A dazzling diurnal meteorite exploded in Cuba this month. Here's where he comes from

Astronomers have just received the goods on the meteor which broke out on Cuba earlier this month.

The day sky show On February 1, thousands of people dazzled thousands of people in western Cuba. Many of them have captured images of the meteor or trail of debris that he left behind after his fire, thus making it possible to reconstruct the path of the space rock.

"We were very fortunate that at least three relatively reliable videos, including one of incredible quality, are available on the Internet in such a short time," said Jorge Zuluaga, a professor at the University of California. Institute of Physics (IoP) of the University of Antioquia in Colombia, said in a statement.[[[[How to see the best 2019 meteor showers]

"Rebuilding the trajectory of a meteor requires at least three observers on the ground," Zuluaga added. "Although several satellite images have been recorded and also available online without any soil observations, accurate reconstruction is not feasible."

Trajectory of meteor fallen on Cuba on February 1, 2019, restored by a team of Colombian astronomers.

(Image: © Zuluaga et al./Google Earth)

Zuluaga and his team determined that the meteor had entered the Earth's atmosphere approximately 76.5 km above the Caribbean Sea, at a point 26 km off the south-west coast of Cuba. . The researchers found that the rock – a few meters wide and weighing about 360 tonnes (330 tonnes) – was traveling at a speed of about 64,000 km / h (40,300 mph).

The meteor moved north-northeastward in a relatively straight line. When the object reached an altitude of 17.5 km (27.5 km), it developed a smoky trail of cremated debris, which drew the eyes of countless observers to the ground.

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument boarded NOAA's GOES-16 satellite captured this 1 February meteor sight on Cuba (small blue spot down center). The largest blue arc on the upper left illuminates the Gulf of Mexico.

(Image: © NOAA / NASA / Center for Research and Transition on Short-Term Forecasts)

The researchers calculated that at an altitude of 22 km, the meteor had exploded. Hundreds of small rooms have rained on the island below. Many of these cosmic fragments have landed in the Viñales Natural Park, near the western tip of Cuba, but some pieces have hit homes in the area. If a hunk survived the breakup, he probably landed in the ocean off the northwestern coast of the island, scientists said.

Zuluaga and his colleagues have also extended their model of the rock path even further in the past. They determined that he originally occupied an elliptical orbit with a mean sun distance of 1.3 astronomical units. (An astronomical unit, or AU, is the average Earth-Sun distance – about 150 million km). It took the rock 1.32 years to orbit our star.

Scientists have used similar methods to reconstruct the path of the object that exploded on the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013. This meteor was about 400 times brighter than the recent event in Cuba and its air burst was far more powerful: the shockwave broke thousands of windows in Chelyabinsk, injuring at least 1,200 people with splinters of flying glass.

In the new study submitted, which you can read for free at online preprinting website arXiv.org, the researchers also tested a method developed last year by Zuluaga and his colleague Mario Sucerquia (also author of this article).

This method, called gravitational ray tracing (GRT), uses computer algorithms to track false impactors up to their origin in space. Scientists have located patterned rocks that have found themselves in orbits similar to real earth near Earth. asteroids, reasoning that such orbits in real life would have a decent chance of producing rocks impacting the Earth.

This work has made it possible to "predict" the meteors of Chelyabinsk and Cuba, the researchers said. For example, the GRT models suggested that a striking Chelyabinsk impactor would likely arrive from part of the sky northeast of this location, at an angle of 20 degrees to the horizon. The actual object came from the east, with an angle of exactly 20 degrees.

Two examples are not enough to prove that the method works, of course. But it's a start, said team members.

"It is only after the recent digital boom that we realized how much the impact of small meteoroids on populated areas could be dangerous," Sucerquia said. the same statement. "Unfortunately, we are not yet able to defend our society against these threats, and our work suggests that in principle we could be prepared, at least with some knowledge, for future impacts."

Mike Wall's book on the search for extraterrestrial life, "Over there"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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