An asteroid was spotted above Puerto Rico on January 17th, lighting up the skies and provoking some hair-raising moments for people who spotted it.
The space rock was traveling at about 50,400 kilometers (about 31,300 miles) per hour as it entered the planet’s atmosphere above the Caribbean island. The International Meteor Organization (IMO) reported the event, and it stated that 31 residents had witnessed it.
Asteroids Can Strike Fear When They Explode
In a footage of the terrifying asteroid, a luminous trace of light can be seen before a small blow off takes place at the end of its trail. As per measurements made by IMO, the small asteroid was approximately a meter in size and entered Earth‘s atmosphere at an outstanding speed of 14 kilometers (8.6 miles) per second, or 50,400 kilometers (31,300 miles) per hour.
The IMO stated: “On Friday, January 17th, 2020, Puerto Rico was witness to yet another extreme event. Just north of the island a small asteroid created a bright fireball in the sky. Due to its brightness it was visible from a large part of the island and many reported to also hear a loud boom. The object had such a high energy that the pressure change that its path through the atmosphere caused could be measured by infrasound stations.”
Asteroids and meteors generate a bright explosion the moment they reach Earth’s atmosphere because it is the first time it encounters resistance. Air penetrates the pores and cracks the rock, pressing it and making it explode.
The IMO said in the released report: “Fireballs are meteors that appear brighter than normal. Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth’s atmosphere, fragments larger than one millimeter have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above. These bright meteors are what we call fireballs, and they often strike fear and awe for those who witness them.”
Small Chances of Collision
Even though this meteor was relatively small, the bright gleam reaffirms the need for observations of the skies that would spot potential asteroids that might pose a threat to Earth. While the odds of a significant asteroid crashing into our planet are small, NASA claims there is a one in 300,000 possibilities every year that a space object, which could create regional damage will hit, the possibility is not out of this world.
Even so, there are some ongoing plans which could protect Earth against potential space rocks hits. NASA is, at the moment, observing asteroid Bennu, on which its OSIRIS-Rex probe landed on in 2018. The reason for this expedition is the need for more information about the asteroid, which is 500 meters (1,640 feet) in diameter.
NASA fears that the space rock, which could damage a whole country on Earth, could clash with our planet within the following 120 years, with the next close trajectory taking place in 2135.
The expedition will provide crucial information on how to deflect asteroids from their path of collision trajectory with our planet, but NASA reinforces that while there is a rather tiny chance of Earth being hit, ‘over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus.’