Last week I reviewed three social networks and wanted to mention a fourth. You might ask, what does this have to do with meteors? It might seem strange at first, but actually there is a lot that link the two together. We will get into that after I talk about Reddit.
Reddit is the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet;” it was formed in 2005. Registered users (redditors) submit content in a variety of subjects: news, science, music, books, video games, technology, etc. Redditors get to vote the content up or down and Reddit sorts the content based on these votes. Content that receives enough up votes gets displayed on the site’s front page. There is no real need for censorship by the site owners because the up-or-down voting system can raise posts to full visibility or make them disappear completely. The only problem with the system is that people can be paid to “troll” a post, falsely making a post more popular or removing it all together. Recently Reddit moderators have been accused of censorship, just like Facebook, but there is slightly more freedom on Reddit for the moment.
Now for the link to meteors. On Nov. 15, amid the Mercury transit and the Taurid meteor shower, a rogue meteor stole the show over Missouri. This lone meteor was not a member of the Taurid meteor shower. The brightness of the fireball and direction of its orbit indicated that it was a fragment of an asteroid.
The space rock was about the size of a basketball and weighed about 200 pounds, according to the NASA Meteor Watch. The meteor traveled northwest at 33,500 miles per hour and broke apart about 12 miles above Bridgeport, Mo. More than 300 people reported to the American Meteor Society (AMS) they had seen the meteor. This is the link between social media and meteors. The AMS can gather more information on meteors, their paths, speed, size, and potential landing sites from information posted on social media than ever before possible. The AMS can take information from photos of the meteor along with data gathered from satellite and ground based measurement systems to piece together the full story. Every photo or video of the event adds more datapoints to triangulate the trajectory of the meteor, giving a higher probability of locating any debris that reached the ground. So if you happen to get a picture of a meteor, please share it online to help the efforts of locating debris. There happens to be a $25,000 cash reward for finding a fragment of this meteor that is at least one kilogram in mass.
The formula to determine the landing site of meteorites is a series of calculations using angles and known distances to determine the exact location of an object. In the case of a meteor, if you have the exact location of at least three photos of the meteor, you can use trigonometry to determine the precise location. You do this at least two times and you then have a rough flight path. The more pictures with location information you have available, the better model of a path you can get. Next week I will show you where to get dark flight paths for meteors and share some tips on meteorite hunting. The plains of Missouri and Kansas are prime hunting grounds for meteorites.