See the suites of a fireball meteor exploding above the clouds

The shadow of the meteor trail (about 100 miles long), and the warm air shining in its wake.
The shadow of the meteor trail (about 100 km long) and the warm air that crosses it. NASA / GSFC / LaRC / JPL-Caltech, MISR team

In December 2018, during the In the Bering Sea, along the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Russia, a meteor ball of fire exploded with a force more than 10 times greater than that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The explosive meteor is the third most powerful recorded since 1900, and it is worth thanking the stars who dropped it over the water: In February 2013, an asteroid exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, breaking windows on more than 200 squares. miles and injuring over 1600 people. (Fortunately, no deaths have been attributed to the blast.)

So if a meteor explodes over the water and nobody is there to see it, does it start a fire? This is (among others) what NASA is used for. The newly released images from the Terra satellite's multi-angle imaging spectro-radiograph (MISR) capture the view above the clouds, just minutes after the blast. The shots capture the shadow of the track of the meteor through the top of the clouds, as well as the burned and glowing aura he left after crossing the air at a speed of 100,000 km / h. This animation contains images of five of the nine Terra MISR cameras:

An animation of the shadow and air burned right after the explosion.
An animation of the shadow and air burned right after the explosion. NASA / GSFC / LaRC / JPL-Caltech, MISR team

according to ScienceAlert, the meteorite physicist Peter Brown, of Western University, Canada, used available data to measure the meteor's diameter at about 33 feet and its mass at about 1,400 tons. This places the meteor comfortably below NASA's threshold for near-Earth objects – 140 meters – or about 460 feet – but the highly destructive Chelyabinsk asteroid was similarly small – itself only 55 feet in diameter , according to Brown.

Fireballs – or meteors brighter in the sky than Venus – are actually not particularly rare. NASA has recorded 775 since April 15, 1988. As this map shows, they are hardly exclusive to Russian airspace. But to see one more closely, what happens as he goes into the atmosphere? It is special.

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