Published: Tue, March 19, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Huge meteor explosion over Earth, NASA confirm

Huge meteor explosion over Earth, NASA confirm

Lindley Johnson, a planetary defence officer at Nasa, told BBC News that blasts of this size were expected only two or three times a century.

A meteor exploded over the Bering Sea past year, creating the second largest recorded fireball in three decades, according to NASA.

It was the largest air blast since another meteor hurtled into the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, in Russia's south-west, six years ago, and the second largest in the past 30 years. The fireball released a blast with an impact energy of 173 kilotons at just 25.6 kilometers above Earth's surface.

"That was 40% the energy release of Chelyabinsk, but it was over the Bering Sea, so it didn't have the same type of effect or show up in the news", explained Kelly Fast, the leader of the Near-Earth Objects programme at NASA.

NASA conducted independent research into the event using U.S. military satellites, and was able to determine that the meteor was traveling at some 115,200kph (71,600 miles per hour) and exploded at an altitude of 25.6km (16 miles). NASA scientist Kelly Fast delivered the news at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in the USA state of Texas this week.

The Bering Sea meteor reportedly exploded near a commercial airline flightpath between North America and Asia, though no sightings have yet been reported.

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However, according to scientists' estimates, it will take them another 30 years to meet their 90 percent objective. The real danger, NASA says, comes from near-Earth objects (NEOs) that have a diameter of more than 460 ft. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) then made a precision determination of its orbit, which was used to calculate a probable impact location.

They said a monitoring system would need space-based observatories as well as ground telescopes to give it any chance of success.

This week, NASA expects an asteroid up to twice the size of the meteor that landed in Russian Federation to pass by Earth unusually closely.

She said that if the mission did not launch, projections suggested it would "take us many decades to get there with the existing suite of ground-based surveys".

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