Meteor search with Google jet

Nasa took Google searching to a new level today when they went hunting for meteors. Space scientists borrowed a private jet from the internet giant to fly over the Arctic and watch hundreds of shooting stars.

The team, led by Peter Jenniskens, were also treated to a dramatic display of the Northern Lights on their ten-hour flight.

They were monitoring a shower called the Quadrantids which was reaching its peak with a natural display of slightly late New Year fireworks.

It was caused when the Earth ran into a river of debris left by a passing asteroid called 2003 EH1, and these dust particles burned up in the atmosphere.

The Gulfstream V jet belongs to Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They keep it at Nasa’s Moffett Field base in California in return for allowing scientists to use it for occasional research.

The dust grains, called meteors, appear to burst from a constellation called Bootes, the herdsman. You may still spot some over the next couple of days.

The picture shows the team preparing to board their jet. Photo: Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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