The Massive Meteor Explosion that Scientists Almost Missed

In 2018, a meteor, crossed the sky before exploding with ten times the power of an atomic bomb.

On December 18th 2018, a space rock going 71,500 miles per hour passed into the earth’s atmosphere before exploding. The explosion occurred between Russia and Alaska right over the Bering Sea. The meteor was 16 miles above the ocean and it discharged 173 kilotons of energy after the explosion.

Before all of this information was released he U.S. Air Force had to make sure it was a natural event, one that wasn’t caused by a weapon. Though the Air Force knew about the meteor explosion, it was Peter Brown of Western University in Ontario who tipped off the public. Brown studied infrasound data gathered by Comprehensive Nuclear-Test- Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) stations. Many stations had detected sounds from the meteor even though it was out at sea. The meteor was 20-25 seconds and amounted to 100-200 kilotons, according to the infrasound. Brown says there are half a dozen earth-based events having to do with the atmosphere every day, but this was more unlikely to be one of them considering the meteor was not near land.

The event was further confirmed by U.S Air Force Satellites, building a consolidated picture; using multiple data sources.

Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer, explained that at first the Air Force sensors noticed what they thought was a nuclear weapon. So, they believed it was an explosion from a missile or bomb.

In February 2013, a similar meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The difference was that the explosion at Chelyabinsk had an infrasound period of 32 seconds and amounted to 500 kilotons

Twenty Five years ago, NASA’s Johnson, who is now a veteran, wanted to focus on space rocks and especially Earth threatening rocks. This event was smaller than others, but the issue became a wakeup call. Johnson says there is much work to be done, but “I think we’re at that tipping point right now, getting the support to fit this all together and reach those goals that I set for such a program 25 years ago.”

[Source: Scientific American]

Kara, this is really interesting. Thank you! – AshleyVerona (2020-03-16 20:01)