NASA's Asteroid Sample Mission gave scientists world wide a rare opportunity to check a man-made meteor

Earth is continuously bombarded by rock and ice fragments from space, also generally known as meteoroids. Most meteoroids are as small as grains of sand and small pebbles, and burn up completely high within the atmosphere. Meteoroids, in regards to the size of a golf ball, will be seen once they light up as meteors or shooting stars on a dark, clear night.

While very small meteoroids are common, larger meteoroids – those larger than a dishwasher – usually are not.

Meteoroids are difficult objects for Aerospace And Geophysicist We want to check them because we often cannot predict when and where they may hit the atmosphere. However, in very rare cases, we will study artificial objects that enter the atmosphere in an identical option to meteoroids.

These objects originate from space missions that aim to move physical extraterrestrial samples from space to Earth. Due to this similarity to meteoroids when entering the atmosphere, these sample return capsules (SRCs) are also known as “artificial meteors”.

More than 80 researchers from greater than a dozen institutions recently worked together to check such an “artificial meteor” – NASA's sample return capsule OSIRIS-REx – when it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

These institutions included Sandia National LaboratoriesNASA's Jet propulsion laboratory, Los Alamos National LaboratoryThe Defense Threat Reduction Agency, TDA Research Inc.The University of HawaiiThe Air Force Research LaboratoryThe Blacknest nuclear weapons facility, Boise State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Kochi Technical University, Nevada National Security Site, Southern Methodist UniversityThe University of Memphis And Oklahoma State University.

This sample return provided our teams with a novel opportunity to measure the sound waves and other phenomena that objects from space produce as they speed through Earth's atmosphere.

To record signals, we installed many sensitive microphones and other instruments at key locations near the SRC's flight path.

While space agencies and personal corporations are continuously sending objects into space, the OSIRIS-REx SRC is one in all only a handful of objects which have returned to Earth from interplanetary space for the reason that end of the Apollo missions. Only these objects can reach the speed of natural meteoroids, which their re-entry precious to check the properties of natural objects.

Sampling from an asteroid

NASA launched the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer or OSIRIS RExMission on September 8, 2016. She traveled to Bennu, a near-Earth asteroidand picked up a sample from its surface in October 2020.

The OSIRIS-REx mission collected a sample from Bennu, a carbon-rich asteroid.

The sample returned to earth in a sample return capsule within the early morning of September 24, 2023. The SRC re-entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at a speed of over 43,500 km/h and landed in Utah just minutes later.

The sample return capsule, a black box, is on the ground after landing.
The Bennu sample return capsule.
Keegan Barber/NASA via AP

SRCs generate a shock wave once they dive deep into the atmosphere, just like the sonic boom produced by a supersonic jet break the sound barrierThe shock wave then loses power until only low-frequency sound stays. called infrasound.

While humans cannot hear infrasound, sensitive scientific instruments can detect it even over great distances. Some of those instruments are on the bottom, while others are suspended from balloons within the air.

Observation of the SRC

Our teams of scientists used the SRC reentry as a possibility to learn more about meteors. One of the teams, led by Siddharth Krishnamoorthy at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, used the SRC reentry to check infrasound detection balloons that were later used on the Planet Venus.

Another team, led by one in all us – Elizabeth Silver – And Daniel Bowman at Sandia National Labs, the SRC used it to raised understand how we will use sound to [gather information about meteoroids].

Researchers from many institutions across the country participated in these statement campaigns.

Our teams strategically placed instruments at locations spanning 300 miles (482 km) from Eureka, Nevada, to close the landing site in Utah. Instruments ranged from high-tech specialized sensors to smartphones on the bottom across the SRC's flight path and landing site, monitoring low-frequency sound waves from the SRC's reentry.

In addition to the ground-based sensors, our researchers attached instruments to balloons that hovered at twice the altitude of economic aircraft in the course of the SRC's reentry. The sensors attached to those balloons recorded the sound waves generated by the SRC's shock wave. These sound waves contained information in regards to the SRC, its motion, and the environment it passed through.

A large, transparent balloon that rises into the sky and is attached to a ribbon.
One of the early morning balloon launches with sensors to detect the low frequency sound emitted by the re-entry of the OSIRIS-REx capsule.
Emmalee Hough

The balloon teams needed to time the balloons precisely to make sure they were in the suitable position when the SRC flew by. NASA team members Jet propulsion laboratory, Oklahoma State University And Sandia National Laboratories launched several several types of balloons from Eureka, Nevada before dawn.

Researchers from OSU, Sandia and the University of Hawaii Additionally, ground infrasound sensors were deployed closer to the SRC landing site along the Utah-Nevada border and at Wendover Airport. Although the SRC was already slowing down and Wendover Airport was about 3 times farther from the flight path than the Eureka deployment, we were still in a position to detect a transparent infrasound signal here.

Researchers on these teams at the moment are analyzing the info to discover the points along the trajectory where the instruments recorded the SRC's reentry signals. Since the SRC's flight path was about 482 km long, researchers need to search out the points of origin of the signals detected by the assorted sensors.

This was essentially the most heavily instrumented Hypersonic reentry in history.

These studies will help our teams understand the patterns through which the low-frequency sound waves propagated through the atmosphere and where the shock wave reached its highest intensity.

A group of smiling researchers
Team members from the University of Hawaii and Oklahoma State University during operations at Wendover Airport.
Milton A. Garcés

While our teams are still analyzing the info, preliminary results show that our instruments have captured many signals that may help future researchers use low-frequency sound waves to check meteors.

And if researchers gain insight into the intricacies of how low-frequency sound waves propagate through the atmosphere, they could give you the option to make use of infrasound to detect threats on Earth. like tornadoes and avalanches.

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