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patch Mission statement - Help coordinate the rapid response to announced small asteroid impacts, such as asteroid 2008 TC3, with the goal to study the asteroid breakup during entry and further the pristine recovery of surviving meteorites for analysis. [Contact]


[Public talk on WT1190F reentry]
[re-entry video]

2016, February 2 - Today, NASA Ames released a feature article about the publication of the AIAA SciTech 2016 paper on WT1190F. In addition, a new re-entry video was released.

2016, January 19 - At noon, there will be a Public talk on our project as part of the SETI Institute Weekly Colloquium.

2016, January 14 - The new observations now make the Trans-Lunar Injection Module of Lunar Prospector (a NASA-Ames led mission) the leading candidate for WT1190F's identity.
[Story on Nature.com]

2016, January 5 - The team's first results from the analysis of our WT1190F reentry video data were presented during a special session on Aerothermo-chemistry of Natural Meteors at the AIAA SciTech 2016 meeting in San Diego.
[Scientific paper: AIAA-2016-0999]

wide field view
Wide field view of the WT1190F reentry as recorded by the SETI Institute team (compilation of all video frames, aircraft roll removed). This gives a good impression of the naked eye visibility.

WT1190F reentry Narrow field view recorded by the Dexter Southfield team, showing part of a single frame from a movie camera.

First results video

2015, November 13 - SUCCESS! Just back from completing instrument calibrations. The International Astronomical Center in Abu Dhabi issued a brief summary with some of our results of the airborne campaign a few hours ago. The remaining challenge proved to be the weather. It was raining in Sri Lanka. Much of our flight to the area saw haze above our flight altitude at 45,000 ft, but our navigator, pilot and first officer found a small clearing and managed to put the aircraft there at the right time. We had a perfect view of the WT1190F reentry, which was bright by naked eye. We have incredible imaging data and also succeeded in doing quality spectroscopy at blue and red wavelengths, which is a first for us in daytime conditions. Most successful was the team of Ron Dantowitz of Dexter Southfield, but also the IAC and UAE Space Agency teams did great.

WT1190F reentry Later stage of reentry as observed by the UAE Space Agency team.

2015, November 12 - Ready for deployment. After a day of hard work that saw the aircraft interior transformed into a small laboratory, over twenty cameras are now mounted and ready for deployment tomorrow. So far, so good. The weather could still make it challenging to position the aircraft at the right location in the right orientation to see the entry. Also, we hope that the object has enough mass and kinetic energy to see the entry in the daytime sky. If it does, the images below give an overview of the instrument teams onboard intent on observing the entry, from front to back of the aircraft (All photo's: IAC/UAE Space Agency/NASA/ESA).

In the galley: Jim Albers of the SETI Institute worked with Mike Koop to provide gps and timing data to the instruments.

Ron Dantowitz of Dexter Southfield (left) and Forrest Gasdia of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University will try to zoom in on the reentry with a Red Epic movie camera and several spectrographs in search of spectral signatures that could identify the nature of the object.

Host Mohammad Odeh (with video headset display) and Khalfan Al-Noimy of the International Astronomical Center in the United Arab Emirates will operate a second Red Epic camera with a wider field of view and a third spectrographic camera to document the fragmentation sequence.

Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute will operate eleven staring cameras with a wider field of view, including two spectographic cameras, to catch the reentry if pointing efforts fail.

Khalfan Al-Remeithi and Khaled Al Hasmi of the UAE Space Agency will attempt to point a narrow field imager to the reentry for high resolution fragmentation studies.

Stefan Loehle (foreground) and Fabian Zander of the Institut fuer Raumfahrtsysteme of the University of Stuttgart, Germany, will use an optical fiber to collect light and feed it to a small Echelle spectrograph for high-resolution spectroscopy studies of plasma processes and ablation emission signatures.

WT1190F is approaching Earth and now visible in small telescopes. This image was obtained by Marco Langbroek, Netherlands, using remotely the 0.61-m telescope of MPC G68 (click image to see it move).

2015, November 12 - The final trajectory update from our consortium support team has the impact location narrowly defined and a time uncertainty of only +/- 0.19s, reaching 100 km altitude at 06:18:22.35 UT on November 13.

Abu Dhabi

2015, November 11 - All team members and their instruments arrived in Abu Dhabi this morning. Today was a day of introductions. We met with organizer Mohammad Odeh, director of the Internatonal Astronomical Center, and had lunch with Ahalfan Al-Noimy, IAC president and fellow traveler. We then visited the Al Bateen airport and met with Khalfan Al-Remeithi and Khaled Al Hashmi of the UAE Space Agency. We had our first tour of the G450 aircraft in the afternoon and met with the veteran pilot and first officer who will direct our flight. We made fit checks of our instrument setups and discussed the challenges of observing this reentry. Tomorrow, we will continue the instrument setups.

2015, November 11 - We received further trajectory updates, the formal precision now +/- 4.4 seconds in time. We are keeping an eye on the weather conditions near Sri Lanka.

CCO setup
Clay Center Observatory pointed narrow-field cameras for imaging and daytime spectroscopy

2015, November 9 - Ron Dantowitz of Clay Center Observatory of Dexter Southfield in Brookline, MA, is pleased to report that their team's instrument checks for high spatial resolution imaging and spectroscopy went well and they are on route to Abu Dhabi.

SETI Institute cameras
SETI Institute staring cameras against backdrop of Genesis capsule reentry.

2015, November 8 - Peter Jenniskens reports that the SETI Institute staring cameras for low-spatial resolution imaging and daytime slit-less spectroscopy have been tested and are ready for deployment.

IRS instrument test
Instrument tests at the Institute for Space Systems in Stuttgart, Germany (right) using the Moon in the daytime sky as a target.

2015, November 6 - The entry will be in broad daylight and perhaps difficult to spot. Stefan Loehle reports that the ESA-sponsored team from the Institut fuer Raumfahrtsysteme (IRS) successfullly tested their optical fiber-fed Echelle spectrograph by pointing to the Moon in the daylight sky. They are packed and ready for deployment.

2015, November 6 - The latest update from the Next TC3 Consortium Asteroid Detection and Early Warning team has the time and location of the WT1190F atmopsheric entry narrowed to better than +/-8 seconds in time and sufficiently accurate in position for flight planning purposes.

G450 aircraft

2015, November 4 - The International Astronomical Center (IAC) in Abu Dhabi announced today that the United Arab Emirates is sponsoring an airborne observing campaign to study the entry of space debris object WT1190F. The first practice mission for a future rapid response to an announced small asteroid impact is underway! The IAC and the United Arab Emirates Space Agency will host a team of veteran U.S. and German observers of spacecraft re-entries to study the predicted re-entry of an approximately 1-meter piece of space debris returning to Earth on an asteroid-like orbit near Sri Lanka on November 13, 2015.
More here: [IAC Announcement]
[ESA Blog]

WT1190F on November 3, in an image by Bill Ryan at Magdalena Ridge Observatory.

2015, November 4 - Next TC3 Consortium member Eileen Ryan reports that WT1190F was detected at Magdalena Ridge Observatory last night. The object was about V = 20.5 magnitude. Adding to observations by Nick Moskovitz at Lowell Observatory, using the Discovery Channel Telescope on October 27, this now is narrowing the uncertainty ellipse for the entry location.

Nov 13 impact
Projected impact area for artificial object WT1190F calculated by Bill Gray. Actual area is more uncertain than plotted here due to the nature of the object. A better location will emerge in the next orbit.

2015, October 22 - A small about 1-m sized piece of space debris, called WT1190F, was discovered on October 3 in a very wide 23-day orbit around Earth. The object will have its next perigee on October 24, then impact Earth on November 13 [ESA release]. The impact area is over the Indian ocean near Sri Lanka (see figure above). Because of its wide orbit, the object will impact Earth's atmosphere on a trajectory much like that of small natural asteroids, causing an artificial meteor at a known time and place. The nominal location is just off the coast of Sri Lanka, but the uncertainty is still significant. For observers in southern Sri Lanka, if skies are clear, it may result in a visible meteor in the daytime sky lasting a few seconds (perhaps not so easy to see), at around 11:50 a.m. local time (06:20 UT). The view will be better at altitude aboven clouds. Place and time are still uncertain. The location will be better known following the October 24 perigee. Astronomers are encouraged to observe WT1190F at the time of perigee around October 24 and provide more astrometric measurements as well as light curve data to evaluate shape and orientation of the object during entry. Ephemeris for this object in the sky is given at the Minor Planet Center" distant satellite page and this website by Bill Gray.
More information: [website by Bill Gray]; [Wikipedia]

2015, September 7 - A fireball is widely filmed from Bangkok, Thailand. Working with Matipon Tangmatitham, a student at the University of Michigan, and Saran Poshyachinda, deputy director of the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand, we are supporting efforts to reconstruct the firball trajectory, in the hope that this will lead to the recovery of meteorites.

2015, September 2 - Ozan Unsalan of the University of Istanbul in Turkey, and principal investigator of the Turkish Meteorite Network, informed us about a meteorite fall near the village of Saricicek (meaning "yellow flower") in Bingol province in eastern Turkey. Peter Jenniskens was invited to assist in the University of Istanbul field expedition and visited the area from September 26 to October 5. Video-recorded shadows from the fireball at Bingol University and Muss Alparslan Universty (108 km east of Bingol) were calibrated for trajectory reconstruction. The meteorite strewn field was surveyed and meteorite location and mass information collected. Local lead Nezir Ergun of Saricicek donated material for an international consortium study, which is underway. [Pictures of the field work]

2015, August 7 - Davide Farnocchia of NASA JPL executes an early warning practice during IAU General Assembly in Hawaii. Newly detected object is quickly recovered by Tim Lister in remote observations from South Africa and found not to impact Earth.

2015, July 9 - Peter Jenniskens presents the project at the first NASA Ames Planetary Defense Workshop. Jay Grinstead of NASA Ames presents a poster on the potential capabilities of US government aircraft for this project.

Alaska bolide search

2015, June 6-9 - Peter Jenniskens teams with Hans Nielsen and Ned Rozell of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks to investigate the February 26, 2015, fireball. Jenniskens and Rozell conduct a field study with field guide Garreth Jones in the arctic, just south of Brooks Range.

2015, May 13 - We received our first early alert from the NASA JPL Sentry System today at 2:15 am. First tracklet had large errors and low impact probability. Case was dismissed 5.5 hours later after more observations had come in.

2015, April 13 - The case of 2012 TC4 is discussed here: close encounter on October 12, 2017, but no impact.

2015, April 7 - With permission, the Minor Planet Center (Jose Luis Galache) provides the table right, showing the asteroid close approaches to Earth. The list is updated daily. Efforts are under way to see if it is possible to provide such information less than 24 hours out.

2015, April 1 - Jenniskens presents the Next TC3 Consortium plans during a SOFIA Collogium at NASA Ames. The potential use of the SOFIA airborne infrared observatory for observing an asteroid impact is discussed. At least a week of warning time may be required.

2015, March 26 - Nick Moskovitz of Lowell Observatory, P.I. of MANOS, visited the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. Jim Albers showed him the CAMS station at Sunnyvale.

2015, March 23 - The Next TC3 Consortium will attempt to provide input data to the modeling efforts by the NASA Ames program for Planetary Defense.

2015, February 26 - An 0.51 kt impact over Alaska is under investigation. We are working with Prof. Hans Nielsen of the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Reports of the event came in too late to avoid fresh snow on the ground.

group photo
Ten of the 31-person strong ATV5 team during upload, ready to deploy in a next opportunity. From left to right: Ron Dantowitz (Dexter Southfield), Fabian Zander (U. Stuttgart), Ferdinand Fahlbush (Astos), Thomas Marynowski (U. Stuttgart), Marek Kozubal (Dexter Southfield), Stefan Loehle (U. Stuttgart), Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute), Sven Weikert (Astos), Dave Buttsworth (U. Southern Queensland), and Forrest Gasdia (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University).

2015, February 27 - Ron Dantowitz joins Peter Jenniskens and other researchers in an airborne observing campaign to study the shallow reentry of ESA's fifth and final Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV5, Georges Lemaitre). Unfortunately, on February 3, the spacecraft develops a battery problem and has to be re-entered immediately after undock in daytime conditions, well before the February 27 date targeted for a night-time reentry. The mission is postponed until a future opportunity to study a shallow spacecraft entry. All efforts remain a great test of observing processes and hones the team to be prepared for a next announced asteroid impact.

2015, January 25 - Effective today, Tim Spahr has resigned as director of the Minor Planet Center. SAO scenior astrophysicist Matthew Holman has been appointed as interim director. Jose Luis Galache will be our future point of contact at the Minor Planet Center.

2014, November 30 - The ATLAS project posted an update today saying they are on schedule to become online at the end of 2015. [More here]

Pitt Island search

2014, September 21 - Greetings from Pitt Island (part of the Chatham Islands of New Zealand), where Peter Jenniskens engaged the community in searching for meteorites from an 0.82 kiloton fireball detected on May 16, 12:42:48 UT. The fireball was recorded by satellites from orbit and a nearby infrasound station on the main island, as first pointed out by Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario. In a project with meteor astronomer Jack Baggaley of the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, Jenniskens collected eye witness reports to refine the search area and gave talks at all schools on the islands. On Pitt Island, he was hosted by Suzanne Kiel, prinicipal at the Pitt Island school. Land owners and Department of Conservation staff gave permission to search. The search is ongoing. So far, only a beautifully carved Moriori adze (a hand ax) was found by assistant teacher, and small part Maori, Stacey Crawford.

2014, September 10 - Our proposal to NASA's Near Earth Object Observation program was selected in peer review and support was provided to help prepare for a future rapid response to small asteroid impacts. As a first project, the May 2014 impact of a bolide near the Chatham Islands will be investigated.

2014, July 15 - Peter Jenniskens presents the proposed NEXT TC3 program during a talk at the Asteroid Comets Meteors 2015 meeting in Helsinki, Finland [Abstract]

flight plan

Back from a successful mission. From left to right: Jim, Mike, Alan, Ron and pilot Connor.

2014, May 24 - Did you see it? There was a new shower in the sky last night and we had a prime view of it. Wheels up was right on schedule. We followed a northern flight path along the California coast, staying clear of clouds throughout the mission. All cameras were working as expected. About 12 hours of video was collected by five intensified cameras monitoring the horizon left and right of the aircraft, and at total of 72,764 spatial and 5,200 spectral images were taken with two Luminera 2-1R Silicon based cameras.

flight plan

SETI Institute research team ready for the shower. From left to right: Ron Dantowitz, Peter Jenniskens, Mike Koop and Jim Albers.

2014, May 23 - Everything came together as planned. The SETI Institute observing team is preparing to take to the skies this evening. Departure is scheduled for 10:30 pm PDT.

2014, May 22 - The SETI Institute will send Jenniskens and his observing team to the skies above 20,000 feet to observe above the clouds and atmospheric dust a predicted new meteor shower from comet 209P/Linear. The flight will originate from Palo Alto, Calif. at 10:00 PM PDT, head towards Seattle, and return to Palo Alto approximately four hours later. With only 1.5 days of warning, this will be an exercise for the proposed future rapid response to a next TC3 asteroid impact. [More here]; [Previous missions]

2014, May 15 - NASA selects "MANOS" for funding, an astronomical program to characterize small Near Earth Objects that pass close to Earth's orbit using an array of large telescopes. The MANOS consortium is headed by Nick Moskovitz of Lowell Observatory. We are requested to resubmit our proposal without the in-space characterization included.

2014 AA impact region
2014 AA impact region calculated by Steve Chesley (blue), with infrasound position in red.

2014, January 1 - After just over 6 years, another small asteroid is detected by the Catalina Sky Survey (again by astronomer Richard Kowalski), designated 2014 AA, and found to move on a trajectory to likely hit Earth 21 hours later. Unlike the case of 2008 TC3, this time the follow-up did not come together. Because of New Year day, the information is not immediately reviewed and reaches the observers too late to recover and study the asteroid before impact. Again, Steve Chesley of JPL's NEO Office calculates an impact region, but the lack of tracking data makes that an uncertain line stretching from central America to Africa. The potential impact region includes Sudan. Not knowing the exact location of the impact area, Laslo Evers of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute and Peter Jenniskens identify a signal triangulated from CNBTO infrasound network stations in Brazil and Bolivia as possibly from the impact. The site is in the Atlantic ocean just north of Brazil. Chesley confirms that this location is in his narrow impact area. Peter Brown of UWO, Canada, then extracts the Brazil station data and after manual analysis confirms the CNBTO early report. This faint distant rumble is all available evidence to confirm that the asteroid did indeed impact.

2013, May 10 - A proposal "Rapid Response to Announced Small Asteroid Impacts" is submitted to the NASA NEOO program. The proposal team consists of key players in the detection, tracking, characterization, and recovery of asteroid 2008 TC3, the nucleus of what will become a much larger Next TC3 Consortium, and includes Steve Chesley (JPL NEO Office), Steve Larson (Catalina Sky Survey P.I.), Tim Spahr (Minor Planet Center), Ron Dantowitz (Dexter Southfield School), Alan Fitzsimmons (Queen's University Belfast, U.K.), Eileen Ryan (Magdalena Ridge Observatory), John Tonry (ATLAS) and Muawia Shaddad (University of Khartoum, Sudan). Support for 5 years is requested to establish a program to prepare for and execute a rapid and effective response to a predicted Earth impactor, the next asteroid 2008 TC3. The objective is to fully characerize the asteroid before entry, to measure its internal strength and internal composition during entry, and to recover meteorites for extensive ground-based analysis. The ultimate goal is to forge links between meteorite mineralogy, meteoroid internal strength, and their parent asteroid spectral types, important data needed for the implementation of mitigation actions against a detected impact threat and for characterizing small Nar Earth Objects of the type that are targets for recovery and manned missions.

2013, March 9 - Three weeks after the February 15 asteroid impact, Peter Jenniskens supports a field study of the Chelyabinsk airburst, headed by Dr. Olga Popova of the Institute of Dynamics of Geospheres of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Results are published in Science.

meteorite find

2012, April 22 - The next biggest impact over land occurs this morning over the California Sierra Nevada mountains. Carbonaceous chondrites fall at Sutter's Mill, the site where the first gold was found that resulted in the 1849 California Gold Rush. The scientific study of the event is coordinated and results are published in Science and a special issue of MAPS.

2008, October 7 - A small asteroid is detected in space, tracked and studied, then impacts the Nubian Desert of northern Sudan. Peter Jenniskens travels to Sudan at the invitation of Sudaneese astronomer Dr. Muawia Shaddad of the University of Khartoum, who organizes staff members and students of the university to conduct a field study. After two hours of searching, student Mohammed Alameen recovers the first fragment of the asteroid. Later finds show the asteroid to be a mixed bag of rare ureilite meteorites and some ten different types of enstatite and ordinary chondrites. Results of the analysis are presented during a workshop at the University of Khartoum, held one year after the first find, and published in papers in Nature and a special issue of the journal Meteoritics and Planteray Science.

eye Report visual accounts of fireball sighting here.

Daily Updated Asteroid Flybys
Est. size
UTC: Coordinated Universal Time. Dist.: Distance from center of object to Earth's center. LD: Lunar Distance (384,460 km or 238,855 mi). Recent approaches appear in grey. Object list updated daily. For a complete list spanning the next 33 years visit the MPC's close approaches page.

Past projects:
Chatham Islands Fireball
2014 AA
Chelyabinsk airburst
Novato fall
Sutter's Mill fall
2008 TC3

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Large asteroid impacts:

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Curator: Peter Jenniskens
Last update: March 25, 2015

Hosted by: The SETI Institute
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Supporting programs:
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