Published: Mon, March 25, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA Captured Images Of A Giant Meteor Explosion Over Earth

NASA Captured Images Of A Giant Meteor Explosion Over Earth

If you look closely, you can also spot the fiery orange cloud left behind from the meteor super-heating the air as it passed through at a speed of 115,200 kilometres per hour (71,600 miles per hour). The long, dark streak at the center of the image is actually a shadow of the meteor's trail cast on top of clouds. It exploded about 15 miles above the Earth's surface.

"The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 kilotons of energy, or more than 10 times the energy of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima during World War II", NASA said on Friday. The space agency watches for near-Earth objects in the range of 460 feet (140 m) across and larger, which would wipe out an entire US state. It was captured by Terra's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).

The meteor that exploded over the Bering Sea on December 18, 2018, was 32 feet (10 meters) in diameter and weighed 1,500 tons (1,360 metric tons). NASA says the satellite was created to last for five years, but has completed more than 2.5 billion miles of flight around Earth in its near 20-year journey.

The "fireball", NASA's term for an exceptionally bright meteor visible over a wide area, exploded about 16 miles above the Bering Sea on December 18. That's less powerful than the devastating fireball that impacted Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation in 2013, but it's still the second-largest meteor explosion of the last few decades.

It's hard for most meteors to survive a descent through Earth's atmosphere, as they're baked and scorched by friction while plummeting through the sky.

Fireball over the Bering Sea.

In 2013, a large meteor exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, damaging buildings and injuring over 1,000 people. Most were hurt by glass shattered by the explosion, though some experienced eye pain and ultraviolet burns from the intense light and heat of the blast.

A meteor needn't be too big to make a vibrant scene. It's unclear how large the Tunguska meteor was, but the lowest estimates put it at three times the size of the Chelyabinsk meteor.

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