Night Turns To Day As Spectacular Meteor Explodes Over Argentina
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A dazzling display of light appeared over Argentina on Sunday, April 21 and was captured on video by a concert goer filming the band playing on stage. In the video a giant fireball can be seen in the background lighting up the night sky as it exploded high in the atmosphere.
The flash of light only appeared for a few seconds before it was gone; but the incident, which was witnessed by thousands of Argentinians, left most wondering what it could have been. Locals said they felt the ground shake in Santiago del Estero as night turned to day for a fleeting moment.
A meteor expert in Argentina said the fireball was in fact a meteor and may have been traveling at speeds in excess of 80,000 mph when it crashed into Earth´s upper atmosphere.
Jorge Coghlan, director of the Santa Fe Astronomical Observatory in Argentina, said during a radio interview that the space rock likely measured about 18 inches in diameter and exploded about 40 miles over the Earth, according to a translation by HuffPost.
In a later report by 9 News, Coghlan said it was closer to nine inches in diameter.
The fireball was visible in at least eight provinces in Argentina and was widely shared with the world via Twitter and Facebook. Some users posted video footage of the fireball as well. Some traffic cams and other static cameras also caught a glimpse of the night sky being turned to light.
After the meteor exploded, a “halo” appeared in the sky over Santiago del Estero just before sunrise, as was seen in a YouTube video. But Coghlan said the halo and meteor event were unrelated, according to Nuevo Diario newspaper.
Coghlan urged people to be skeptical of several videos posted to YouTube that claim to have caught the explosion on film, but noted that videos taken by local security cameras and concert attendees were reliable.
Although the early morning explosion was startling to many onlookers, it was significantly smaller than the fireball that exploded over Russia on February 14, 2013.
That meteor was some 30 times larger and exploded much closer to the ground (18 miles overhead), causing a shockwave that shattered windows across the region and injured more than a thousand people.
While there has yet to be any reports on the possible origin of the meteor, it may be likely that it was part of the annual April Lyrids meteor shower, which peaked early Monday morning (April 22).
The Lyrid meteor showers typically last from April 16-26 each year with the peak being April 22, which is also Earth Day. The radiant of the shower is located in the constellation Lyra, near the constellation´s brightest star Alpha Lyrae (Vega). The April Lyrids are sometimes referred to as the Alpha Lyrids because of the area of their radiant.
The actual source of the meteor shower comes from particles of dust shed by the tail of the periodic comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher. The Lyrids have been observed for more than 2,500 years.