A week before Christmas last year, there was a meteor that none of us even knew about. Now it wasn’t one that put us at risk but it was a reminder of how hard it could be to miss the ones that put us at risk of the end.
On Friday, previously unreleased satellite photos of a powerful asteroid that appeared just above the Bering Sea were released by NASA after it was discovered in photos.
The explosion unleashed around 173 kilotons of energy, more than 10 times that of the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima in World War II.
Images captured minutes after the fireball disintegrated in the atmosphere show the shadow of the meteor’s trail cast on top of clouds, elongated by the sun’s low position.
The super-heated air turns the clouds to an orange tint in the meteor’s wake.
The pictures that were taken were from two NASA instruments on board the Terre satellite.
A still image was taken at 2350 GMT, while five of the nine cameras on the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument took another sequence of photos at 2355, which NASA collated into a GIF that shows the orange trail.
NASA estimates that the meteor occurred at 23:48 GMT.
Meteors are rocks from outer space that become incandescent upon entering earth’s atmosphere as a result of friction. They are also known as shooting stars. Pieces that survive intact and hit the ground are known as meteorites, which are very common for meteor showers and are sights to see.
It was the most powerful explosion in the atmosphere since the fireball that burst over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk in 2013. That was 440 kilotons, and left 1,500 people injured, mostly from glass flying out of smashed windows.
This time around, the blast occurred over waters, hundreds of kilometers off the Russian coast.
The first photo of the event that was happening was caught by a Japanese weather satellite and was just released this week as well.