A Brilliant Daytime Meteor Exploded Over Cuba This Month. Here’s Where It Came From

Astronomers simply got the products on the meteor that flared over Cuba previously this month.

The daytime sky program impressed countless individuals throughout western Cuba on Feb. 1. A number of those folks caught video of the meteor or the path of particles it left when it burned up, allowing the restoration of the space rock’s course.

“We were very lucky that at least three relatively reliable videos, including one with an incredible quality, could be available on the internet in such a short time,” Jorge Zuluaga, a teacher at the Institute of Physics (IoP) at the University of Antioquia in Colombia, stated in a declaration. [How to See the Best Meteor Showers of 2019]

“Reconstructing the trajectory of a meteor requires at least three observers on the ground,” Zuluaga included. “Although several satellite images were recorded and also available online, without observations from the ground, the precise reconstruction is not feasible.”

Trajectory of the meteor that tipped over Cuba on Feb. 1, 2019, as rebuilded by a group of Colombian astronomers.

Credit: Zuluaga et al./Google Earth

Trajectory of the meteor that tipped over Cuba on Feb. 1, 2019, as rebuilded by a group of Colombian astronomers.

Credit: Zuluaga et al./Google Earth

Zuluaga and his group figured out that the meteor got in Earth’s environment about 47.5 miles (76.5 kilometers) over the Caribbean Sea, at a point 16 miles (26 km) off Cuba’s southwestern coast. At the time, the rock — believed to be a couple of meters large and to weigh about 360 loads (330 metric loads) — was taking a trip approximately 40,300 miles per hour (64,800 km/h), the scientists discovered.

The meteor moved north-northeast in a reasonably straight line. When the things reached an elevation of 17.1 miles (27.5 km), it established a smoky path of incinerated particles, which stood out of numerous observers on the ground. 

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument aboard NOAA's GOES-16 satellite captured this view of the Feb. 1 meteor over Cuba (small blue patch at bottom center). The larger arc of blue in the upper left is lightning over the Gulf of Mexico.

The Geostationary Lightning Mapper instrument aboard NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite caught this view of the Feb. 1 meteor over Cuba (little blue spot at bottom center). The bigger arc of blue in the upper left is lightning over the Gulf of Mexico.

Credit: Copyright NOAA/NASA/Short-term Forecast Research Study and Shift Center

At an elevation of 13.7 miles (22 km), the meteor exploded in an airburst, the scientists determined. Numerous little pieces drizzled down on the island listed below. A number of these cosmic bits landed in Viñales Natural Park, near Cuba’s western suggestion, however some portions struck homes in the area. If a huge piece made it through the break up, it most likely landed in the ocean off the island’s northwest coast, the researchers stated.

Zuluaga and his associates likewise extended their design of the rock’s course even further back in time. They figured out that it initially inhabited an elliptical orbit with a typical range from the sun of 1.3 huge systems. (One huge system, or AU, is the typical Earth-sun range — about 93 million miles, or 150 million km). The rock took 1.32 years to finish one orbit around our star.

The researchers utilized comparable techniques to rebuild the course of the things that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February 2013. That meteor had to do with 400 times brighter than the current Cuba occasion, and the previous’s airburst was much more effective: The shock wave shattered countless windows in Chelyabinsk, hurting a minimum of 1,200 individuals with fragments of flying glass.

In the freshly sent research study, which you can check out free of charge at the online preprint website arXiv.org, the scientists likewise evaluated a technique established in 2015 by Zuluaga and fellow IoP scientist Mario Sucerquia (who’s likewise an author of today paper).

This approach, called gravitational ray tracing (GRT), utilizes computer system algorithms to track mock impactors back to their origins in space. The researchers flagged designed rocks that wound up in orbits comparable to those of genuine near-Earth asteroids, thinking that such orbits in reality would have a good possibility of producing Earth-impacting rocks.

Such work did an excellent task of “predicting” the Chelyabinsk and Cuba meteors, the scientists stated. For instance, the GRT designs recommended that an impactor striking Chelyabinsk would likely show up from a spot of sky to the northeast of that place, at an angle of 20 degrees to the horizon. The real things originated from the east, at angle of precisely 20 degrees.

2 examples aren’t almost sufficient to show that the approach works, naturally. However it’s a start, staff member stated.

“Only after the recent digital boom have we realized how frequent and potentially hazardous could the impact of small meteoroids be on populated areas,” Sucerquia stated in the exact same declaration. “Sadly, we are not yet able to defend our society against these threats. Our work suggests that, in principle, we could be prepared, at least with some knowledge, for future impacts.”

Mike Wall’s book about the look for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; showed byKarl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter@Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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