Vt. astronomer sheds light on meteor, asteroid encounters - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. astronomer sheds light on meteor, asteroid encounters

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For self-proclaimed space geek Bobby Farlice-Rubio, this is a day he'll never forget.

"This is like Christmas morning or winning the lottery cause this kind of stuff doesn't happen ever or before in recorded history," said Farlice-Rubio, an astronomer at the Fairbanks Museum.

A meteor streaked through the Russian sky Friday morning before exploding with a flash and a boom. It's the closest known fly-by of a rock that big.

"This rock of undetermined composition was flying at 30,000-70,000 mph and it hits the atmosphere, and that rubs it so hard that it vaporizes the rock. It turns into molten lava and the air around it gets so hot it glows," Farlice-Rubio explained.

The sound waves of the explosion shattered glass in buildings, injuring hundreds of people. The meteor was small, only 6.5-feet across-- about the size of an SUV.

"What's amazing is that it happened over a populated area, so we have video of it. Usually these things land in the ocean and nobody sees them," Farlice-Rubio said.

Farlice-Rubio gave us some space terminology 101.

"Meteor is as it's flying. A shooting star in the sky, you could say that's a meteor," he explained. "Meteorite is after it's on the ground and it's a rock... Meteoroid is that same rock before it's falling through the air... Asteroid is a large meteoroid, big enough that we can see it with a telescope from a distance."

And there's more-- Friday held another historic event.

"Today, in addition, that's completely unrelated but couldn't have happened on a cooler day, there's an asteroid flying by the Earth that's 150-feet wide. That's the size of the Fairbanks Museum," Farlice-Rubio said.

The asteroid came within 17,000 miles of the Earth-- a cosmic close call. That's closer than some satellites.

"This is the first time we've witnessed something coming so close to the Earth that's this big," Farlice-Rubio said. "This just a coincidence that these two historic things are happening on the same day, I couldn't have asked for more."

Because of its size, the asteroid was detected last year; the meteor was a surprise. An exciting, out-of-this-world kind of day.

You couldn't see the asteroid on this side of the world because it flew by during daylight hours. The only place that was able to view it was Indonesia.

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