Astronomical Institute asks public for help in locating piece of crashed meteor

Photo: CTK

The Astronomical Institute of the Czech Republic has asked members of the public for help in looking for parts of a meteor, classified as a bolide, which lit up the evening sky over the region of Česko-Moravská Vysočina (the Czech-Moravian highlands) last Tuesday. The meteor broke up in different pieces and some are thought to have fallen near Ždár nad Sazavou. Researchers gleaned a wealth of information from the event; now they are hoping a chunk of the original object will be found on the ground.

Photo: CTK
Earlier, I spoke to astronomer Pavel Spurný, an expert in bolides – in other words – fireballs in the sky.

“We observe hundreds of such events per year but few are as bright and last as long as this. It is really extraordinary, especially when there is a chance that we could find parts of the meteor which hit the Earth. In this case, I think there is a good chance that some pieces will be recovered. Such an event is rare, I’d say on average once in ten years.”

Over the course of your career you have worked on special cameras designed to capture the flight of bolides: were any used this time around? What kind of information did they reveal?

“We have very precise records, I have to say. We just completed the modernization of our ‘fireball’ network, with seven cameras, and in fact we installed our last camera on the day. It too recorded the event.”

Pavel Spurný,  photo: Packa,  CC BY-SA 2.5
What kind of information, if pieces are found, will they provide?

“They tell us, chemically, about the area where the meteor was from, for one. More important is that we know the trajectory and the orbit in the firsts place, precisely where the meteor came from. Worldwide, astronomers have collected 50,000 meteorite pieces but we know the precise origins of only 22. IN this case, we precisely know its original orbit and that is very, very rare. Instrumental observation and the original orbit: like other meteors, the majority originated from the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, although others are from around Mars or around the Moon.”