The southern Atlantic Ocean was struck by a meteor recently with the force of a nuclear bomb, and yet many people did not even realize that it occurred. However, some people seem to be worried that NASA only has the skills to detect the threat of certain foreign space objects like a meteor a few hours before the time of impact. According to News Max this Friday, February 26, 2016, the power of the large fireball was roughly equivalent to the destructive level of the bomb used against Hiroshima during World War II.
Surprisingly enough, NASA reveals that approximately 30 impacts from meteors happen around the world per year. However, the damage caused by these fireballs is often small and isolated. Yet it may come as a shock to some for a considerably large fireball to strike Earth with relatively no fanfare whatsoever. It has been reported via NASA that on February 6 of this year, a meteor entered Earth’s atmosphere hundreds of miles from the Brazilian coast.
Sources estimate that a massive amount of energy was released leading up to the impact over the Atlantic, reaching an amount commensurate with 13,000 tons of explosive TNT. Although this was significantly smaller than the meteor which hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, back in 2013—weighing in at an enormous 10 tons and 500,000 tons of TNT—it nonetheless can be considered a significant collision.
According to MSN News, there is a reason this Atlantic meteor with the force of a nuclear bomb still did not manage to make major news headlines. One astronomer via Slate.com, Phil Phait, said this is due to the location. Because the meteor struck over the ocean and not in a heavily populated region, the event failed to “make waves,” so to speak.
“Don’t panic! As impacts go, this was pretty small,” said Phil Phait, an astronomer who posts on Slate.com. “After all, you didn’t even hear about it until weeks after it occurred. Events this size aren’t too big a concern. Had it happened over a populated area it would’ve rattled some windows and probably terrified a lot of people, but I don’t think it would’ve done any real damage.”
Those who follow the Near Earth Objects Program of NASA will likely already know that the space agency keeps close register of nearby meteors, regardless of size, that fall within the range of the atmosphere of earth. However, a meteor will only turn heads when it is seen by humans and/or hits near a widely inhabited area.
Due to a lack of eyewitnesses in this case, NASA has used other detection hardware to confirm the presence of this meteor over the Atlantic Ocean. “Detection of the blast likely resulted from a combination of satellite imagery, atmospheric microphones, and seismic monitors, so even the people who initially stumbled upon this finding only had a series of data readings to work off of,” reveals Digital Trends in an article post.
Some have been worried, however, that NASA lacks the ability to detect such potentially destructive meteors (including those with power comparable to that of a nuclear bomb) until only hours before. According to the Digital Trends website, “What’s maybe most chilling is the fact NASA (or any other agency, for that matter) has yet to perfect a method for detecting such meteors more than a few hours prior to impact.”
What do you think of this Atlantic meteor news story? The Christian Science Monitor also notes that despite their due diligence, NASA and other space related agencies may miss the presence of certain fireballs and small space rocks on occasion. In fact, it was not predicted by any space agency of a fireball that appeared and crashed late last year over Thailand. It was determined the size of the fireball was not of significant enough size to warrant any major notice.