Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.

Sometimes satellites can provide an unexpected view of events. On the 18th December 2018 a huge meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere over the northern Pacific Ocean, an event that – due to its isolated location – attracted very little attention at the time. American military satellites that look for bright flashes detected the meteor as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and this enabled scientists at NASA to calculate its trajectory[1].

But these weren’t the only satellites to see the meteor. Dr Simon Proud, a NERC Innovation Fellow in the Department of Physics, University of Oxford, who is also working with the National Centre for Earth Observation, used data from Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, to locate the trail of smoke and fire left by the meteor in the upper atmosphere.

Dr Proud said: “The bright orange trail is almost vertical, corroborating NASA data that suggests that the meteor entered the atmosphere at a very steep angle. Above and to the left of the fireball is a shadow that, using a processing technique I pioneered, can provide information about the height of the meteor re-entry trajectory and can even help derive the original orbital path of the meteor. Previously, this technique has been used to calculate the orbit of the Chelyabinsk meteor that hit the Earth in February 2013” See reference [2] below. Figure 2 shows The Chelyabinsk meteor seen by EUMETSAT’s Meteosat Second Generation.

Dr Proud added: "Being able to see this meteor from space really demonstrates the capabilities of the global fleet of satellites, allowing us to see events that would have gone unnoticed in past decades. The advanced data processing techniques we have pioneered in Atmospheric Oceanic & Planetary Physics in the Department of Physics bring out the detail in the meteor's explosive ending and will, in the coming weeks, allow us to compute its trajectory and previous orbit - vital for determining its origin.

Professor Philip Stier, Head of Atmospheric Oceanic & Planetary Physics Department, added: "This exciting case study highlights the capabilities of the latest generation of geostationary satellites. Research at Oxford utilises their data for wide-ranging applications, such as constraining the role of clouds for climate change or thunderstorm forecasting for aircraft safety.”

him8-meteor-44706_0.gif

image 1.pngFigure 1a shows the fireball & smoke trail, seen by Himawari-8

fullwidth_zoom2-44696_0.pngFigure 1b shows the fireball & smoke trail, seen by Himawari

image 2.pngFigure 2 shows The Chelyabinsk meteor seen by EUMETSAT’s Meteosat

Similar stories

Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics: exciting science awaits

Funding Physics Research

Oxford’s Department of Physics is playing a key role in three of the seven quantum projects supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Jocelyn Bell Burnell receives highest accolade from Royal Astronomical Society

Award Physics

Jocelyn Bell Burnell from the Department of Physics has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour, the Gold Medal 2021. The medal recognises her extraordinary achievements and has been awarded not only for her personal research but also for her contributions to the field of astronomy generally.

$10 million gift for new Nanoscience Institute in Oxford

Biomedical engineering Chemistry Engineering Funding Materials science Medical science Physics

A new institute for nanoscience research is to open in Oxford thanks to a $10 million gift from The Kavli Foundation.

Oxford Net Zero launches to tackle global carbon emissions

Climate change Earth sciences Physics Plant sciences Zoology

The Oxford Net Zero initiative, launched this week, draws on the university’s world-leading expertise in climate science and policy, addressing the critical issue of how to reach global ‘net zero’ – limiting greenhouse gases – in time to halt global warming.

The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

Physics Research

More than 50 institutes from 17 countries, including the University of Oxford, have been working over the past five years to develop the science goals and design the instrumentation which will enable Ariel to survey a diverse sample of around 1000 planets outside our own solar system.

Global food system emissions alone threaten warming beyond 1.5°C – but we can act now to stop it

Climate change Physics The Conversation

In an article from 'The Conversation', John Lynch in the Department of Physics discusses the necessary changes for bringing agriculture in line with a “net-zero” world.

Similar stories

Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics: exciting science awaits

Funding Physics Research

Oxford’s Department of Physics is playing a key role in three of the seven quantum projects supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Jocelyn Bell Burnell receives highest accolade from Royal Astronomical Society

Award Physics

Jocelyn Bell Burnell from the Department of Physics has been awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s highest honour, the Gold Medal 2021. The medal recognises her extraordinary achievements and has been awarded not only for her personal research but also for her contributions to the field of astronomy generally.

$10 million gift for new Nanoscience Institute in Oxford

Biomedical engineering Chemistry Engineering Funding Materials science Medical science Physics

A new institute for nanoscience research is to open in Oxford thanks to a $10 million gift from The Kavli Foundation.

Oxford Net Zero launches to tackle global carbon emissions

Climate change Earth sciences Physics Plant sciences Zoology

The Oxford Net Zero initiative, launched this week, draws on the university’s world-leading expertise in climate science and policy, addressing the critical issue of how to reach global ‘net zero’ – limiting greenhouse gases – in time to halt global warming.

The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

Physics Research

More than 50 institutes from 17 countries, including the University of Oxford, have been working over the past five years to develop the science goals and design the instrumentation which will enable Ariel to survey a diverse sample of around 1000 planets outside our own solar system.

Global food system emissions alone threaten warming beyond 1.5°C – but we can act now to stop it

Climate change Physics The Conversation

In an article from 'The Conversation', John Lynch in the Department of Physics discusses the necessary changes for bringing agriculture in line with a “net-zero” world.