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Experts alarmed over meteorite strike in Vellore

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | S V KRISHNA CHAITANYA
Published Feb 7, 2016, 9:28 pm IST
Updated Feb 8, 2016, 8:26 am IST
The chief minister also announced a solatium of Rs one lakh to the family of the deceased and Rs 25,000 to the 3 injured.
Forensic experts and bomb detection squad looking for clues at the scene in Nattrampally in Vellore where a meterorite fell with an explosion (Photo: DC)
 Forensic experts and bomb detection squad looking for clues at the scene in Nattrampally in Vellore where a meterorite fell with an explosion (Photo: DC)

Chennai: With the State government on Sunday confirming that the mysterious explosion in Vellore, which claimed a life and injured three others, was the result of a meteoroid strike, experts from all over the country were alarmed and expressed their concern over the inability to track these foreign objects hitting the Earth’s surface.

With the advancement of the technology like long range radars and telescopes, there has to be a way to pin down these burning objects penetrating through the atmosphere, said Dr W. Selvamurthy, former chief controller of DRDO and space enthusiast.

 

Dr Selvamurthy said the incidents of meteorites hitting the land seem to be on the rise. “We can’t sit tight saying meteorites can’t be tracked when people are dying. A bigger meteorite can cause serious damage. I am sure organisations like ISRO and National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) has the capability to develop a defence mechanism. NTRO has developed an anti-satellite mechanism where it can target and destroy space satellites in orbit. Why can’t we predict these objects and judge the velocity at which they are falling and where it would impact”, he said.

The most recent meteorite impact happened was at Iran on July 30, 2015 and its size could be more than two meters long and most recent impact in India was at Kerala on February 27, 2015, and its size is unknown, probably less than a meter. Nobody was harmed during both the impacts unlike Vellore impact.

Associate professor S.P. Rajaguru of Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru told Deccan Chronicle that most meteoroids that enter the earth’s atmosphere are so small that they vaporize completely and never reach the planet’s surface. “Unless we actually see the blast remains in Vellore and analyse the samples, we can’t confirm whether it’s a meteoroite or any other object like satellite junk. There are many objects moving around in the space in the form of debris. If it a meteorite, it can reveal something about early solar system period, the chemical composition of plasma etc”.

Sources in the Indian Institute of Technology, Indore said that a group of astrophysicians are working in a project to build long-range telescopes specifically to track even the small objects like meteoroids.

Mr Prabhakaran, an astrononmy educator from SPACE Technology Education Pvt. Ltd, said “I’m quite afraid about the consequences of the impact because even a 1 meter sized meteoroid releases huge amount of energy. The amount of energy released by an impact depends on the size of the impacting body and its velocity. An impact like the one that struck the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico about 65 million years ago, thought responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs and numerous other species, created the Chicxulub Crater, 180 km in diameter and released energy equivalent to about 100 million megatons of TNT”.

He said in order to protect the Earth from such kind of impact, monitoring the asteroids and making predictions of possible impact is necessary, but it is difficult to predict meteoroid impacts due to its small size. “We teach students about meteoroids and asteroids about its threat to our planet and we also conduct an Asteroid Search Campaign in India called All India Asteroid Search Campaign to the school students across pan India to discover asteroids”.

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