List of meteor air bursts
Many explosions have been recorded in Earth's atmosphere that are likely caused by the air burst that results from a meteor burning up as it hits the atmosphere. These types of meteors are also known as fireballs or bolides with the brightest known as superbolides. Contrary to smaller and common "shooting stars", these larger meteors were originally asteroids and comets of a few to several tens of meters in diameter before impacting with Earth's atmosphere.
The best known is the 1908 Tunguska event. The appearance of extremely bright fireballs traveling across the sky is often witnessed from a distance, such as the 1947 Sikhote-Alin meteor and the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, both in Russia. If the bolide is large enough, fragments may survive such as the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Modern developments in infrasound detection by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and infrared Defense Support Program satellite technology have increased the likelihood of detecting airbursts.
The table from Earth Impact Effects Program (EIEP) estimates the average frequency of airbursts and their energy yield in kilotons (kt) or megatons (Mt) of TNT equivalent.
|Kinetic energy at||Airburst
|4 m (13 ft)||3 kt||0.75 kt||42.5 km (139,000 ft)||1.3|
|7 m (23 ft)||16 kt||5 kt||36.3 km (119,000 ft)||4.6|
|10 m (33 ft)||47 kt||19 kt||31.9 km (105,000 ft)||10|
|15 m (49 ft)||159 kt||82 kt||26.4 km (87,000 ft)||27|
|20 m (66 ft)||376 kt||230 kt||22.4 km (73,000 ft)||60|
|30 m (98 ft)||1.3 Mt||930 kt||16.5 km (54,000 ft)||185|
|50 m (160 ft)||5.9 Mt||5.2 Mt||8.7 km (29,000 ft)||764|
|70 m (230 ft)||16 Mt||15.2 Mt||3.6 km (12,000 ft)||1,900|
|Based on density of 2600 kg/m3, speed of 17 km/s, and an impact angle of 45°|
While airbursts undoubtedly happened prior to the 20th century, reliable reports of such are quite scanty. A relatively well-documented case is the 1490 Ch'ing-yang event which has an unknown energy yield but was apparently powerful enough to cause 10,000 deaths. Modern researchers are skeptical about the figure, but the Tunguska event could have destroyed a highly populous district.
Depending on the estimate, there were only 3-4 known airbursts in the 20th century with energy yield greater than 100 kilotons (in 1908, 1930, 1932, and 1963), roughly consistent with the estimate of the EIEP table. Most values for the 1930 Curuçá River event put it below 1 megaton.
The first airburst of the 21st century with yield greater than 100 kilotons came from the 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, which had an estimated diameter of 20 meters.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and modern technology has improved multiple detection of airbursts with energy yield 1-2 kilotons every year within the last decade. The table below contains a chronological list of events with yield at least 3 kilotons since 2005, with earlier or smaller events included if widely covered in the media.
|Height of explosion||Notes|
|1908, Jun 30||Russia: 60 kilometres (37 mi) W-NW of Vanavara near Tunguska River||15,000 kilotonnes of TNT (63,000 TJ)||8.5 km (5.3 mi)||Tunguska event (Largest witnessed meteor airburst to date)|
|1919, Nov 26||United States: southern Michigan and northern Indiana||A gigantic meteor was seen approaching from the east. A brilliant flash of light, thunder, & an earthquake lasting 3 minutes were reported. Damage to property over a large area as well as to telegraph, telephone and electrical systems.|
|1927, Jul 13||United States: Illinois||20 km (12 mi)||Tilden meteor. From more than a hundred miles it appeared like "a piece falling off the sun." Then it exploded.|
|1930, Aug 13||South America: Curuçá River Area, Amazonas||100 kilotonnes of TNT (420 TJ) ?||Also known as the 1930 Curuçá River event or "Brazilian Tunguska". Generally assumed to be generated by three meteor fragments. An astrobleme of 1 km was found on the ground, but may be related to an older feature.|
|1932, Dec 8||Europe: Arroyomolinos de León, Spain||190 kilotonnes of TNT (790 TJ) ?||15.7 km (9.8 mi)||Assumed to be produced by an 18-meter object and connected to the December delta-Arietids meteor shower.|
|1941, Apr 9||Russia: Ural mountains, Katav-Ivanovo district of Chelyabinsk||ru:Катавский болид (Katavsky bolide). Residents saw a fireball flying at a high speed in the dark sky, followed by roaring like the sound of a speeding steam locomotive. Fragments were left as a result of the event.|
|1947, Feb 12||Russia: Sikhote-Alin Mountains in eastern Siberia||10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ)||Sikhote-Alin bolide. Estimated explosive yield of 10 kt equivalent. Largest meteorite fall of recent times with total mass of fragments at 23 tons.|
|1948, Feb 18||United States: Norton County, Kansas||Norton County bolide. A brilliant fireball appeared in the afternoon sky. There was a loud explosion as the meteor broke apart. More than a ton of fragments were collected.|
|1959, Nov 24||Asia: Azerbaijan||Yardymly bolide. A bright object that illuminated the area for almost 3,000 square km before it shattered into pieces with a thunderous noise.|
|1963, Aug 3||Indian Ocean: south and about 1000 km from the Prince Edward Islands||260 ± 90 kilotonnes of TNT (1,090 ± 380 TJ)||A bolide was detected infrasonically about 1,100 km (680 mi) W-SW of the Prince Edward Islands off the coast of South Africa by a U.S. govt instrument network for detecting atmospheric explosions.|
|1965, Mar 31||Canada: Revelstoke, British Columbia||0.6 kilotonnes of TNT (2.5 TJ)||13 km (8 mi)||Revelstoke bolide. It exploded brilliantly and detonations were heard up to 130 km away. About 1 g of meteorite found. Sometimes placed in SE Canada on May 31.|
|1966, Sep 17||Canada: Lake Huron, Michigan–Ontario||0.6 kilotonnes of TNT (2.5 TJ)||13 km (8 mi)||The Kincardine fireball. A brilliant meteor illuminated the whole of SW Ontario.|
|1967, Feb 5||Canada: Vilna, Alberta||0.6 kilotonnes of TNT (2.5 TJ)||13 km (8 mi)||Vilna bolide. Photographed. Its detonation was also clearly recorded by the seismograph of the Univ. of Alberta. Two very small fragments < 1 g found and stored by the university.|
|1969, Feb 8||Mexico: Chihuahua||Allende bolide. A huge, brilliant fireball lit the sky and ground for hundreds of miles. It exploded and broke up. About 2 tons of fragments were later found.|
|1976, Mar 8||China: Jilin Province||Jilin bolide. A fireball larger than the full moon was seen. There were several explosions then a violent breakup. After the Sikhote-Alin, it is the second largest meteorite fall in recent times. It included a fragment at 1770 kg, more than twice the Chelyabinsk meteorite (654 kg).|
|1984, Apr 3||Africa: Nigeria||Gujba bolide. A bright object was witnessed then an explosion was heard. More than 100 kg of fragments were found.|
|1993, Jan 19||Europe: Lugo, Italy||10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ)||30 km||Superbolide airburst caused by the breakup of a low density meteoroid traveling at approximately 26 km/s.|
|1994, Jan 18||Europe: Cando, Spain||10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ) ?||Cando event. A bolide at 7:15 UT that was 1,000 times less energetic than the Tunguska event.|
|1994, Feb 1||Pacific Ocean: near the Marshall Islands and 300 km from Kosrae, Micronesia||11 kilotonnes of TNT (46 TJ)||21–34 km (13–21 mi)||Marshall Islands fireball (4–14 meters in diameter). Two fragments exploded at 34 km and 21 km of altitude. This impact was observed by space-based sensors both in infrared (by the DOD) and visible wavelength (by the DOE).|
|1997, Oct 10||United States: Las Cruces, New Mexico; El Paso, Texas||0.3 kilotonnes of TNT (1.3 TJ)||10-15 Miles||An airburst detected in El Paso and Las Cruces just before 1pm. The fireball traveled south-southeast before disintegrating 10–15 miles above the surface with a loud explosion, traveling around 30,000 MPH. Luminosity is described only as "a very bright flash of light, bright orange-red, similar to a distant sunset".|
|1997, Dec 9||Europe: 150 km south of Nuuk, Greenland||0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ)||25 km (16 mi)||One airburst at 46 km, three more breakups detected between 25 and 30 km. No remains found so far. Yield only based on luminosity, i.e. the total energy might have been considerably larger.|
|1999, Nov 8||Europe: Northern Germany||1.5 kilotonnes of TNT (6.3 TJ)||Detected by the Deelen Infrasound Array in the Netherlands|
|2000, Jan 18||Canada: Yukon, BC||1.7 kilotonnes of TNT (7.1 TJ)||30 km||Tagish Lake bolide. One airburst at ~08:00, fragments recovered.|
|2001, Apr 23||Pacific Ocean||2–5 kilotonnes of TNT (8.4–20.9 TJ)||Infrasound detection. Meteor estimated to be 2–3 meters in diameter. Occurred 1,800 km away from the Scripps detector.|
|2002, Jun 6||Mediterranean Sea: 230 km N-NE of Benghazi, Libya||12–26 kilotonnes of TNT (50–109 TJ)||2002 Eastern Mediterranean event|
|2002, Sep 25||Russia: Vitim River, near Bodaybo, Irkutsk Oblast||0.2–2 kilotonnes of TNT (0.84–8.37 TJ)||30 km||Vitim event or Bodaybo event|
|2003, Mar 26||United States: Park Forest, Illinois||0.5 kilotonnes of TNT (2.1 TJ)||Park Forest bolide. Residents in Illinois and neighboring states witnessed a bright meteor exploding overhead.|
|2004, Sep 3||Antarctic Ocean: 200 km offshore Queen Maud Land||12 kilotonnes of TNT (50 TJ)||28–30 km (17–19 mi)||Asteroid 7–10 meters in diameter. Coordinates are for dust trail observed an hour after event by NASA's Aqua satellite. Event was also observed by military satellites and infrasound stations. Dust was observed after event by LIDAR in Davis Station.|
|2004, Oct 7||Indian Ocean||10–20 kilotonnes of TNT (42–84 TJ)||Infrasound detection|
|2005||Start of JPL Fireball and Bolide Reports. (Dates in yellow are not in the JPL reports.)|
|2005, Jan 1||Africa: Libya||1.2 kilotonnes of TNT (5.0 TJ)||31.8 km (19.8 mi)||Largest for 2005.|
|2006, Apr 4||Atlantic Ocean||5 kilotonnes of TNT (21 TJ)||25 km (16 mi)|
|2006, Dec 9||Africa: Egypt||10–20 kilotonnes of TNT (42–84 TJ)||26.5 km (16.5 mi)||Infrasound detection|
|2007, Sep 28||Europe: Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland||40 km (25 mi)||Bolide that was observed as far as northern Lapland. Meteoritic material was suspected to have landed southeast of Oulu but none has been found.|
|2008, Oct 7||Africa: Nubian Desert, Sudan||1–2.1 kilotonnes of TNT (4.2–8.8 TJ)||37 km (23 mi)||2008 TC3, the first asteroid detected before impacting Earth. Fragment has been named as Almahata Sitta meteorite. In JPL as 1 kt.|
|2008, Nov 20||Canada: Saskatchewan||0.4 kilotonnes of TNT (1.7 TJ)||28.2 km (17.5 mi)||Buzzard Coulee bolide. Five times as bright as the full moon and broke apart before impact. Over 41 kg of fragments collected.|
|2009, Feb 7||Russia: Tyumen Oblast||3.5 kilotonnes of TNT (15 TJ)||40 km (25 mi)|
|2009, Oct 8||Asia: coastal region in South Sulawesi, Indonesia||31–50 kilotonnes of TNT (130–210 TJ)||25 km (16 mi)||2009 Sulawesi superbolide. No meteoritic material found (most likely fell into the ocean). Occurred ~03:00 UTC; ~11:00 local time.|
|2009, Nov 21||Africa: South Africa / Zimbabwe||18 kilotonnes of TNT (75 TJ)||38 km (24 mi)||Impacted going 32.1 km/s (19.9 mi/s). There were 56 witnesses of the bolide and two seismic recorder detections.|
|2010, Feb 28||Europe: Slovakia||0.4 kilotonnes of TNT (1.7 TJ)||37 km (23 mi)||Košice bolide. A bright fireball accompanied by sonic booms.|
|2010, July 10||Pacific Ocean||14 kilotonnes of TNT (59 TJ)||26 km (16 mi)|
|2010, Sep 3||Pacific Ocean||3.8 kilotonnes of TNT (16 TJ)||33.3 km (20.7 mi)|
|2010, Dec 25||Pacific Ocean||33 kilotonnes of TNT (140 TJ)||26 km (16 mi)|
|2011, May 25||Africa: Cameroon||4.8 kilotonnes of TNT (20 TJ)||59 km (37 mi)|
|2012, Apr 22||United States: La Grange, California||4 kilotonnes of TNT (17 TJ) ||30–47 km ||Sutter's Mill meteorite. Numerous fragments from object recovered. (not in JPL reports)|
|2013, Jan 25||Canada: Quebec||6.9 kilotonnes of TNT (29 TJ)||–|
|2013, Feb 15||Russia: near Chelyabinsk||500 kilotonnes of TNT (2,100 TJ) ||Estimated 30–50 km ||Chelyabinsk meteor. Largest meteor airburst known since Tunguska in 1908. Fragments called the Chelyabinsk meteorite was later found.|
|2013, Apr 21||South America: Argentina||2.5 kilotonnes of TNT (10 TJ)||40.7 km (25.3 mi)||The bolide was captured on video at a Los Tekis rock concert.|
|2013, Apr 30||Atlantic Ocean||10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ)||21.2 km (13.2 mi)|
|2013, Oct 12||Atlantic Ocean||3.5 kilotonnes of TNT (15 TJ)||22 km (14 mi)|
|2013, Nov 26||Canada: heard in Montreal, Ottawa, and New York||0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ)||Montreal bolide.|
|2014, Feb 18||South America: Argentina||0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ)||–||Even though this was a low-energy event, there were reports of windows and buildings shaking.|
|2014, Aug 23||Antarctic Ocean||7.6 kilotonnes of TNT (32 TJ)||22.2 km (13.8 mi)|
|2015, Jan 9||South America: Brazil||0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ)||–||Porangaba bolide. A daylight fireball with a loud thunder-like noise.|
|2015, Sep 7||Asia: Bangkok, Thailand||3.9 kilotonnes of TNT (16 TJ)||29.3 km (18.2 mi)||The 2015 Thailand meteor daylight bolide around 08:40 local time (UTC+7). Caught on at least 9 videos of dash and helmet cams online|
|2015, Nov 13||Asia: India||0.3 kilotonnes of TNT (1.3 TJ)||28.0 km (17.4 mi)||Komar Gaon bolide. A daylight meteor accompanied by almost a minute of sonic booms.|
|2015, Dec 12||Asia: eastern Turkey||0.13 kilotonnes of TNT (0.54 TJ)||39.8 km (24.7 mi)||Sariçiçek meteorite. A bright fireball was seen and then heard as it exploded over a Turkish village. More than 15 kg of fragments were found and villagers made an est. $300,000 selling the space rocks.|
|2016, Feb 6||Atlantic Ocean||13 kilotonnes of TNT (54 TJ)||31 km (19 mi)||Largest fireball for 2016 and largest since Chelyabinsk.|
As of 2017, the statistics per year since 2005 for airbursts mentioned by the JPL Fireball and Bolide Reports are,
- 1972 Great Daylight Fireball - assumed to be still in an Earth-crossing orbit
- 2007 Carancas impact event - mostly intact until object hit the ground
- Impact event
- Meteorite fall
- List of bolides
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- McFarland, John. The Day the Earth Trembled, Armagh, Northern Ireland: Armagh Observatory website, last revised on November 10, 2009.
- Lienhard, John H. Meteorite at Curuçá, The Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston with KUHF-FM Houston.
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- Fireball and Bolide Reports (JPL)
- Traynor, Chris (1997). "The Tunguska Event". Journal of the British Astronomical Association. 107 (3).
- Earth quivers as sky phenomenon descends, The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.) 1919 Nov 27 page 1b
- C. Wylie (1927). The Tilden Meteor, an Illinois Daylight Fall, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 21, p.338
- THE EVENT NEAR THE CURUÇÁ RIVER. 67th Annual Meteoritical Society Meeting (2004)
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- No. 1102: METEORITE AT CURUÇA By John H. Lienhard The Engines of Our Ingenuity
- The Day the Earth Trembled by John McFarland Armagh Observatory
- Historical Records of δ-Arietids Superfireballs Over Spain by J.M.Madiedo and J. M. Trigo-Rodríguez 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2011)
- Leonard David (2013). Russia Meteor Blast Is Biggest in 100 Years
- Sikhote-Alin at LPI Archived 2012-01-30 at the Wayback Machine.
- Meteorite Recon entry for Norton County
- Norton County at LPI
- Soviet Azerbaijan Encyclopedia (Baku, 1981), vol. 5, p. 80
- Yardymly at LPI
- Wayne N. Edwards, Peter G. Brown, Douglas O. ReVelle (2006). "Estimates of meteoroid kinetic energies from observations of infrasonic airwaves" (PDF). Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 68 (2006). pp. 1136–1160.
- Revelstoke at LPI
- Kusky, Timothy M.; Katherine E. Cullen (2010). Encyclopedia of Earth and space science. New York, NY: Facts on File. p. 147. ISBN 1438128592.
- Halliday, Ian (December 1966). "The Bolide of September 17, 1966". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. 60: 257. Bibcode:1966JRASC..60..257H.
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- Vilna at LPI
- Grady, Monica (2000). Catalogue of Meteorites. Cambridge University Press. p. 514. ISBN 9780521663038.
- Allende at LPI
- Meteorite Recon entry on Jilin, A Preliminary Survey Of The Kirin Meteorite Shower, Academia Sinica, October 1976.
- Jilin at LPI
- Gujba at LPI
- The spectacular airburst over (Lugo) Italy on January 19, 1993
- Tagliaferri, E.; Spalding, R.; Jacobs, C.; Ceplecha, Z. (1995). "Analysis of the Marshall Islands Fireball of February 1, 1994". Earth, Moon, and Planets. 68 (1–3): 563–572. Bibcode:1995EM&P...68..563T. doi:10.1007/BF00671553.
- Greenland meteor at goes.gsfc.nasa.gov
- July 2002 Asteroid/Comet News
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- January 18, 2000 Yukon/Northern BC Fireball (The Tagish Lake Meteorite)
- B612 list of infrasound detections from 2000-2013
- "Low sounds detect meteor blast". 2001-09-03.
- Near-Earth objects dangerous, general says BBC News, September 9, 2002.
- Cambridge Conference Correspondence. Asteroids 'could spark a nuclear war'
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- Vanessa Thomas (2003). Meteorites fall on Chicago suburbs, Astronomy Magazine, March 2003.
- Cosmic hole-in-one: capturing dust from a meteoroid's fiery demise Australian Antarctic Magazine, issue 8 Autumn 2005
- Almahata Sitta in LPI
- Brooymans, Hanneke (November 22, 2008). "Hunt on for space rock". The Vancouver Sun. The Edmonton Journal. Archived from the original on December 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-24.
- Buzzard Couleein LPI
- Yeomans, Don; et al. "Asteroid Impactor Reported over Indonesia". Near Earth Object Program Office. NASA-NEOP. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- Matthew Moore (2009).South Africa meteor display caught on film, The Telegraph
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- Košice at LPI
- "Meteorite strikes central Russia, hundreds injured". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. 2013-02-15.
- Shurmina, Natalia; Kuzmin, Andrey. "Meteorite hits central Russia, more than 500 people hurt". Reuters. Archived from the original on February 15, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
- Bright Meteor Rocks Argentina Rock Concert
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Jaymie Matthews, professor of astrophysics at the University of British Columbia, says a meteor was likely the cause of a strange boom heard Tuesday night in Quebec and Ontario
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"[...] This has the hallmark of a meteor blast," said Andrew Fazekas, a spokesman with the Montreal Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
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Reports have come from throughout the Ottawa region, through Montreal, Laval, and as far south as upper New York state, near the city of Plattsburgh, he said. There have been no reports of damage.
- "Scientists probe meteor link to Argentina explosion". Phys.org. 2014-02-18. INERC
- Porangaba at LPI
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- Komar Gaon at LPI
- Sariçiçek at LPI
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- Paul Rincon (2016).Large space rock burns up over Atlantic, BBC News
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- Yau, Kevin; Weissman, Paul; Yeomans, Donald (1994). "Meteorite falls in China and some related human casualty events". Meteoritics. 29 (6): 864–871. Bibcode:1994Metic..29..864Y. ISSN 0026-1114. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.1994.tb01101.x.
- Asteroid Impacts on Earth More Powerful than Nuclear Bomb (YouTube)
- Asteroid impacts larger than 1 kiloton of TNT
- New Map Shows Frequency of Small Asteroid Impacts, Provides Clues on Larger Asteroid Population (Bolide events from 1994-2013 for asteroids ~1+ meter in diameter)
- Fireball and Bolide Reports (JPL)
- Newspaper archives drop hints about the Chelyabinsk event and other superbolides