Did NASA change the direction of the falling meteor?

CLAIM: NASA changed the direction of the meteor that fell on the evening of 27 May.

FALSE

A meteor that fell into the atmosphere on the evening of 27 May was observed in many cities in Eastern Anatolia such as Rize, Artvin, Trabzon, Elazığ, Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Erzurum, Erzincan and Ardahan. The meteor’s sharp glare caused panic in some people, and the issue was conveyed to Teyit. Conspiracy theories about meteor fall also came out in a short time. The claim was shared on social media and various news websites.

Many videos allegedly belonging to the moment when a meteor fell were shared on social media. Some of these videos recorded in the provinces, such as Rize, Artvin, and Erzincan, were taken from the security camera, and the date written in the videos confirms that these videos were shot on the evening of 27 May. When we look at the metadata of the videos, we see that they were recorded on 27 May 2020.

Experts think this celestial occasion does not have any surprising aspect. Assoc. Prof. Ozan Ünsalan, the faculty member of the Ege University Physics Department, states that this is a typical meteor and that meteors fall into the world every day. Geological Engineer Prof. Dr. Osman Bektaş said that there is nothing to worry about and that we will observe meteor falls in August and October. Speaking to BBC Turkish, Ethem Derman stated that this is a very typical astronomical event.

Teyit reached Dr. Şirin Kaya, the faculty member of Sabancı University College of Engineering and Natural Sciences. She stated that there is nothing strange in the videos shared on social media. Meteorites are generally expected to shred by burning due to friction after entering the atmosphere. In other words, the claim that “why should meteor explode in the sky” has no ground. Meteors burn whin the atmosphere to which they enter at a speed of thousands of kilometers because of the friction force, leaving a mark in the sky.

Teyit also talked to Assoc. Dr. Tolgahan Kılıçoğlu, the faculty member of Ankara University Astronomy and Space Sciences Department. He said that it is an ordinary celestial occasion, and they observed similar incidents at least once a year in the observatory in Ankara. He stated that he thinks it is very small, and it can be one meter most when considering the glare in the videos. Also, he added, “When crushed, it may have spread around in pebble sizes. It may have never hit the ground, or it may have all been burned in the sky.”

The fall of the meteor can have nothing to do with NASA. DART, Double Asteroid Redirection Test, in the claim is a defense system project conducted by NASA. By this test, it is aimed to intervene in meteorites that have not yet entered the atmosphere and change their direction. Official information about the DART project is on the official website of NASA. The vehicle of the project will be launched into space in July 2021. DART is expected to hit a targeted asteroid in September 2022. So, the vehicle has not been launched yet. However, even if the vehicle has been launched, meteorites far from the world would be targeted.

It raises some doubts about such an experiment, like DART not done before. In the first planned attempt, high energy will emerge as a result of hitting the meteorite. An article published in the Planetary Science Journal wrote that a high amount of material would arise as a result of DART and that meteorites could pose a danger to satellites orbiting the Earth. DART program manager Tom Statler said that they “did not detect a significant debris hazardin their modeling

Figure 1: Two different views of the DART spacecraft

In his interview with Teyit, Tolgahan Kılıçoğlu said what happened on 27 May cannot be related to the DART and added, “DART will work on a couple of pre-planned asteroids. However, the asteroids to be tested are about 11 million kilometers away from the world. The incident that occurred in Turkey was a classic meteor burning at 10-100 kilometers high.”

Dr. Şirin Kaya also said that DART aims to create a defense system against meteors that may threaten the world in the future. DART doesn’t work like a remote-control system controlled from the world; a spacecraft will be launched into space and will try to change the direction by hitting its targeted asteroid.

In conclusion, the news of falling meteor on 27 May is accurate; however, it has nothing to do with NASA. The post in question is an example of fabricated content.

Sources

İHA, Göktaşı olduğu değerlendirilen cisimle ilgili açıklama!, 28 May 2020

DHA, Prof. Dr. Bektaş: We will see more falling meteor, it was just a beginning!, 28 May 2020

BBC Türkçe, Meteor: What do we know about the meteor that fell last evening and observed in11 provinces in Turkey?, 28 May 2020

Evrim Ağacı, What are the differences of Asteroid, Meteoroid, Meteor, Meteorite and Comet?, 24 January 2020

NASA, Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission

Sputnik Türkiye, NASA will try to change the direction of asteroids coming to the Earth by hitting them with the DART, 30 April 2020

The Planetary Science Journal, On the Delivery of DART-ejected Material from Asteroid (65803) Didymos to Earth, 23 March 2020

BBC Turkish, Is the test of NASA to hit asteroids and redirect them risky for the Earth?, 14 May 2020

Interview with Şirin Kaya, 28 May 2020, 15.56

Interview with Tolgahan Kılıçoğlu, 28 May 2020, 16.42

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Translation: Hilal Ebru Yakar