In Soviet Russia, asteroid plays YOU!

The nerd community had a bit of news earlier today: a meteor streaking across the skies of Russia.  Since everyone in Russia seems to have a dashcam (apparently it’s a car insurance requirement over there due to police/judicial corruption), we even got footage of it:

While the meteor didn’t cause any damage itself, the sonic blasts were significantly more destructive; current reports seem to indicate around 400 injured, mainly from broken/falling glass.  Not surprising: the sonic wave arrived ~30 seconds after the meteor passed over, and a lot of people would have been at various windows having a look at what had just happened (and in their defence, if I saw a massive flare like that, with a beautiful contrail in its wake, I’d be out there as well trying to get photos for this blog!).  It’s similar to tsunamis: most fatalities happen to people who chase the receding sea, unaware that the reason for the receding waters is that they’re about to un-recede in a rather spectacular and destructive way.

(You may want to turn your speakers/headclamps down for the sonic blast videos, unless you either enjoy extremely loud bangs or you’d like a crash course in Russian swear words…)

Of course, being Russia and therefore having Russian temperatues, blown-out windows are a serious problem in winter, so hopefully the emergency services there are more jacked up than ours.

The big question here is: is this related to the asteroid 2012 DA14?  For those of you living under a rock, it’s an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 50 meters, an estimated mass of 190,000 metric tons — and it will be passing approximately 27,000 kilometres from Earth’s surface in a few hours (19:25 UTC, 21:25 South African time).  Over on Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait seems to think that it’s totally unrelated:

For one thing, this occurred about 16 hours before DA14 passes. At 8 kilometers per second that’s nearly half a million kilometers away from DA14. That puts it on a totally different orbit.  For another, from the lighting, time of day, and videos showing the rising Sun, it looks like this was moving mostly east-to-west. I may be off, but that’s how it looks. DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, so any fragment of that rock would also appear to move south-to-north.

However, some folks over on Slashdot aren’t so sure:

Not necessarily. Imagine a basketball in front of you. That is the Earth. Now draw an imaginary line from your nose to the left side of the basketball. Your line is going east to west. Now draw another line to the right of the basketball. Your line is now going west to east. Same point of origin. Same basic direction of movement. Different perceived trajectory for those living on the basketball.

Information on the meteor is still rather sketchy, although we may get a better picture in the next few days — it appears that the meteor broke up in the atmosphere and may have rained down some chunks on the ground.  If true, and if and when those chunks are found, we may learn more.

For now, I’m going to have to end off with this image by EUMETSAT, showing the vapour trail:

Meteor vapour trail, 15th Feb 2013

UPDATE: 6000.co.za reminded me that something similar happened in Gauteng back in 2009.

Normal service shall resume shortly…

Yes, I’ve dropped off the grid.  We moved into our “final” new home on Friday, and our wonderful fixed line provider dropped the ball on moving our line and are now only scheduling the installation for the end of the week.  I’m still around though, just generally out of touch for the time being.

While we wait for normal service to resume (though I can’t promise whether or not that will be shortly), here’s a clip of some crazy longboarding down this stretch of Kloof Nek to keep you all entertained:

It’s fire season, again…

So, with the end of January fast approaching, the Cape Peninsula’s fire season is in full swing again.

I posted last year on the havoc that a small uncontained fire on some open areas near the office park wreaked on the afternoon scrummage on the N2 leaving the CBD but, us city-dwellers have it comparatively good.  The rural areas have it far worse.  Case in point: the Hermanus/Stanford area (just over an hour’s drive away, unless you foolishly attempt it on a Friday afternoon when everyone going away for the weekend has the same general idea) had a massive blaze over the Christmas and New Year period that took six days to contain (and did significant damage to the Hermanus Yacht Club).  The photos posted on the South African Weather Observation and Disaster Service blog pretty much say it all.

Today, the mountains separating Stellenbosch from Franschhoek is Ground Zero.  Megan (who I mentioned in one of my ancient posts here) took this photo earlier today from the University of Stellenbosch’s Danie Craven Stadium, and has been kind enough to let me reproduce it here.  Once again, the photo tells the story.

Stellenbosch Fire!

Yup, it can (and does!) get pretty bad around here.  I was given a guided tour of one of the Stellenbosch wine farms around nine months ago, and I recall our tour guide mentioning that all of the area’s wine farmers have a genuine fear of blazes such as this.  Not really surprising.

The fire situation around this time of year is problematic enough that the provincial government has published a brief “what-if?” guide.  Still, prevention is better than cure here: please don’t be the person who sets the next one off.  If you habitually smoke and toss your cigarette butt out of your car window, I’m looking at you here…

One more reason to love Cape Town

How many places around the world does one get to pull off and take photos like this on one’s drive home?  (And have the added bonus of avoiding a spot of nasty traffic on the R27 while you’re at it…)

FB_IMG_13575767176779901 IMAG0234

Malibu, eat your heart out.

(Yes, I know that I’ve promised sunrise photos from Fish Hoek or Simonstown.  I haven’t forgotten about that… thing is, I have to get up really early for those — I’m not a morning person! — plus, it’s ridiculously far to drive there now.  It’s still on my list of things to do, but it’s one of those “it will be done when it will be done, and not a moment sooner or later” things.)

Cape Town, 2am

The joys of working for an ISP: I had to go into the office last night/this morning to perform some maintenance that simply couldn’t be done at any other time.  Everything went smoothly though; I was done and off home a lot earlier than I was originally anticipating.

I did snap this shot of central Cape Town while I was there though: