Cameras from the airport in Cairns (Queensland) documented the extraordinary spectacle. © Cover-Images/imago
The scientists of the space agency Nasa keep a list of "near-Earth objects". One of these objects is said to have exploded in the Earth's atmosphere.
Cairns – A sudden flash of the night sky, accompanied by a loud bang: an unusual green celestial body exploded on its way to Earth over Australia, causing a bright flash of light that could be seen for miles. You regularly hear about sighted celestial bodies or possible meteorites and asteroids that could hit. An astrophysicist explains what the spectacle in Australia is all about.
Fireball explodes over Australia – lights could be seen 600 kilometers away
Cameras at Cairns Airport filmed the impressive explosion on May 20 at around 21:22 p.m. local time. On Facebook, the airport shared the footage and wrote: "Last night we were able to observe incredible activity in the sky!". The clip shows a first flash of green that illuminates the night sky before a second flash of white follows. Further footage from smartphones and security cameras shows that the illumination could be seen about 600 kilometers away, as reported by The Guardian.
According to Brad Tucker, an astrophysicist at the Australian National University in Canberra, it was an exploding meteor. Particularly bright specimens, as in this case, are also referred to as bolides. The luminous phenomena are caused by meteorites that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and explode. The meteor "basically made a belly slap," Tucker told The Guradian. "The friction builds up and causes the glow, and then it reaches the breaking point, which causes the huge flash and sonic boom," the scientist continued.
Green light of fireball over Australia presumably due to iron and nickel
What is unusual about this specimen, however, is the green light that could be seen in the sky during the explosion. Most cars emit a white or yellow light when they explode. According to the astrophysicist, the green color could have been caused by a high concentration of metals such as iron and nickel in the rock. Fireball meteors can also emit a similar green light. These are extremely bright meteors that break apart in the Earth's atmosphere, but do not explode with the same intensity. In July 2022, such a green fireball was spotted over New Zealand.
Bolides occur relatively frequently in the Earth's atmosphere. Between July 2017 and January 2022, astronomers discovered around 3,000 bolides, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. However, since most explosions take place over the sea or far away from residential areas, you rarely notice them.
Fireball over Australia reached a speed of up to 150,000 km/h
The space rock that exploded in the Australian sky was likely quite small, between half a meter and a meter in diameter, and could have reached speeds of up to 150,000 km/h, Tucker explains. All the fragments that fell to Earth were probably very small and still frozen, he added.
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