A brilliant daytime meteor exploded over Cuba this month. Here’s where it came from


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

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

“We had been very fortunate that not less than three comparatively dependable movies, together with one with an unimaginable high quality, may very well be obtainable on the web in such a short while,” Jorge Zuluaga, a professor on the Institute of Physics (IoP) on the College of Antioquia in Colombia, mentioned in an announcement. [How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2019]

“Reconstructing the trajectory of a meteor requires not less than three observers on the bottom,” Zuluaga added. “Though a number of satellite tv for pc photos had been recorded and in addition obtainable on-line, with out observations from the bottom, the exact reconstruction shouldn’t be possible.”

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Zuluaga and his staff 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. On the time, the rock — considered a couple of meters huge 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 article 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.

At an altitude of 13.7 miles (22 km), the meteor exploded in an airburst, the researchers calculated. A whole lot of small items rained down on the island beneath. Many of those cosmic bits landed in Viñales Pure Park, close to Cuba’s western tip, however some chunks hit homes within the area. If an enormous piece survived the breakup, it most likely 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 mean distance from the solar of 1.three astronomical models. (One astronomical unit, or AU, is the typical 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 article that exploded over the Russian metropolis of Chelyabinsk in February 2013. That meteor was about 400 occasions brighter than the current Cuba occasion, and the previous’s airburst was way more highly effective: The shock wave shattered hundreds of home windows in Chelyabinsk, injuring not less than 1,200 folks with shards of flying glass.

Within the newly submitted examine, which you’ll learn free of charge on the on-line preprint web 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 creator of the current paper).

This methodology, known as gravitational ray tracing (GRT), makes use of pc algorithms to trace mock impactors again to their origins in house. The scientists flagged modeled rocks that ended up in orbits much 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 very good job of “predicting” the Chelyabinsk and Cuba meteors, the researchers mentioned. For instance, the GRT fashions steered 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 strategy works, in fact. However it’s a begin, staff members mentioned.

“Solely after the current digital increase have we realized how frequent and probably hazardous may the affect of small meteoroids be on populated areas,” Sucerquia mentioned in the identical assertion. “Sadly, we’re not but in a position to defend our society in opposition to these threats. Our work means that, in precept, we may very well be ready, not less than with some data, for future impacts.”

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