Q&A about Meteors

asteroid impact

Eliatosha writes:

> Many greetings to you and your family, I and my students & my family we are well and they greet you very much.
> On Friday 01/10/2021 the students of Ilboru Primary School had a period about meteor show and they were very happy to listen to some podcast about meteor show which gave them more thirst to know more and the various pictures I downloaded on the internet that makes them to be very happy because they see meteor every day during the night.
> In addition to their curiosity, they had various questions:
> Joyce Peter asked:
> 1. Why do we see meteors at night but during the day we cannot see meteors, does it mean that the meteors are not present in our atmosphere during day time?.

Meteorites plummet through the atmosphere at all hours of the day and night. But by day we cannot see them in comparison to the bright light of the sun. This is similar to shining a torch by day, it is very difficult to see; but at night it is quite bright.

> 2. What are the objects made of meteors? what makes them looks like a fiery stone?

They are in fact fiery stone! Meteors are made of rock and dust. Comets too are made of dust, but with more water ice. They are the original building blocks of our solar system, left-overs from the very early time when gravity brought the dust of our solar system together to form small nuggets, clumps, asteroids, comets, and eventually planets and their moons (many of which are asteroids captured by the gravity of the planets).

Just as when you drive a car at high speed you can feel the wind pushing against the front glass, slowing the car, the air resists the movement of the meteor through friction. Friction produces heat. So much heat that the rock melts and glows. This is what we see.

Keep in mind that while a car moves as 100 or more kilometers per hour, meteors are traveling at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.

> 3. What effect do meteors have on living organisms if they fall to the ground?

Most meteors are the size of a grain of sand and never touch the ground. They burn-up completely. Yes, a grain of sand so hot you can see it from far away! But the bigger meteors (size of a baseball or football or more) can reach the ground and impact.

We know that the dinosaurs were wiped out due to a massive meteor impact 65 million years ago. It would have caused a massive fire to spread across the planet, followed by years of dust that blocked the sun.

Article: https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/02/new-theory-behind-asteroid-that-killed-the-dinosaurs/

Nearly all of the dinosaurs died out, leaving the birds we have today (yes, birds are the last remaining dinosaurs). With the dinosaurs gone, the mammals were allowed to diversify and prosper.

Much of the water on our planet arrived (and continues to arrive) through the impact of meteors (very little water) and comets (more water). If the meteorite is small, it only adds trace amounts of iron and other elements to our atmosphere, maybe to the ground if it impacts.

Meteor Crater, Arizona

I have attached two images:

a) An artist painting of a meteor impact. If in fact one this large were to hit our planet, it would destroy the entire planet. (top)

b) A photograph of Meteor Crater, Arizona (just north of where I live) is a world-famous impact site of a meteor. It is famous because it is so well preserved. The rock that made this giant hole was only a few meters in diameter, but traveling at incredibly high speed.

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_Crater

While meteors enter our atmosphere every day, the most recent, note worthy impact was just a few years ago:

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor

> Miriam John asked:
> 4. When a meteors falls to the ground it stays on the ground or there are objects that sink into the ground and why ?.

Upon impact it breaks into many small fragments. You can find these pieces if you know what you are looking for!

> Peter Elieta asked:
> 5. What are the benefits of meteors in the lives of humans or other living things?

They add iron, water, and excitement and joy to our lives. Without meteors, you would not be asking these great questions! 🙂 They also teach us about the formation of our solar system and planet, and have even given us samples of Mars. Yes, some of the rocks on this planet are from Mars. A long time ago, in the early formation of our solar system, there were far more asteroids moving between the planets. One or more of them struck Mars so hard that it sent debris into space, some of which arrived to Earth.

> 6. How big are meteors? And why do the burning particles not fall to the ground as the mineral contains what minerals?

(see above)

> 7. Why do meteor showers occur in December each year and not other months? What is the secret in that month?

There are many meteor showers, happening all year long. As the Earth is moving in its orbit, it passes through dust and debris fields, year after year, decade after decade, just as you might go to visit a certain relative for particular holidays 🙂 This debris is sometimes the tail of a comet or the remnants of an asteroid.

Here is a full explanation and list:

> 8. Belinda Allen asked:
> What is the significance of meteorites in our world?

(see above)

> 9. We hear in various news that a meteor is about to hit our planet? Did it not burn itself out of the way to the earth? Where did it threaten ?.

Astronomers are tracking tens of thousands of “near Earth objects”, asteroids and comets that are considered close to our planet in their orbit. Some come by each year, some only once every dozen or even hundred years. By carefully tracking them in space (using telescopes and a kind of radar) we can determine their orbital path and predict if they will hit the Earth.

Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near-Earth_object

There are a few we are concerned about, and so defense systems are being designed to push them just a bit (using rockets or lasers), thus changing their orbit to miss the Earth.

> With these few questions we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the great help you are giving us in collaboration with our teacher in building our capacity to know our atmosphere as well as the various objects in the sky.
> We are looking forward to hear different views and answers from you.


MMAO Welcomes New Ambassadors

MMAO Ambassador Meeting MMAO Ambassador Meeting

Dear friends,

It is my sincere hope that all of you are doing very fine. I am happy to inform you that we have managed to meet with ambassadors today. We have discussed many things including the following.

  1. All teachers who attended the meeting have agreed to become Ambassadors for MMAO.

  2. All Ambassadors have agreed to bring their students to the observatory on a regular basis.

  3. Ambassadors will prepare Astronomical subjects according to their interest. For example a study of the solar system, use of the telescope, astronomical measurements, propagation of light, etc.

This is just some of what we have discussed.


Elineema, Hamuli welcome new teachers to MMAO

New Students visit MMAO

Ambassador to MMAO Elineema Nassari writes, “Yesterday was so good day at [the MMAO] observatory, we received a group of students and their teachers from Nshupu secondary school. Students and teachers learned many things about Astronomy, how to use telescope, types of telescopes, the solar system, the moon, meaning of galaxy and Milky way galaxy and how to measure distance in space (how to calculate light years). This lesson was lead by ambassador Hamuli Majeshi and myself. One among teachers asked what is the difference between constellation and galaxy. We provided answers and show them galaxies in the Cosmos series and also use Stellarium program to show them how constellation formed. They were so happy to know the differences. We were able to answer many questions from students also.”

“Teachers promised that they will arrange trips to visit the observatory and then more students will visit the observatory in future. We are sure that the observatory is in the road to provide Astronomical education to the students and the community as well.”

The Observatory is open for business!

students observing at MMAO students observing at MMAO Mbise and Nassary at MMAO

After a long, difficult year, the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory is once again open for business and inviting schools to attend.

Pendaeli Nassary writes, “We received 41 students and two teachers from the Akeri Secondary School.”

Ambassador Mbise writes, “I was very happy to visit the observatory for the first time with my friend Elineema Nassari. I wish not many days to visit there [again] with students from our school, [such] that they can see the good things that were done at the observatory.”

Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

“Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.”

“In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto … Thirteen years later, in 1623, the solar system’s two giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, traveled together across the sky. Jupiter caught up to and passed Saturn, in an astronomical event known as a ‘Great Conjunction.'”

Read the full article at:

“From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth.”

The distance between the two largest planets in our solar system is at their very closest positions 4.3x greater than the distance from our nearest star (the Sun) to Earth (4.3 x ~90 million miles):

A few tips from NASA on how to photograph the conjunction:

Perseverance and Ingenuity on their way to Mars!

Perseverance and Ingenuity by Dan Heim

Dan Heim, educator, astronomer, and writer has provided an introduction to NASA’s next rover Perseverance and the first aircraft ever intended to fly on another planet, Ingenuity.

Perseverance and Ingenuity — it would be hard to devise more descriptive names for this Mars rover and its drone. Their mission on the Red Planet is, perhaps, the most ambitious to date. In this post I highlight some of NASA’s ground-breaking experimental goals.

Read the full post at Sky Lights …

Comet Neowise is putting on a spectacular show!

Comet Neowise by Padraig Houlahan

Comet Neowise by Padraig Houlahan, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

The Comet Neowise (C/2020 F3), a long-period visitor to the inner solar system is giving viewers in the Northern hemisphere a spectacular show. NEOWISE was discovered by the Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope earlier this year. This icy, dirt and snowball with a gassy tail made its closest approach to the sun on July 3 and is now en route back to the outer solar system. It will be closest to Earth on July 22 but will not return for roughly 6,800 years.

To learn more, visit Scientific American

Comet Neowise positional map by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium

Comet Neowise positional map by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium

Annular Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020 Summary

MMAO observation of the annular eclipse of June 21, 2020

As the Ailangs school is not yet in session, and the boarding students not yet returned to campus due to COVID-19, ambassadors Zacharia, Eliona, Pendaeli, OSEO Board member Thomas Mbise, and just a few local students came together at the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory (maintaining relative safe distance) to observe the Annular Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020.

While we were challenged by the cloud cover, it opened up a few times to enable us to view the movement of the Moon relative to the face of the Sun a number of times. We were able to post a series of photos to our Facebook event, as also shared here.

During the event we enjoyed watching live feeds from astronomy clubs across Africa, as hosted by the African Astronomical Society (AfAS). And for all the resources compiled (a book and Android app translated into multiple languages, posters, notices, and more) we thank the expert hands and dedicated effort of Niruj of AfAS, Susan and Chu of the Traveling Telescope project, Dr. Jiwaji of the Open University of Tanzania; Sivuyile, Cedric, and Thembela of the South African Astronomical Observatory, and Mponda, Zacharia and the Ambassadors of MMAO, and so many more!

This was exciting for the opportunity to view such a splendid celestial event, and equally exciting to see people from so many countries working together for the celebration of science, education, and astronomy.

The final two images in this gallery are from the Traveling Telescope project in Kenya.

African Astronomical Society Eclipse Resources

African Astronomical Society The African Astronomical Society is coordinating a pan-African public campaign for the 21 June solar eclipse in collaboration with outreach experts across the continent. It has made several resources available in Kiswahili, Amharic, and English.

All resources are free for download and to be shared widely. MMAO is proud to have played a part in translation, orchestration, and weather permitting—a live broadcast from the observatory in Meru, Arusha, Tanzania.

Find here a summary of the resources available to learn about and then safely observe the annular solar eclipse Sunday, June 21. As noted on the website Time and Date, “The annular phase of this solar eclipse is visible from parts of Africa including the Central African Republic, Congo, and Ethiopia; south of Pakistan and northern India; and China. Weather permitting, people in these areas will see the characteristic ring of fire.”

Local Type: Partial Solar Eclipse, in Arusha
Begins: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 6:46 am
Maximum: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 7:46 am 0.62 Magnitude
Ends: Sun, Jun 21, 2020 at 8:55 am
Duration: 2 hours, 9 minutes

Live Broadcasts
If you live in a part of the world that will not be able to see the eclipse, or if the weather in your region is not cooperating, you can watch the eclipse live

Handbook for Africa: Annular Solar Eclipse 2020
This project was made possible by the Science Stars Magazine in design, Mponda Malozo and Zacharia Mjungu of the Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory and Ingo Koll for multiple language translations, and Dr. Noorali Jiwaji in proofreading. Download the book for free!

Android App in Kiswahili
The Annular solar Eclipse App in Kiswahili is available for free download from the Google Play Store. This app is useful to learn about the eclipse timings and visibility for your location or anywhere else in the world, as well as provide some basic information on eclipses in general and safe ways of viewing it. Download the app from Google Play Store

How to Make your Own Solar Viewer
This DIY video on how to make a solar viewer from Susan and Daniel-Chu with the Traveling Telescope project can be viewed at YouTube.

Podcast about the Annular Solar Eclipse
A podcast about the eclipse by Cosmic Savannah, Alemiye Mamo, Prosperity Simpemba, and Niruj Ramanujam can be viewed now!

AfAS Press Release
The African Astronomical Society has issued a press release. You may read it now:

To learn, more visit the AfAS Annual Solar Eclipse page hosts the Handbook for Africa, a 7-poster series, an Android app that offers information about the eclipse, and a list of live webcasts from around the world.” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>African Astronomical Society webpage for the Annual Solar Eclipse of June 21, 2020.

On Observing the Solar Eclipse in Tanzania

MMAO Eliatosha with students, viewing an eclipse

Mt. Meru Astronomical Observatory’s Eliatosha Maleko has prepared a brief introduction On Observing the Solar Eclipse in Tanzania. This document is presented in both Kiswahili and in English.

“Kawaida, tukio la kupatwa kwa jua hujitokeza takriban mara mbili kwa mwaka, wakati Mwezi, Jua na Dunia ziko kwenye mstari wa moja kwa moja. Wakati wa kupatwa kwa jua Mwezi hutembea kati ya Dunia na Jua, ikitoa kivuli katika sehemu ya uso wa Dunia.”

“Typically, solar eclipse event occurs about two times in a year, when the Moon, the Sun and the Earth are in a straight line. During the eclipse the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, casting a shadow across a portion of the surface of the Earth.”

Download the PDF for free!