A fireball whizzing across the sky surprised many people in Andalucía last night.
Specifically, the detectors of the Smart project - coordinated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) - recorded the astronomical phenomenon at 10.52pm on Sunday, 15 January, over the Gulf of Cádiz, along the Huelva coast area. As explained by the astrophysicist José María Madiedo, a researcher at the IAA-CSIC and director of the Smart project, the rock that caused this flash of light came from an asteroid and entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of about 86 thousand kilometres per hour.
"The violent friction with the Earth's atmosphere at this high speed caused the surface of the rock (the meteoroid) to heat up and become incandescent, thus generating a fireball that started at an altitude of about 74 km over the Gulf of Cádiz. Starting from that initial point, it advanced in a northwesterly direction, and it became extinct at about 39 km above the town of Isla Cristina (Huelva province). The total distance that the fireball travelled in the Earth's atmosphere before burning out was about 41 km," Madiedo said.
The fireball was observed by the detectors of the SMART project from the stations located in Huelva, La Hita (Toledo), Calar Alto, Sierra Nevada, La Sagra (Granada), Seville and Huelva.
Smart is a project developed by the Southwest Europe Fireball and Meteor Network (SWEMN Network). It is a research body coordinated from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC). The SWEMN Network aims to continuously monitor the sky in order to record and study the impact against the Earth's atmosphere of rocks from different objects in the solar system.