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The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons

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Look! Up in the Sky!

Tuesday was the Canadian Space Society meeting. The speaker was Peter Brown of the University of Western Ontario, on Space Observation of Large Bolides (meteors).

Big meters (1 to 10 meters diameter) fall roughly once a week, but they are rarely observed form the ground. The American Department of Defense has these satellites optically observing the entire earth from high altitudes, looking for clandestine nuclear blasts, that can pick up the flashes caused by these meteors (smaller ones aren't bright enough to register). So for the past several years Dr. Brown and other have managed to get them to share their information, although they have to be careful about how they use it, as several things about the satellites are classified. A couple of times when he was asked a question at the meeting, he answered "I can't answer that because I want to stay out of jail".

The whole talk was great, but probably the most interesting item was a distribution map of these large meteors. The distribution is random, except in the vicinity of Borneo, and over South America. There are statistically more over Borneo than there should be, and South America is a black hole of scarcely any at all. This has held up for several years now. It may just be a wacky coincidence, but time will tell.