‘Shooting star’ asteroid lights up sky over English Channel

The event was particularly relevant for experts trying to acquire data to better predict the future collision of asteroids with the Earth’s atmosphere. (Twitter/File)
The event was particularly relevant for experts trying to acquire data to better predict the future collision of asteroids with the Earth’s atmosphere. (Twitter/File)
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Updated 13 February 2023
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‘Shooting star’ asteroid lights up sky over English Channel

‘Shooting star’ asteroid lights up sky over English Channel
  • Event was just 7th time in history that an asteroid impact has been predicted in advance

LONDON: An asteroid that exploded over northern France early on Monday stunned onlookers after lighting up the night sky in a flash of pink.

The one-meter-long asteroid, named Sar2667, burnt up in the mesosphere, the third layer of the earth’s atmosphere, shortly before 3 a.m. local time, leaving hundreds of spectators in awe.

The explosion created a “shooting star” effect that was visible from across most of southern England and Wales, and as far south as Paris, France.

Users took to social media to share footage of the event, describing the shooting star that “lit up the sky with a pink flash” as “spectacular.”

 

Known as an “airburst,” the event was just the seventh time in history that an asteroid impact has been predicted in advance.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced the expected airburst time on Twitter on Sunday. It was first reported by Hungarian geographer and asteroid hunter Krisztian Sarneczky.

The forecast was described by ESA as “a sign of the rapid advancements in global asteroid detection capabilities.”

 

The ESA detection system, known as Meerkat, found that the asteroid would “safely strike” the Earth’s atmosphere near Rouen, northern France, creating a “fireball” effect.

Asteroids, sometimes referred to as minor planets, are rocky objects left over from the early formation of the solar system. They vary in size, ranging from one to more than 1000 km in diameter.

Authorities have detected more than 1.1 million asteroids orbiting the sun, but the actual number is believed to be higher.

The last asteroid that was predicted to enter the Earth’s atmosphere was seen in the sky above Ontario, Canada in November last year.

Although events of this magnitude occur several times a year, physicist and airburst specialist Mark Boslough said that the Sar2667 explosion was “special” because it is the first time that a collision has happened “with enough warning to get data.”

It is particularly relevant for experts trying to acquire data to better predict the future collision of asteroids with the Earth’s atmosphere.

In October, NASA announced the success of an experiment to test a method of planetary defense against near-Earth objects such as asteroids.