Image of the fireball that crossed Spain and Portugal in the early hours of Sunday SUR

Spectacular fireball crosses Spain and Portugal turning 'night into day'

Produced by a rock from a comet, it entered the atmosphere at 161,000 kilometres per hour in the early hours of Sunday

Rossel Aparicio


Monday, 20 May 2024, 11:19


An impressive fireball crossed the skies of Portugal and Spain early on Sunday 19 May and, for an instant, turned "night into day".

José María Madiedo, researcher in charge of the SMART project - coordinated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) - said on social media the fireball was produced by a rock from a comet and entered the atmosphere at 161,000 km/h.

"Due to its great luminosity, which was much greater than that of the full moon, it could be seen from more than 800km away," the astrophysicist said. According to Madiedo, the astonishing fireball crossed the Iberian Peninsula on Saturday night and was sighted "by a multitude of witnesses throughout Spain and Portugal".

Apparently, the phenomenon, which occurred at 12.46am was sighted by people in Andalucía, Castilla-La Mancha, Madrid, Extremadura and Galicia. It was also seen in parts of northern Portugal and in Lisbon.

The fireball started, according to Madiedo, at an altitude of 122km above Don Benito (Badajoz). From there it moved northwest and crossed Portugal. It ended at an altitude of 54km over the Atlantic Ocean.

Trajectory of the fireball.
Trajectory of the fireball. @jmmadiedo

The astrophysicist also shared some images on social media showing the fireball as it was seen from Seville, which show "its initial phase and the instant in which it reached its maximum luminosity, turning night into day for a fraction of a second", he said. According to Madiedo, along its trajectory, the fireball showed "several explosions that caused sudden increases in its luminosity and were due to various sudden ruptures of the rock".

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