California residents will be glad to know their reservoirs are nearly full again after years of drought. New satellite photos show the levels of Shasta Lake, California’s largest reservoir, going from 31% capacity last November to nearly 100% in May 2023. The reservoir was filled with heavy rains and a significant mountain snowpack that melted into the nearby rivers.
This is the highest levels this lake has seen in over four years, following years of persistent and extreme drought in the US southwest. Scientists are working on ways to recharge ground reservoirs with any excess water, to minimize the effect of the next inevitable drought.
A view of Endeavour and SCA over California from one of NASA’s F/A-18 chase planes (NASA/DFRC)
We’ve shared several videos from Endeavour’s trip to Los Angeles last week, taken by excited spectators along various portions of the flight path, but what was it like for the crews of the two NASA F/A-18 chase planes that accompanied the orbiter and SCA every step of the way?
Watch the video below, and put yourself in the pilot’s seat…
Shared by NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the video shows footage taken from the viewpoint of one of the chase planes as Endeavour was ferried aboard a Shuttle Carrier Aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base to Los Angeles International Airport.
Along the way SCA pilots Jeff Moultrie and Bill Rieke, both from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, guided the 747 over such landmarks as the State Capitol in Sacramento, the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco, and NASA’s Ames Research Center.
Once over the Los Angeles area Endeavour passed over well-known landmarks like Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood sign, Dodger Stadium, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Malibu Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, and Disneyland.
After several low flybys of the runway — some under 300 feet! — the SCA touched down at LAX on Runway 25L at 12:51 p.m. PDT.
NASA’s four F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, operated by Dryden Flight Research Center, are commonly called chase planes and fill the role of escort aircraft during research missions. They also are used as camera platforms for research missions that must be photographed or videotaped. Two of these chase planes accompanied Endeavour on its flight for such documentation as well as for security.
See more images of the F/A-18s here, and for more photos of Endeavour’s trip to California check out the NASA photographer photo set on Flickr.
Actually it’s more like 3.5 times their weight in gold, according to today’s market value… and meteorite experts from SETI and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
During the daylight hours of April 22, 2012, reports came in from all over the north central California area of an extremely bright fireball — described as a “glittering sparkler” — and accompanying loud explosion. It was soon determined that this was the result of a meteoroid about the size of a minivan entering the atmosphere and disintegrating. It was later estimated that the object weighed about 70 metric tons and detonated with a 5-kiloton force.
Over a thousand meteorite hunters scrambled to the area, searching for any traces of the cosmic visitor’s remains. After a few days, several pieces of the meteorite were found and reported by five individuals, adding up to 46 grams in total.
Those pieces could be worth over $9,000 USD, according to Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office at Marshall Space Flight Center.
Based on today’s market, that’s about 3.6 times the value of gold (about $1,660 per troy ounce — 31.1 grams).
The high value is due to the extreme rarity of the meteorite fragments. The California fireball is now known to have been created by a CM chondrite, a type of carbonaceous meteorite with material characteristics similar to comets.
According to Franck Marchis, Planetary Astronomer at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and one of the coordinators of the meteorite reporting teams, CM chondrites appear to have been altered by water, and have deuterium-to-hydrogen ratios in line with what’s been measured in the tails of comets Halley and Hyakutake.
They also have been found to contain organic compounds and amino acids, lending to the hypothesis that such meteorites may have helped supply early Earth with the building blocks for life.
But due to their fragile composition, they are also incredibly rare. Only 1% of known meteorites are CM chondrites, making even the small handful of fragments found in California very valuable.
“This will be only the third observed CM fall in the US, after Crescent, OK, in 1936, (78 g) and Murray, KY, in 1950 (13 kg),” Marchis told Universe Today.
As far as what the finders will do with the fragments, that’s entirely up to them.
“They can sell them on eBay or they can lend them to the scientists… or make a donation.” Marchis said.
Just goes to show that all that glitters really isn’t gold — it could be even better.