A Brilliant Daytime Meteor Exploded Over Cuba This Month. Here's Where It Came From

A Brilliant Daytime Meteor Exploded Over Cuba This Month. Here’s Where It Came From

Astronomers simply obtained the products on the meteor that flared up over Cuba earlier this month.

The daytime sky show dazzled hundreds of individuals throughout western Cuba on Feb. 1. Many of these of us captured footage of the meteor or the path of particles it left behind when it burned up, allowing the reconstruction of the area rock’s path.

“We were very lucky that at least three relatively reliable videos, including one with an incredible quality, could be available on the internet in such a short time,” Jorge Zuluaga, a professor on the Institute of Physics (IoP) on the University of Antioquia in Colombia, mentioned in a press release. [How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2019]

“Reconstructing the trajectory of a meteor requires at least three observers on the ground,” Zuluaga added. “Although several satellite images were recorded and also available online, without observations from the ground, the precise reconstruction is not feasible.”

Trajectory of the meteor that fell over Cuba on Feb. 1, 2019, as reconstructed by a crew of Colombian astronomers. 

(Image: © Zuluaga et al./Google Earth)

Zuluaga and his crew decided that the meteor entered Earth’s ambiance about 47.5 miles (76.5 kilometers) over the Caribbean Sea, at some extent 16 miles (26 km) off Cuba’s southwestern coast. At the time, the rock — considered just a few meters large and to weigh about 360 tons (330 metric tons) — was touring roughly 40,300 mph (64,800 km/h), the researchers discovered.

The meteor moved north-northeast in a comparatively straight line. When the item reached an altitude of 17.1 miles (27.5 km), it developed a smoky path of incinerated particles, which caught the eyes of numerous observers on the bottom. 

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument aboard NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite tv for pc captured this view of the Feb. 1 meteor over Cuba (small blue patch at backside middle). The bigger arc of blue within the higher left is lightning over the Gulf of Mexico.

(Image: © NOAA/NASA/Short-term Prediction Research and Transition Center)

At an altitude of 13.7 miles (22 km), the meteor exploded in an airburst, the researchers calculated. Hundreds of small items rained down on the island under. Many of those cosmic bits landed in Viñales Natural Park, close to Cuba’s western tip, however some chunks hit homes within the area. If a giant piece survived the breakup, it in all probability landed within the ocean off the island’s northwest coast, the scientists mentioned.

Zuluaga and his colleagues additionally prolonged their mannequin of the rock’s path even additional again in time. They decided that it initially occupied an elliptical orbit with a median distance from the solar of 1.three astronomical items. (One astronomical unit, or AU, is the common Earth-sun distance — about 93 million miles, or 150 million km). The rock took 1.32 years to finish one orbit round our star.

The scientists used comparable strategies to reconstruct the trail of the item that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013. That meteor was about 400 occasions brighter than the latest Cuba occasion, and the previous’s airburst was much more highly effective: The shock wave shattered hundreds of home windows in Chelyabinsk, injuring at the least 1,200 individuals with shards of flying glass.

In the newly submitted research, which you’ll be able to learn free of charge on the online preprint site arXiv.org, the researchers additionally examined a technique developed final 12 months by Zuluaga and fellow IoP researcher Mario Sucerquia (who’s additionally an writer of the current paper).

This methodology, referred to as gravitational ray tracing (GRT), makes use of laptop algorithms to trace mock impactors again to their origins in area. The scientists flagged modeled rocks that ended up in orbits just like these of actual near-Earth asteroids, reasoning that such orbits in actual life would have an honest risk of manufacturing Earth-impacting rocks.

Such work did a great job of “predicting” the Chelyabinsk and Cuba meteors, the researchers mentioned. For instance, the GRT fashions instructed that an impactor hitting Chelyabinsk would possible arrive from a patch of sky to the northeast of that location, at an angle of 20 levels to the horizon. The precise object got here from the east, at angle of precisely 20 levels.

Two examples aren’t almost sufficient to show that the tactic works, after all. But it is a begin, crew members mentioned.

“Only after the recent digital boom have we realized how frequent and potentially hazardous could the impact of small meteoroids be on populated areas,” Sucerquia mentioned in the same statement. “Sadly, we are not yet able to defend our society against these threats. Our work suggests that, in principle, we could be prepared, at least with some knowledge, for future impacts.”

Mike Wall’s guide in regards to the seek for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook



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