my undergraduate degree in Astrophysics and my Masters in Astronomy. I work with aerospace engineers and physicists as well. Any of those majors would be good. Good luck! -RB

s_mw1 karma

What is NASA's dress code? Does NASA have events for its employees?

What is NASA's biggest area of focus with meteors right now?

MarshallMeteorWatch3 karma

No pajamas, hahaha. But seriously, there's a huge range. In our office it's business casual, though some lean more towards the causal end of that cough Bill cough. :-)

As far as events go, I look forward to when astronauts visit Marshall after a mission. We also take the time to remember both our successes (many!) and failures (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia).

We are focused on defining the meteoroid environment -- numbers of meteoroids, how big, how fast, etc. (DM)

mizary11 karma

Anyone a fan of the show Meteorite Men? Or would it be like Pavoratti watching drunken Karaoke at my local bar?

MarshallMeteorWatch2 karma

I liked the show and actually met one of the stars. He gave a fascinating talk and was a very interesting person. I would certainly like to go meteorite hunting with him. B.C.