A spectacular fireball streaked across the skies of Spain and Morocco last weekend, at a blazing 83,000 kilometres per hour.
The phenomenon, caused by rock from a comet that entered the atmosphere at high speed, was recorded by the La Hita Astronomical Complex, located in La Puebla de Almoradiel (Toledo). This observatory has detectors from the Southwest Europe Fireball and Meteor Network that are part of the SMART Project, which continuously monitors the sky with the aim of recording and studying the impact of rocks from the solar system entering the Earth's atmosphere
According to the researcher responsible for the project, José María Madiedo, "The fireball stood out for its long duration, since the fireball took about 15 seconds to extinguish, when they usually last only about 2 or 3 seconds."
Professor Madiedo said, “Sometimes, these rocks are not completely destroyed in the atmosphere but come out of it again continuing on their way in space. This is precisely what has happened in this case."
The rock turned incandescent at an altitude of about 99 kilometres above northern Morocco. From there it moved towards the northeast, soaring over the Mediterranean, and continued to lose altitude slowly until located between the coasts of Almeria and Algeria. At that point it began to gain altitude as it continued to advance northwest over the Mediterranean.
Finally, the fireball was extinguished when it was at an altitude of about 100 kilometres above the Mediterranean, at a point located about 85 kilometres southeast of Ibiza. At that point the rock left the Earth's atmosphere following a slightly different orbit than the one it initially followed when it entered the atmosphere.