A SPECTACULAR fireball was spotted gliding over the south of Spain this Monday night.

The fireball was recorded on by the SMART project detectors from the astronomical observatories of Sevilla, La Sagra (Granada), La Hita (Toledo), Sierra Nevada (Granada), and Calar Alto (Almeria), after entering the atmosphere at a speed of 50,000 kilometres per hour.

The rock hit the atmosphere at about 23:33 local time on Monday night and generated a fireball that began at an altitude of about 83 km over the southwest of the province of Malaga, and ended at a height of around 38 km over the east of the province of Sevilla.

The event was analysed by the principal investigator of the SMART project, Dr. Jose M. Madiedo, from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC).

According to Madiedo, the fireball was particularly striking because of its relatively slow speed, as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere at about 50,000 kilometres per hour, which allowed many people to see it in detail.

“Normally this is not the case, as these are very fast phenomena that happen in the blink of an eye. But it was spectacular in the sense of its brightness and the explosions along the trajectory.” he said.

“In addition, people could clearly see how the rock was breaking up into smaller fragments that were left behind.” Madiedo added.

Another peculiarity about this particular fireball is that it was generated by a rock from the potentially hazardous asteroid 2004HW.

According to astronomers, a potentially hazardous object (PHO) is a near-Earth object – either an asteroid or a comet – with an orbit that can make close approaches to the Earth and is larger than 140 metres in diameter and if they were to hit the Earth, they could cause significant damage.

“But what hit the atmosphere was a rock that came off the asteroid, not the asteroid itself.” Madiedo explained.

“And that rock was completely destroyed in the atmosphere before it hit the ground because the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a shield to protect us from these impacts. So there has been no risk situation,” he added.

Madiedo then shared an image of its trajectory on twitter.

The rock entered the atmosphere over Malaga at 50,000 km/h. It was completely destroyed when it was 38 km above the province of Seville, without posing any risk. The image shows its trajectory.


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