A bus-sized meteor exploded in Earth’s atmosphere on Dec. 18, 2018, with an impact energy of roughly 10 atomic bombs. It happened without any warning!
During the last year’s cold December scientists observed a meteor explosion over the Bering Sea. It’s the second largest fireball of its kind to occur this century, after the Chelyabinsk event in Russia six years ago. The Chelyabinsk meteor’s shockwave caused around 1,200 injuries through shattered windows and other damage to buildings.
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However, despite this, no one saw December’s fireball coming and hardly anyone noticed it was happening.
The meteor was about 10 meters long and weighed more than 1,500 tons. It was traveling through the atmosphere at about 71,582 mph (115,200 kilometers per hour) when it exploded. The sneaky projectile released a blast with an impact energy of 173 kilotons at just 25.6 kilometers above Earth’s surface.
This release of energy is comparable to 724,000 average lightning strikes. While this might sound a lot it’s worth noting that an average hurricane releases about this much energy through cloud and rain formation every single second.
The location was too remote for anyone on the ground to spot the fireball, but monitoring stations across the world recorded the impact.
NASA learned about the December impact thanks to the U.S. Air Force, whose missile-monitoring satellites were among the first to detect the blast.
Infrasound detectors also recorded the impact’s boom giving scientists enough data to draw some basic conclusions about the sneaky fireball.
Why No One Noticed It?
Due to the meteor’s tiny size, the world’s asteroid-monitoring groups failed to see the rock headed our way. Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland, told New Scientist that most modern telescopes are best able to detect objects measuring several hundred meters or more in diameter, making smaller objects like this one easy to miss. Near-Earth objects (NEO’s) measuring 460 feet (140 m) across have the potential to obliterate entire US states if allowed to pass through the atmosphere. So, NASA asteroid hunters are most concerned about identifying these relatively big NEO’s.
However, fireballs this big and bright only happen two or three times a century.