A rock from an asteroid hit the Earth’s atmosphere early Thursday morning at about 126,000 km/h, creating a large fireball over Madrid that could be seen across Spain. This is not an unusual event: besides space objects like this one, which disintegrate before reaching the ground, every year around 17,000 meteorites fall to Earth, according to the Madrid Planetarium.
The phenomenon, which took place at around 3.56am local time, was captured and recorded by the Southwestern Europe Meteor Network (SWEMN) from the La Hita meteor observation station in La Puebla de Almoradiel in Toledo. The fireball was recorded as part of the SMART project, an initiative of the Andalusia Astrophysics Institute (IAA-CSIC) that continuously monitors the sky in a bid to record and study the impact of different objects from the solar system on the Earth’s atmosphere.
The event was also captured by the SMART project’s stations in Calar Alto (Almería), La Sagra (Granada) and Seville, according to a press release from the center in La Hita. An analysis of the event carried out by the IAA-CSIC and the lead investigator of the SMART project, Jose María Madiedo, found that the rock entered the atmosphere at around 126,000 km/h over the east of the Madrid region.
☄ Gran bola de fuego sobre #Madrid produdica por roca procedente de un asteroide. La roca entró en la atmósfera a 126 mil km/h..💨— Planetario de Madrid (@PlanetarioMad) January 21, 2021
⌚Ocurrió a las 3:56 h de esta madrugada (21 enero). Debido a su gran luminosidad pudo verse desde todo el país.💡
📽 Imágenes @jmmadiedo pic.twitter.com/ZqkkObdVyD
Due to its speed, the meteor became incandescent when it collided with the atmosphere, close to the border of Ávila province. This created a large fireball at an altitude of about 84 kilometers, which was so bright it could be seen up to 600 km away.
The object, which exploded several times over the course of its trajectory, moved towards the southeast and disintegrated over the city of Madrid, at an altitude of 21 kilometers, practically above the district of Puente de Vallecas, according to La Hita station.
English version by Melissa Kitson.