Monday, November 29, 2010

Fire in the Nubian sky

Saudi-Aramco World (Ann Chandler)

Sudan rather than Egypt, and not archaeology - but it's a slow news day today.

Jarred awake by a thunderous explosion, Abdel Moneim Magzoub sat bolt upright in his sleeping cot on the porch of Station 6, the railway stop in northern Sudan where he worked as an attendant. It was just before dawn on October 7, 2008. His heart pounding, he woke in time to see a fireball careening through the sky and explode a second time, leaving a glowing cloud. He had no idea what he had just seen.

Astronomer Richard Kowalski, monitoring the night skies from the summit of Mount Lemmon, near Tucson, Arizona, less than 24 hours before, knew exactly what Magzoub saw. Kowalski tracks asteroids. He had monitored the white blip that crossed his screen at 6:39 that morning and forwarded its coordinates to the Minor Planet Center (mpc) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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