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The image was captured at 9.03pm on Sunday. @jmmadiedo

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Astronomy

This is the moment a fireball brighter than the full moon lit up the skies over the south of Spain

Due to its great luminosity, caused by a rock from a comet travelling through the Earth's atmosphere at about 89,000 km/h, it was seen from a large part of the Iberian Peninsula, including some places in Portugal

Tuesday, 23 January 2024, 09:28

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An impressive fireball, brighter than the full moon, has been seen in the skies over Andalucía. In fact, given its luminosity, it was seen over much of the Iberian Peninsula, including parts of Portugal.

The director of the SMART project, astrophysicist José María Madiedo of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), said that the rock that caused this phenomenon on Sunday night (21 January) came from a comet and entered the atmosphere at a speed of about 89 000 kilometres per hour. The abrupt friction with the atmosphere of the planet at this high speed caused the surface of the rock to heat up to a temperature of several thousand degrees centigrade and become incandescent, generating a fireball that started at an altitude of about 101 kilometres above Valencia del Mombuey (Badajoz), according to the expert.

It then moved in a southerly direction and flew over southeastern Portugal, ending at an altitude of about 40 kilometres over San Bartolomé de la Torre, in Huelva. Along its trajectory, it produced several explosions that caused sudden increases in its luminosity and were due to abrupt ruptures of the rock. Before being extinguished, the fireball travelled a total distance of about 111 kilometres through the Earth's atmosphere.

The images clearly showed that the rock fragmented at the end of the trajectory. However, none of these fragments would have made it to the ground. This fireball, which was commented by some of those who saw it on social media, was registered by the SMART project detectors from the detection stations located in Huelva, La Hita (Toledo), Calar Alto, Sierra Nevada, La Sagra (Granada), Seville and El Aljarafe (Seville).

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