Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fireball over Kerala State, India.

People across the state of Kerala in southwest India reported seeing a bright fireball in the sky between 10.00 and 10.30 pm local time on Friday 27 February 2015. A fireball is defined as a meteor (shooting star) brighter than the planet Venus. These are typically caused by pieces of rock burning up in the atmosphere, but can be the result of man-made space-junk burning up on re-entry. On this occasion the fireball was described as having a blue tinge, and moving quite slowly across the sky, leading to speculation that the object was more likely to be space junk than a meteor, since a blue colouration is often indicative of a high metal content, and a slow moving fireball sighted over Arizona on Tuesday 24 February has subsequently been identified as the remains of a Chinese rocket. However Indian air traffic controllers were not able to track the object, so it may have been a chondritic meteorite with a high metal content.

Blue fireball observed from Ernakulam District in Kerala. NDTV.

Following the event a number of fires broke out, on a vacant plot in the city of Kochi, at the village of Karumaloor near Aluva and the village of Mazhuvannur near Perumbavoor. Nobody was hurt in any of these incidents, and samples have been collected from two sites, Karumaloor and Mazhuvannur, for analysis by the Geological Survey of India.

Members of the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority examining the site of the Karumaloor fire on Saturday 28 February 2015. Vipin Chandran/The Hindu.

Objects of this size probably enter the Earth's atmosphere several times a year, though unless they do so over populated areas they are unlikely to be noticed. They are officially described as fireballs if they produce a light brighter than the planet Venus. It is possible, though unlikely, that this object will have produced meteorites that reached the surface (an object visible in the sky is a meteor, a rock that falls from the sky and can be physically held and examined is a meteorite), though most meteorites come from larger objects that penetrate further into the atmosphere before exploding, and therefore have a better chance of producing fragments that reach the surface.

See also...

A meteor estimated to be 60 cm across and to weigh in excess of 225 kilograms was observed over southwestern Pennsylvania early in the morning of Tuesday 17 February 2015. Scientists at the...

Fireball over Bucharest.                                           Witnesses reported seeing a large fireball over Bucharest, Romania, at about 3.00 am local time on Thursday 7 January 2015. The event is reported to have lasted several seconds, and to have lit up the...

The Irish Astronomical Association has reported a fireball over County Antrim in Northern Ireland at about 5.30 pm GMT on Tuesday 18 November 2014. The meteor was reportedly brighter than the Moon, and...

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