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A bolide (French via Latin from the Greek βολίς bolís, "missile" or "to flash") is an extremely bright meteor, especially one that explodes in the atmosphere. In astronomy, it refers to a fireball approximately as bright as the full moon, and it is generally considered a synonym of a fireball. In geology a bolide is a very large impactor.
One definition describes a bolide as a fireball reaching an apparent magnitude of −14 or brighter – more than twice as bright as the full moon. Another definition describes a bolide as any generic large crater-forming impacting body whose composition (for example, whether it is a rocky or metallic asteroid, or an icy comet) is unknown.
The IAU has no official definition of "bolide", and generally considers the term synonymous with fireball, a brighter-than-usual meteor. However, the term generally applies to fireballs reaching an apparent magnitude −14 or brighter. Astronomers tend to use bolide to identify an exceptionally bright fireball, particularly one that explodes (sometimes called a detonating fireball). It may also be used to mean a fireball that is audible.
Selected superbolide air-bursts events:
- Tunguska event (Russia, 1908)
- 2009 Sulawesi superbolide (Indonesia, 2009)
- Chelyabinsk meteor (Russia, 2013)
Geologists use the term bolide in a somewhat different context than astronomers do. In geology, it indicates a very large impactor. For example, the Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center of the USGS uses bolide as a generic term that describes any large crater-forming impacting body whose origin and composition is unknown, as, for example, whether it was a stony or metallic asteroid, or a less dense, icy comet made of volatiles, such as water, ammonia and methane.
- Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 § Impacts
- Earth-grazing fireball
- Meteor procession
- Tollmann's hypothetical bolide
- "We are not Alone: Government Sensors Shed New Light on Asteroid Hazards". Universe Today. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
- "bolide". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- Belton, MJS (2004). Mitigation of hazardous comets and asteroids. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521827647.:156
- "Introduction: What is a Bolide?". Woodshole.er.usgs.gov. 1 April 1998. Retrieved 16 September 2011.
- Adushkin, Vitaly; Ivan Nemchinov (2008). Catastrophic events caused by cosmic objects. Springer. ISBN 1402064527.:133