Mysterious Fireball Lights Up Russian Sky, Baffles Experts

Christopher Pilny for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Since being published on YouTube on Monday, a dashcam video showing a fireball lighting up the Russian sky has been causing quite a debate amongst experts–namely: What the hell is it?

Thus far, we’ve seen an array of theories: ammunitions explosion, falling satellite, meteor, small nuclear device, and our personal favorite, “a mass build-up of Mountain Dew and Doritos being suddenly released.” Because, well, who hasn’t been there?

But the best (and most logical) explanation we’ve seen has come from astronomer and author Phil Plait in an article he wrote for Slate.

“The first obvious guess is that this was a bolide,” he writes, “a fireball caused by a chunk of debris entering our atmosphere from space at high speed. These happen pretty often.”

Plait goes on to admit that the color and trajectory are off if it is indeed space junk, though. Bolides often burn white, green or blue, and they generally don’t sit still, which is what the fireball seems to be doing in the video. But that, Plait concedes, could just be because it was flying right at the photographer–something to keep in mind if you’re ever filming burning fireballs in the future.

Other video seems to show the object breaking up as it enters the atmosphere, reinforcing the theory that it is, indeed, just space junk. But Plait isn’t certain–just like the rest of the world.

The greater question, at least for us, doesn’t involve what it was, or why meteors/explosions always seem to end up over Russia, but why so many Russians feel the need for dashcams? Do they enjoy, at a cultural level, looking out over their dashboards and through their windshields for hours on end? Are Russian automakers required by law to build them into every vehicle? Or do Russians simply enjoy watching COPS and want to get in on the action?

Who knows? But we’re interested in any and all insight.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Wired (and the redOrbit social media staff) for this explanation of Russian dashcam prevalence.

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