russian fireball
April 22, 2014

Russian dash cam catches fiery meteor

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

A suspected meteorite explosion has been recorded by citizens of the northern Russian city of Murmansk over the weekend. The fireball left a noticeable bright blue trail as it sped across the night sky at about 2:14 am (local time) on Saturday, before ending in explosion, according to multiple witnesses.

There were no reports of damage during this weekend’s encounter, yet the fireball did raise some eyebrows due to its eerily similarity to a fireball that exploded over the Russian city Chelyabinsk in February 2013, shattering thousands of windows and leaving more than 1,200 people with injuries.

A report from Russia’s TV Isentr said the fireball was part of the annual Lyrid meteor shower, yet experts have yet to confirm or deny those claims. As well, there has been no determination as to where fragments of the meteor have landed. Some witnesses speculated that the object may have been space debris re-entering the atmosphere.

The meteor was not only caught by multiple people with their smartphones and cameras, but with dash cams as well.

"In one of the dashcam videos, the automobile's passengers can be heard marveling over the flash," reported Alan Boyle of NBC News. "Such dashcam views helped researchers reconstruct the timeline for last year's Chelyabinsk explosion."

After watching the video of the fireball, Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory’s chief researcher, Sergei Smirnov, said he was not able to establish the trajectory or exact altitude of the meteor, but said that it was traveling “many tens of kilometers” over the Earth, as reported by The Moscow Times.

Smirnov explained that the fireball was also considered a meteor, rather than a meteorite because it “ended in combustion” instead of impacting the ground. Any fragments that survived the explosion and collided with Earth are called meteorites.

According to NASA, a meteor is a streak of light observed when a meteoroid enters the Earth and vaporizes – these fiery night visitors are also referred to as shooting stars.

While tons of cosmic dust reaches the Earth’s atmosphere each day, only about 500 meteorites impact the Earth each year. Most of these are tiny and scientists have no precise calculations on when and where meteorites will impact the ground.

If the fireball did in fact come from the annual Lyrids, which peak on April 21-22, it would have come from the dust trail left in the wake of Comet Thatcher.

"This month's Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of April 22 and the morning of April 23," according to NASA. "Every year in late April Earth passes through a stream of debris from the old comet, which has been bringing Lyrid meteors to our planet for at least 2600 years. Specks of Thatcher’s dust hit the top of atmosphere at 110,000 mph and disintegrate in a flurry of meteors.  Most years, the shower produces about 15 to 20 Lyrids per hour."