Thought to have evaded cameras, new footage shows the huge meteor that exploded dramatically over the Bering Sea last year.
Unlike the Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013 that was seen across the world as it entered Earth’s atmosphere, last year’s meteor over the Bering Sea was believed to have evaded all cameras. In fact, it was only recently that scientists from observatories across the world began to look back through subsequent data to find traces of the large object.
NASA estimated that the meteor would have been 10 metres in diameter with a weight of more than 1,300 metric tonnes. An object of such size would have torn through Earth’s atmosphere at a blistering speed of more than 115,000kph and exploded 25km above the surface of the sea located between Russia and Alaska.
The resulting explosion was seriously powerful, with estimates putting it as being equivalent to 174 kilotonnes of TNT, or more than 10 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Despite all this, the remoteness of the region meant that there was no footage of the space debris exploding over the sea, at least until now.
At the weekend, NASA announced that two instruments aboard the Terra satellite in orbit did in fact capture images of the meteor remnants. The scene – now turned into a GIF – shows the shadow of the meteor’s trail through Earth’s atmosphere, cast on the cloud tops and elongated by the low sun angle, to the north-west of the frame.
The still image, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument, is a true-colour image showing the remnants of the meteor’s passage, seen as a dark shadow cast on thick, white clouds.
NASA has said that the object was the most powerful observed since 2013; however, the remoteness of the region and the altitude at which it exploded meant that there would have been no threat to anyone down below.
Explaining why it was not originally picked up, NASA said that it typically only looks for near-Earth objects that pose a real threat to humans below, such as ones that would measure more than 140 metres or more in diameter.