A powerful fireball exploded last December in the wilderness of eastern Russia. Satellites have captured everything.
I was probably taking a last-minute Christmas present when it happened. On December 18 at 11:48 local time, a meteoroid exploded with 10 times the force of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima on the Bering Sea. It became the second most powerful meteoric explosion of the century, after the Chelyabinsk explosion in 2013, which released the energy equivalent of 20 to 30 atomic bombs.
If there had been eyewitnesses, we would have heard of the Bering explosion in minutes, but that happened under the cloud cloud in a sparsely populated area of the east coast of the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula (58.6 ° N, 174.2 ° W). Military satellites designed to detect nuclear explosions have detected the explosion, as well as more than 16 infrasound detectors in the world. Fortunately for us, it was the same for the Japanese satellite Himawari 8, which took striking images of the soot dust trail eliminated by the meteoroid during its passage in the atmosphere. The images also captured the actual meteor – an orange trail of ionized air. If you look at it again and again, you can actually see the dust materialize as the meteoric glow fades. Rare images indeed!
Peter Brown, a meteorologist and planetary astronomer at the University of Western Ontario, tweeted the news for the first time on March 8. Now he goes around the internet in different forms, including being falsely reported on some sites as occurring in Greenland. On the basis of imagery and infrasound data, the asteroid responsible for all this noise was about 10 meters wide, a little larger than a two-storey building. It wrapped the force of about 176 kilotons of TNT and would have made a spectacular sight. Maybe the video on the ground can still surface.
Given the magnitude of the explosion, it is quite possible that meteorites fell, probably in the Bering Sea. The fall of meteorites in Cuba on 1 February caused a much less powerful explosion – only in the kiloton range – but generated a memorable boom and flooded the region with many stony meteorites. Major explosions like the Kamchatka meteor occur about three to four times a century.
Fireball Explosion on Pinar del Rio, Cuba, February 1st. You can hear the explosion at the end of 55 seconds.
Astronomers have discovered more than 90% of asteroids close to the Earth of a width greater than one kilometer – those that would have serious consequences in the event of a collision. But the little ones, like Chelyabinsk or Tunguska? Almost all are not advertised simply because they are so small that they escape our attention. Fortunately, the atmosphere is an excellent defense against objects up to several tens of meters.
You can always check out the latest significant meteor explosions on NASA's Fireball and Bolide Data page, which also includes more details on the impact of the Bering Sea.
We have also just learned that NASA 's Terra Earth Observation satellite has captured a picture of the dust trail. Much of the mass of a meteoroid is released as dust, some of which ultimately serve as nuclei for the formation of noctilucent clouds, pale blue clouds that shine just above the clouds. North skyline at the end of the twilight of summer. In this way, such dramatic and potentially harmful events every day confirm the cosmic connection of the Earth.