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NASA Scientists: Russian meteor added new layer to the atmosphere

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A NASA team has found that the meteor which blazed over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk last February, left behind a massive plume of dust which has created its own layer in the atmosphere.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to space.com, the bus sized meteor exploded in the atmosphere showering the ground with tiny bits of rock. The thunderous sonic boom shattered windows and injured over a thousand people. In its wake, was left a plume of ultra-fine dust that continues to hang in the atmosphere seven months after the explosion.

That dust continues to dissipate around the planet, concentrated mostly in the northern hemisphere. Scientists are curious to learn whether that dust has any effect on cloud formation.

According to NASA, the Earth accumulates about 30 metric tons of space dust every day. Most of that floats in the atmosphere, and some eventually settles on the ground, virtually impossible to detect.

However, new satellite technology is allowing NASA scientists to track the dust from the February 15 impact, and monitor how it spreads around the globe.

According to Paul Newman, chief scientist for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center's atmospheric science lab, "Thirty years ago, we could only state that the plume was embedded in the stratospheric jet stream. Today, our models allow us to precisely trace the bolide and understand its evolution as it moves around the globe."

Hundreds of tons of dust remain in the atmosphere following the impact, and researchers managed to track the formation of a new dust belt in the stratosphere using NASA's Sunomi NPP satellite according to space.com.

Physicist Nick Gorkavyi, who according to the website is from Chelyabinsk, and now leads a team of NASA Goddard atmospheric scientists, said in a statement, "Indeed, we saw the formation of a new dust belt in Earth's stratosphere, and achieved the first space-based observation of the long-term evolution of a bolide plume."

Measurements taken less than four hours after the meteor's explosion revealed a layer of dust 25 miles high, being carried east by the wind at about 190 mph.

Since then, the heavier particles have moved more slowly, and have dropped lower in the atmosphere or wind speeds are lower, and they are more likely to fall to the ground soon. Like particles however have continued on their journey circumnavigating the northern hemisphere, carried high aloft by the swift winds there.

According to space.com, the study is ongoing and the paper regarding the work will shortly be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

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