I actually thought of naming this post “An Un-asked Question.” What has it been? Three weeks now? There have been all sorts of astronomers and amateurs calculating that amazing final approach of the meteor that went south of Chelyabinsk, that even just missing an airliner by seconds (perhaps even less than one second) and not so many hundreds of meters. And there have been several papers determining what the Apollo asteroid’s orbit was around the Sun and how it came up behind the Earth from a slightly low, elliptical path.
So there is a fairly well determined Phase 1 path, and there is a fairly consistent Phase 3 path as well, as shown below.
What no one has talked about is the Phase 2 path – the one that transitioned the meteor to its final approach to southern Siberia. Let’s briefly point out the particulars of Phase 1 and Phase 3.
THE PHASE 1 PATH
The orbit was determined by two scientists in Columbia to be that of an Apollo asteroid Near-Earth Object in an elliptical orbit mostly larger than Earth’s but whose perigee (closest approach to the Sun) is not far inside Earth’s orbit. Thus, its orboit as it begins moving away from the Sun crosses the Earth’s orbit it is traveling nearly parallel to the Earth – only about 15° from parallel. If the Earth happens to be in that part of its orbit at that time, then, the Earth gets a good long while to capture the asteroid.
Its orbit was in a plane tilted by about 4° to the Earth’s orbital plane. When it approached the Earth this is approximately the amount of vertical skew it had.
THE PHASE 3 PATH
This was the portion caught by all the dashcams, security cameras and hand-held cameras. Based on shadows several studies were able to triangulate the Phase 3 path, including its heading and its downward slope. These studies so far are preliminary and will be made more precise in the weeks and months to come. Its downward slope so far seems to be about 20°. This angle is steep enough that though some people got the impression that the object “grazed” the atmosphere and then returned to space. Some pretty well-informed people I know thought this, so it fooled some pretty good minds. At 20°, that object was doomed to never leave Earth. It was definitely on “final approach.” It was either going to burn up in the atmosphere or hit the ground.
As to the heading, generally during Phase 3 the object was coming “out of the Sun”, as someone said that first day. It was fortunate for observers of the videos that the Sun was also just rising at that time. The time was only about 4 minutes after technical sunrise, so the Sun was essentially sitting on the horizon. A sunrise calculator online gave a time of 4 minutes earlier than the dashcams were displaying. The calculator also gave an azimuth of 111°. (February 15th is 34 days before the Equinox, so the sunrise was to the south of due east, but not far.) Due east is 90°, so the Sun was on the horizon about 21° south of due east.
The object was shown in some of the videos to first be visible above the glow of the rising Sun and appeared to be about 3 or 4 Sun diameters to the left of the Sun. The Sun subtends an angle of just about 30 angular minutes, so the object was about 1°30′- 2°00′ left of the Sun, or at an azimuth of about 109°-109°30′. It’s path as viewed from the Chelyabinsk area was from that starting point and heading slightly to the right, crossing the glow of the Sun and continuing till it passed Chelyabinsk with about 45 km to spare.
The angle of that heading I determined to be that the object as going toward an azimuth of 279°00′, coming from an azimuth of 99°00′. One study I found showed it to be 279°15′. I used a single video taken in the town of Yeklut, which was directly under the trail. The video showed both start and end of the trail, and both pointing nearly exactly straight down at two points on buildings that I identified.
THE PROBLEM OF THAT 2ND PHASE
I you look at this diagram Phase 1 and Phase 3 are shown(no scale, but the angles and positions are pretty close):
So, what is the problem? The object came out of space and entered the atmosphere over Siberia and burned up almost over a good-sized Russian city. What’s the problem?
After viewing some of the videos, I was certain the object had gone pretty close to the Sun and was exiting the Sun’s neighborhood when Earth happened to be wandering by at the wrong time. When it was reported that the object was an Apollo asteroid and had come up on the Earth from behind, I refused to believe it. The evidence was staring us all in the face: The object came from the direction of the Sun. It could not come from both the direction of the Sun AND from behind us – the two directions were at right angles to each other. If one was true, the other couldn’t be.
Later I realized that both could, actually, be true. How?
It is important to think about the center of gravity as a single point. That is the point that is (mathematically and physics speaking here) affecting the object. The Earth’s “gravity well” – its region of highest gravity – can capture an object and make wrap around the Earth and make the object spiral in toward the Earth’s center of gravity. I figured that this object had done just that, and I was happy – until I saw that the transition could not be done in one pass.
Look at those diagrams and focus on two things: the Earth’s center of gravity, as it relates to the Phase 1 path and the Phase 3 paths, and the location of Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk is very nearly at the top of the Earth, if it is looked at from the side. For an object to hit on TOP of the Earth, way above the CG.
Note in BOTH of the views that the Phase 3 path is nearly at right angles to the incoming path. Meteors or asteroids or comets do not have steering wheels. They can not simply make a right turn at the corner. The turning mechanism s the mass of the Earth – the object is like a passenger on a bus, no capacity to navigate or steer the bus.
Let’s now think of the Earth as a bus. The “bus” is just coasting around in its orbit, with the Sun on the left and continually pulling at the Earth and preventing it from going out into space on a tangential line. The left side of the bus gets 24/7/365.2422 sunshine, even as the planet is spinning on its axis. The “front” of the bus is where dawn happens, along a line that covers one half the circumference of the planet – where the right side of the “bus” rotates across the line of the orbit.
It just so happened that the meteor arrived at dawn. Chelyabinsk was on the “dawn line” right then. That means that Chelyabinsk was sitting on the “front of the bus” – on the windshield, to be more precise. And because of its latitude anthe time of year, Chelyabinsk was also very HIGH on that line, very near the very top of the world (relative to the plane of the Earth’s orbit).
So, Chelyabinsk was on the middle of the windshield AND it was very high on the windshield.
Where was the meteor coming from? Behind. It was passing on the left, like a car in the USA overtaking a bus. But in this case, the car ended up very high on the bus’ windshield – and it did it without any steering.
How did it get turned right? And how did it get both turned right AND so high, almost on TOP of the Earth?
If it came in over the top, its wrap-around path would have been N-S.
If it came in underneath, its path would have been S-N.
If it came in around from the right, its path to Chelyabinsk would have been W-E.
Ergo, it must have come around from the left, so that its path would have been E-W.
But if it came in around the left, did it come in high or low? (above the CG or below?) We can’t talk about the Equator, because the Equator is tilted at about 23.5° – and the tilt at that season was mostly pointing away from the front of the “bus”.
If it came in high on the left, its path would have been originally down and to the right – fairly close to the E-W heading of Phase 3. Except that THAT E-W would have been in the southern hemisphere, traveling across the Indian ocean or the Southern Ocean. That is about 90° wrong. Another 90° wrongness.
If it came in low on the left, it wold have wrapped around the Earth and crossed the front of the “bus”, heading toward the W or NW as viewed from Chelyabinsk. It seems that the lower it tried to pass the Earth the higher its wrap-around orbit would have been. That seems to be the only general direction the object could have made a near approach to the Earth and ended up in the Phase 3 path on all the videos.
However, it does not seem possible that that double 90° right turn could have been done in one pass. The Phase 3 path was wrapping around the Earth’s CG, which was almost directly BELOW Chelyabinsk, That final Phase 3 path was AROUND the Earth bus, from one side around to the other. 90° to the original path – like screw threads on a screw. The object ca=me in along the screw shank, then something turned it to orbit in line with the screw threads. Does that compute? Not with me, it doesn’t.
The high velocity of the object would have tended to push it down toward the Equator – away from the orbit of Phase 3 we see at the end.
I posit, therefore, that since one orbit would not have been possible, that – IF the Phase 1 orbital path given by the scientists in Columbia and which other astronomers agree with – the object circled the Earth more than once.
But is that possible, given that high velocity – 13-19 km/sec – attributed to it?
(I am real;ly really REALLY tired and wil have to come back to this — 2013 March 6 3:30 am here)