Meteor Fireball Lights up Portuguese Skies

A flash was seen in several districts, from North to South of Portugal and in Spain Credit: Safe Communities Portugal

A spectacular meteor fireball recently illuminated the skies over Portugal and Spain, according to the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia. 

The celestial event began at an altitude of approximately 122 km above the Don Benito in Badajoz, Spain, and ended at about 54km above the Atlantic Ocean, after traveling northwest and crossing over Portugal.

The SMART Project

Initial reports prompted speculation about meteor fragments reaching the ground, leading to night searches by Civil Protection.  However, data from the SMART project, operated by the Southwestern Europe Meteor Network, clarified the situation.  Observation stations confirmed that no fragments made it to the Earth’s surface.

Astrophysicist Jose Maria Madiedo, head of the SMART project, analysed the event.  The analysis revealed that the meteoroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a staggering speed of around 16,000 km per hour.  It travelled with an almost level trajectory, inclined only about ten degrees to the horizontal.

“When it hit the air at this speed, the surface of the rock heated up and became incandescent.  It was this incandescence that manifested itself in the form of a fireball.” Madiedo explained.

The fireball’s journey through the atmosphere included several explosions, causing sudden luminosity increases due to abrupt ruptures in the rock.  The total distance covered by the fireball before extinguishing was roughly 500 km.

A Stunning Visual

This event provided valuable data for researchers and a stunning visual for those fortunate enough to witness it.  The insights from the SMART project continue to enhance our understanding of meteoroid behaviour as they enter Earth’s atmosphere.

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