Discover the impact of meteors with Dr. Kring on Asteroid Day

On Feb. 15, 2013, with no warning, an asteroid 20 meters in diameter and weighing more than the Eiffel Tower plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk at speeds in excess of 19 kilometers per second. At such a high speed, the 14,000-ton object exploded at altitude, creating a flash 30 times brighter than the sun and panicking Siberian residents.

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The Chelyabinsk meteor injured 1,500 people and damaged 7,200 buildings in 2013.

The air burst damaged 7,200 buildings and injured 1,500 people, mostly due to cuts from broken glass, but many reported ultraviolet burns similar to sun damage and blindness from the flash. It was not the impact that caused the most damage, but the explosion as it suddenly fell apart in the atmosphere, about 25 times more energy than the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima.

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The impact crater caused by the Chelyabinsk meteor.

The largest meteor impact since the Tunguska event on June 30, 1908 that flattened 80 million trees, Chelyabinsk served as a grim reminder that asteroids still pose a credible threat to the planet the same way they did for the dinosaurs. A massive asteroid collided with the Earth 65 million years ago, bringing about the demise of megafauna like Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, along with more than half of the plants and animals living in the late Cretaceous. Scientists agree the asteroid responsible for this mass extinction hit the Yucatan, causing the Chicxulub crater. And the threat remains, this time for us.

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Dr. David Kring, the man who discovered and named the Chicxulub crater.

Dr. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, the scientists who discovered and named the Chicxulub for a Mayan village near the center of the crater, will pay a visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Asteroid Day, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. His lecture will examine methods to mitigate the threat of meteor impacts to humanity, and guests will have a chance to engage in a Q&A session during the lecture. The Burke Baker Planetarium will offer special screenings of Impact at 6 and 8 p.m., complimentary with a ticket to Kring’s lecture.

Join us to learn more about asteroid impacts and other phenomena on Asteroid Day. Survival favors the informed. Tickets $18, Members $12.

Trust but verify: Was an artifact in our new Hall of Ancient Egypt made from a meteorite?

Back in a June issue of the HMNScoop (our weekly e-newsletter that you should totally be subscribed to, ahem), we told you about an exciting discovery made amongst the artifacts in our new Hall of Ancient Egypt: we suspected that one of them was made from a meteorite!

So we put it to the test. A simple magnetic test, that is. To see if this figurine of a human head, on loan from Chiddingstone Castle in the UK, contained any meteoric iron.

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We turned to our in-house experts to verify or debunk the assertion: Dr. Dirk Van Tuerenhout, our Curator of Anthropology, and James Wooten, our Planetarium Astronomer (and the voice behind your monthly stargazing reports here on BEYONDbones).

The verdict?

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Sorry, folks.

Don’t believe everything that you read, because those scrawled words aren’t telling the truth. The object wasn’t magnetic, and it wasn’t made out of a meteorite, either. Bummer.

But now we know, right?

BEYONDbones 500!

Well, the museum blog has been online for just over a year now. In that time the hard working, science loving employees at the museum have brought you 500 posts on fascinating science facts, special events, and exhibits on display here at the museum. From the far reaches of the night sky to the eating habits of the praying mantis; from how to draw a dinosaur to how to create your own butter.

We have given you an inside look at each of our special traveling exhibits; from Lucy’s Legacy to the Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story to Genghis Khan. Ever wonder what plants are best for attracting butterflies? Ory helped you pick some out. Can’t figure out if that rock you found is really a meteorite? James explained the difference. Having trouble identifying that spider or insect living under your couch? Erin and Laurie determined whether or not it was poisonous. Jaime let you know what bands were playing here over the summer and Kat Havens guided teachers through experiments for their classes in addition to the many other fascinating posts from the staff here at the museum.

I want to thank our curators who walked us through the exhibits, guest bloggers who expanded on the topic of their lectures, and the dozen of our other bloggers that have brought you 500 posts over the last year.

None of this would be possible though, without our loyal readers. And as we push on into our second year of BEYONDbones, we at HMNS would like to hear more from you. What do you want to read about? What topics are you most interested in? What is your favorite artifact on display at the museum? Please continue to comment on our blog and email suggestions to blogadmin@hmns.org

Mourning the Dearly Departed

August 24 is the last day to see our Geopalooza exhibit. This exhibit features a great many geological treasures: meterorites, trilobites, agates and of course geodes.

To commemorate the departure of this exhibit, and to see if our readers are as adventurous as I hope you are, I am posting these two related images. One is a small handfull of cut and cabochoned gemstones (left), and the other (below) is the GPS coordinate of where this cache can be found. That’s right – I have hidden a small amount of gemstones – and if you can find them, you can have them.

The gems are not buried. They are currently residing on public property. Finding them will not require dismantling fixtures or machinery. By my reckoning, they are a very short walk from the GPS coordinates listed. All that is needed to make these gems yours is a GPS unit.

I will even give you a hint and say that after you have found your gems, you will be close enough to the Museum that you can come compare your stones to the crystals in Geopalooza or the Mineral Hall. The number of paces needed to complete the “short walk” is indicated in the title of the blog, both in number and very close to heading (direction) you should walk. If you find the gems, leave us a comment below to let us know – and perhaps we can hide another set for someone else to find.