Estimated to have released the energy equivalent to a 5 kiloton nuclear bomb when it exploded over the Central Valley of California, a minivan sized meteor was photographed (above) as it passed East to West over the Sierra Nevada mountains near Reno Nevada, around 8:00 AM Phoenix time last Sunday (1500 UTC).
The bolide, or extremely bright meteor, weighed around 70 tons, according to Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Dawn mission to Vesta has been so smooth and uneventful that the entire 40 day reserve at Vesta has been allocated to additional low level and high level scientific observations.
The low level (average altitude 130 miles or 210 kilometers) imaging, gamma ray and neutron detector observations, and gravity data gathering will continue until 1 May 2012.
After that, Dawn will spiral upward to a high altitude orbit for additional mapping. in July of 2011, much of the Northern Hemisphere was in shadow. Now, some of that region is in sunshine, and Dawn can gather details from there.
Dawn is now scheduled to depart for Ceres on 26 August, arriving as planned in February of 2015.