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Cuban Meteor

18 February 2019

Sent in by Gary. I didn't take much notice as I thought it was a run of the mill meteor in a tourist hotspot. Seems not. At https://phys.org/print469445038.html … on February 1st 2019 a bright meteor crossed the sky over the Caribbean Sea and was especially bright over Cuba. This was during the middle of the day so lots of people with video cameras aimed their gadjets at what was left of it – a smoke trail (a cloud left behind by the burn in the atmosphere). There was also a sonic boom to wake people up and make them look upstairs. It was witnessed by thousands of locals and tourists in Cuba and as luck would have it some people were already running a video and captured the whole show. Scientists have been able to take advantage of these videos in order to track its direction and orbit. In particular, a group of astronomers from Columbia have been quick off the mark. These were led by Jorge Zuluaga who also did some tracking of the 2013 Chelyabinsk object. They have posted their findings at the pre publication site www.arxiv.org/abs/1902.03980 (but will be published in a leading journal later in the year).

They say the object entered the atmosphere over the Caribbean at an altitude of 76.5km. The speed of the object was 18km per second. The rock heated up until it became bright and at an altitude of 27.5km the smoke trail began to appear. An airburst occurred at about 22km altitude – and hundreds of fragments probably fell in many directions (some of them into the sea). However, some of them struck houses in the Vinales Valley area. They estimate the size of the meteor as several metres across and weighed around 340 tons. Pretty big. Not as big as the Chelyabinsk object but big enough to bring the danger of space rocks to the attention of us humans.

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