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A bright, sodium-laced fireball over Spain

4 Mar 2020, 14:00 UTC
A bright, sodium-laced fireball over Spain
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On 22 February 2020, at 23:22 UTC, a bright, slow fireball dropped out of the Spanish sky. We use the term fireball for exceptionally bright meteors, and this one glowed at magnitude -9 — a hundred times brighter than Venus! That must have been quite a sight.

A lot of people did see it, in fact, and it was also caught on cameras as part of the SMART network: Spectroscopy of Meteoroids in the Atmosphere with Robotic Technologies. These are automated cameras in Spain pointed skyward specifically to catch bright meteors and triangulate on their 3D trajectories. The principal investigator of SMART, Dr. Jose M. Madiedo, analyzed the data and was able to find out quite a bit about the rock that burned up.

It entered the atmosphere at 43,000 kilometers per hour (about 12 km/sec, which is pretty slow for a meteoroid) and started to glow when it was about 70 km up, burning up completely over the Mediterranean Sea when it was still 29 km above the ground. Backtracking the path it took into space, he was able to determine the orbit of the object was similar to that of asteroids.

When I saw this on Twitter via ...

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