A meteorite's size can range from small to extremely large. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, frictional, pressure, and chemical interactions with the atmospheric gases cause the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball, also known as a meteor or shooting/falling star. They can range from extraterrestrial bodies that collide with Earth or an exceptionally bright, fireball-like meteor regardless of whether it ultimately impacts the surface.
NASA has launched a new website to share details of meteor explosion events as recorded by U.S. military sensors on secretive spacecraft, kicking off the project with new details of this past February's fireball over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The new "Fireball and Bolide Reports" website, overseen by NASA's Near-Earth Object Program, debuted Friday (March 1) with its first entry: a table with a chronological data summary of the Russian meteor explosion of Feb. 15 gleaned from U.S. Government sensor data. Scientists are calling the event a "superbolide," taken from the term "bolide" typically used for fireballs created by meteors.
Part of the worldwide interest in meteors hitting Earth stems from what is now verifiable evidence that alien lifeforms are coming along for the ride.
In 2010, Duane P. Snyder announced the discovery of the first and only known Ice Meteorite containing Extraterrestrial Life-forms. The Ice Meteorite's particle analysis, its gas analysis, and likely origin including photos of the life-forms found in the melt-water of the meteorite where also exhibited. Dr. Albert Schnieders of Tascon USA Inc, commented that they basically found nearly all elements up to 90u in the sample spherical particles tested.
The results, photos and reports where then posted on Snyder's website snydericyrite.com.
The life forms that were photographed were inside the ice meteorite, not on the ice meteorite. They choose not to melt Ice Meteorite in order to prevent the loss of valuable information and knowledge.
According to Snyder, Saturn's moon Enceladus is the only known orbiting body having a mechanism capable of launching chuncks of ice out of its gravitional influence and orbit. A gas analysis of the gases matched the results found in NASA's Cassini spacecraft's fly-through of the ice/water geyser plumes of Saturn's moon Enceladus on october 9, 2008.
In 2011, an astrobiologist working at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center outside Huntsville, Alabama has made another astounding claim. In published journal article, he claimed to have discovered a preserved alien life form residing inside a meteor that journeyed through the vast black of space before impact on our planet.
The researcher, Dr. Richard B. Hoover, had to go to extraordinary lengths to make his discovery. He reasoned that if alien microbes were to hitch a ride on a meteorite, they would likely have to do so in a special meteor.
Specifically, he zeroed in on the CI class of carbonaceous chrondite meteors. In total only nine such meteorites are known to exist on Earth. These meteors are rich in water, amino acids, and other organic compounds -- seemingly a virtual pantry for a microorganism.
The discovery has been met with a great deal of skepticism, but also fascination. Dr. Hoover writes in a note to the editor's note accompanying his study, "Given the controversial nature of his discovery, we have invited 100 experts and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis. No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough vetting, and never before in the history of science has the scientific community been given the opportunity to critically analyze an important research paper before it is published."
With the paper currently peer-reviewed and published [abstract] in the Journal of Cosmology.
Dr. Hoover is confident his discovery will be validated. He comments, "A lot of times it takes a long time before scientists start changing their mind as to what is valid and what is not. I’m sure there will be many scientists that will be very skeptical and that’s OK."
"If someone can explain how it is possible to have a biological remain that has no nitrogen, or nitrogen below the detect ability limits that I have, in a time period as short as 150 years, then I would be very interested in hearing that. I’ve talked with many scientists about this and no one has been able to explain."
More recently, though, some scientists have suggested that meteors and comets slamming into the Earth brought with them the very integuments of life, including water and a host of complex organic chemicals.
If he's right, Hoover may have evidence to support that theory. He argues that the complex filaments he found embedded in the meteors are micro-fossils of extraterrestrial life forms that existed on the meteorites a long time ago prior to the meteorites' entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
"This finding has direct implications to the distribution of life in the Cosmos and the possibility of microbial life on in liquid water regimes of cometary nuclei as the travel within the orbit of Mars and in icy moons with liquid water oceans such as Europa and Enceladus," he writes.
Earlier this year, top British scientist claimed to have found the ultimate proof that alien life forms are very much real. Still, it took some time before Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe's announcement managed to gain momentum and draw the media attention it deserved.
Wickramasinghe discovered tiny fossils of algae, similar to the kind found in seaweed, in a meteorite fragment that crash landed in central Sri Lanka in December 2012. He believes it proves we are not alone in the universe.
The finding provides strong evidence that human life started outside Earth, he stated.
The two-inch wide rock was one of several fragments of a meteorite that fell to earth in a spectacular fireball. They were still smoking when villagers living near the city of Polonnaruwa picked them up.
The fossils were discovered when the rocks were examined under a powerful scanning electron microscope in a British laboratory.
They are similar to micro-organisms found in fossils from the dinosaur age 55 million years ago.
Though critics argued that the rock had probably become contaminated with algae fossils from Earth, Prof Wickramasinghe insisted that they are the remnants of extra-terrestrial life.
He noted that the algae organisms are similar to ones found in Earth fossils and that the rock also has other organisms they have not yet identified.
Are We Aliens On Our Own Planet?
A meteorite that exploded above Canada 11 years ago has provided strong evidence that life's building blocks came from space.
Fragments of the rock that landed on Tagish Lake, British Columbia, yielded a mix of organic compounds.
They included amino acids and monocarboxylic acids, both essential to the evolution of the first simple life forms on Earth.
Analysis of the chemicals revealed information about their history on the asteroid from which the meteorite came, and lent weight to the theory that organic material originates in gas and dust clouds between the stars.
If the theory is right, the building blocks of life would have been spread throughout our developing solar system.
Lead researcher Dr Chris Herd, of the University of Alberta, said: 'The mix of pre-biotic molecules, so essential to jump-starting life, depended on what was happening out there in the asteroid belt.
'The geology of an asteroid has an influence on what molecules actually make it to the surface of the Earth.'
The findings were published in the journal Science.
Experts are confident that the chemicals they analysed were not the result of contamination from the Earth.
Mark Sephton, a geochemist at Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study told The Scientist: 'It’s real evidence of hydro-synthesis occurring in asteroids and creating compounds that might be biologically useful,'
Meteoriticist Eduardo Iadonisi said this is only the beginning of new discoveries that will number in the dozens in the next few years. "We have some evidence that meteorites will be increasing throughout 2013 and possibly 2014," said Iadonisi. "It is highly probable that the dozens of meteors soon to impact Earth will also contain some evidence of extra-terrestrial life forms." Iadonisi could not give an explanation on why more meteorites are impacting Earth, but is confident the trend of discovering alien life forms will continue.
"For all we know, this may be one way the universe is repopulating the Earth
with different species," he concluded.
Liz Bentley is a graduate in geology, professional photographer, freelance journalist and investigative reporter on fossil records and climatology.