A Meteor Exploded Unnoticed above Greenland. Why Does That Matter?

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On July 25th, the sky above the Thule Air Base in Greenland was lit up by a fireball. It released 2.1 kilotons of energy, being the second largest explosion of this kind, and alarmed enough people to send in the U.S. Air Force.

What was it?

Apparently, the cause was a flaming rock that travelled at about a speed about 74 times bigger than the speed of sound (54000 mph or 87000 km/h) which dispersed multiple meteorites, causing the few people that noticed it to be amazed and possibly terrified.

Did it go completely unnoticed?

We first heard about this ball of flame above Greenland through Twitter, when two scientists gave us some important information. First, on the 31st of July, a NASA scientist called Ron Baalke (with the Twitter handle ‘Rocket Ron’) told us that “A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.”

Then, on the 1st of August, Hans Kristensen, a director from the Federation of American Scientists informed us of the very same thing happening above the Thule Air Base. This launched frenzy among reporters, who started to call NASA and the air base itself to find out if any harm has bestowed the military establishment.

How did it happen?

Usually, meteors are small, having a few meters across. They are too small to be detected before they enter our atmosphere, although they can produce quite a bang. When they rip through our atmosphere, they start to catch fire because of the air friction. They burn like this until there is nothing to hit the Earth.

The explosion is really a shock wave that happens when the meteor comes from the void of space and collides with our much denser air in the atmosphere. Meteors rarely cause damages and there were few cases where someone got hurt because of them.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.