List of meteor air bursts

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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 (preparatory commission est. 1997) and infrared DSP satellite technology have increased the likelihood of detecting airbursts.

Frequency[edit]

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.

World map of bolide events (1994–2013)[1]
Stony asteroid impacts that generate an airburst[2]
Impactor
diameter
Kinetic energy at Airburst
altitude
Average
frequency
(years)
atmospheric
entry
airburst
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°

Events[edit]

For comparison, the man-made Halifax Explosion of almost 3 kilotons of TNT.

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.[3] Modern researchers are skeptical about the figure, but the Tunguska event could have destroyed a highly populous district.[3]

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.[4][5][6]

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.[7] To prevent clutter, the table below (arranged chronologically) will include those with yield at least 3 kilotons after year 2005, or smaller if it is noteworthy enough to have been reported in the media like the 2013 and 2014 Argentina events,[8][9] or meteorite falls such as the 2015 Sariçiçek event in Turkey.[10]

Date General/Specific Location Coordinates Energy
(TNT equivalent)
Height of explosion Notes
1908, Jun 30 Russia: 60 kilometres (37 mi) W-NW of Vanavara[11] near Tunguska River 60°53′09″N 101°53′40″E / 60.88583°N 101.89444°E / 60.88583; 101.89444 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 42°N 86°W / 42°N 86°W / 42; -86 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.[12]
1927, Jul 13 United States: Illinois 38°12′N 89°41′W / 38.200°N 89.683°W / 38.200; -89.683 20 km (12 mi) Tilden meteor. From more than a hundred miles it appeared like "a piece falling off the sun." Then it exploded.[13]
1930, Aug 13 South America: Curuçá River Area, Amazonas 5°11′S 71°38′W / 5.183°S 71.633°W / -5.183; -71.633 100 kilotonnes of TNT (420 TJ) ? Also known as the 1930 Curuçá River event or "Brazilian Tunguska".[14] 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.[14][15][16][17][18]
1932, Dec 8 Europe: Arroyomolinos de León, Spain 38°01′00″N 6°25′00″W / 38.01667°N 6.41667°W / 38.01667; -6.41667 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.[19]
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.[citation needed]
1947, Feb 12 Russia: Sikhote-Alin Mountains in eastern Siberia 46°09′36″N 134°39′12″E / 46.16000°N 134.65333°E / 46.16000; 134.65333 10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ) Sikhote-Alin bolide. Estimated explosive yield of 10 kt equivalent.[20] Largest meteorite fall of recent times with total mass of fragments at 23 tons.[21]
1948, Feb 18 United States: Norton County, Kansas 39°41′N 99°52′W / 39.683°N 99.867°W / 39.683; -99.867 Norton County bolide. A brilliant fireball appeared in the afternoon sky. There was a loud explosion as the meteor broke apart.[22] More than a ton of fragments were collected.[23]
1959, Nov 24 Asia: Azerbaijan 38°56′N 48°15′E / 38.933°N 48.250°E / 38.933; 48.250 Yardymly bolide. A bright object that illuminated the area for almost 3,000 square km before it shattered into pieces with a thunderous noise.[24][25]
1963, Aug 3 Indian Ocean: south and about 1000 km from the Prince Edward Islands 51°S 24°E / 51°S 24°E / -51; 24 260 ± 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.[26]
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.[27] About 1 g of meteorite found. Sometimes placed in SE Canada on May 31.[28]
1966, Sep 17 Canada: Lake Huron, MichiganOntario 0.6 kilotonnes of TNT (2.5 TJ) 13 km (8 mi) The Kincardine fireball.[26] A brilliant meteor illuminated the whole of SW Ontario.[29]
1967, Feb 5 Canada: Vilna, Alberta 0.6 kilotonnes of TNT (2.5 TJ) 13 km (8 mi) Vilna bolide. Photographed.[30] Its detonation was also clearly recorded by the seismograph of the Univ. of Alberta.[31] Two very small fragments < 1 g found and stored by the university.[32]
1969, Feb 8 Mexico: Chihuahua 26°58′N 110°19′W / 26.967°N 110.317°W / 26.967; -110.317 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.[33]
1976, Mar 8 China: Jilin Province 43°42′N 126°12′E / 43.700°N 126.200°E / 43.700; 126.200 Jilin bolide. A fireball larger than the full moon was seen. There were several explosions then a violent breakup.[34] 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).[35]
1984, Apr 3 Africa: Nigeria 11°29′N 11°39′E / 11.483°N 11.650°E / 11.483; 11.650 Gujba bolide. A bright object was witnessed then an explosion was heard. More than 100 kg of fragments were found.[36]
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.[37]
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 2°36′N 164°06′E / 2.6°N 164.1°E / 2.6; 164.1 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).[38]
1997, Oct 10 United States: Las Cruces, New Mexico; El Paso, Texas 31°59′N 106°50′W / 31.983°N 106.833°W / 31.983; -106.833 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".[39]
1997, Dec 9 Europe: 150 km south of Nuuk, Greenland 62°54′N 50°06′W / 62.900°N 50.100°W / 62.900; -50.100 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.[40]
1999, Nov 8 Europe: Northern Germany 1.5 kilotonnes of TNT (6.3 TJ) Detected by the Deelen Infrasound Array in the Netherlands[41]
2000, Jan 18 Canada: Yukon, BC 60°43′N 135°03′W / 60.717°N 135.050°W / 60.717; -135.050 1.7 kilotonnes of TNT (7.1 TJ)[42] 30 km Tagish Lake bolide. One airburst at ~08:00, fragments recovered.[43]
2001, Apr 23 Pacific Ocean 2–5 kilotonnes of TNT (8.4–20.9 TJ) Infrasound detection.[44] Meteor estimated to be 2–3 meters in diameter.[45] Occurred 1,800 km away from the Scripps detector.
2002, Jun 6 Mediterranean Sea: 230 km N-NE of Benghazi, Libya 34°N 21°E / 34°N 21°E / 34; 21 12–26 kilotonnes of TNT (50–109 TJ)[42][46][47] 2002 Eastern Mediterranean event
2002, Sep 25 Russia: Vitim River, near Bodaybo, Irkutsk Oblast 58°16′N 113°27′E / 58.27°N 113.45°E / 58.27; 113.45 0.2–2 kilotonnes of TNT (0.84–8.37 TJ) 30 km Vitim event or Bodaybo event[48]
2003, Mar 26 United States: Park Forest, Illinois 41°29′N 87°41′W / 41.483°N 87.683°W / 41.483; -87.683 0.5 kilotonnes of TNT (2.1 TJ)[26] Park Forest bolide. Residents in Illinois and neighboring states witnessed a bright meteor exploding overhead.[49]
2004, Sep 3 Antarctic Ocean: 200 km offshore Queen Maud Land 69°S 27°E / 69°S 27°E / -69; 27 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.[50]
2004, Oct 7 Indian Ocean 10–20 kilotonnes of TNT (42–84 TJ) Infrasound detection[44]
2005 Start of JPL Fireball and Bolide Reports.[7] (Dates in yellow are not in the JPL reports.)
2005, Jan 1[7] Africa: Libya 32°42′N 12°24′E / 32.7°N 12.4°E / 32.7; 12.4 1.2 kilotonnes of TNT (5.0 TJ) 31.8 km (19.8 mi) Largest for 2005.
2006, Apr 4[7] Atlantic Ocean 26°36′N 26°36′W / 26.6°N 26.6°W / 26.6; -26.6 5 kilotonnes of TNT (21 TJ) 25 km (16 mi)
2006, Dec 9[7] Africa: Egypt 26°12′N 26°00′E / 26.2°N 26.0°E / 26.2; 26.0 10–20 kilotonnes of TNT (42–84 TJ) 26.5 km (16.5 mi) Infrasound detection[44]
2007, Sep 28 Europe: Northern Ostrobothnia, Finland 40 km (25 mi) Bolide that was observed as far as northern Lapland.[51] Meteoritic material was suspected to have landed southeast of Oulu but none has been found.[citation needed]
2008, Oct 7[7] Africa: Nubian Desert, Sudan 20°48′00″N 32°12′00″E / 20.80000°N 32.20000°E / 20.80000; 32.20000 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.[52] In JPL as 1 kt.[7]
2008, Nov 20[7] Canada: Saskatchewan 53°06′N 109°54′W / 53.1°N 109.9°W / 53.1; -109.9 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.[53] Over 41 kg of fragments collected.[54]
2009, Feb 7[7] Russia: Tyumen Oblast 56°36′N 69°48′E / 56.6°N 69.8°E / 56.6; 69.8 3.5 kilotonnes of TNT (15 TJ) 40 km (25 mi)
2009, Oct 8[7] Asia: coastal region in South Sulawesi, Indonesia 04°30′00″S 120°00′00″E / 4.50000°S 120.00000°E / -4.50000; 120.00000 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).[55] Occurred ~03:00 UTC; ~11:00 local time.[55]
2009, Nov 21[7] Africa: South Africa / Zimbabwe 22°00′S 29°12′E / 22.0°S 29.2°E / -22.0; 29.2 18 kilotonnes of TNT (75 TJ) 38 km (24 mi) Impacted going 32.1 km/s (19.9 mi/s).[7] There were 56 witnesses of the bolide and two seismic recorder detections.[56][57]
2010, Feb 28[7] Europe: Slovakia 48°42′N 21°00′E / 48.7°N 21.0°E / 48.7; 21.0 0.4 kilotonnes of TNT (1.7 TJ) 37 km (23 mi) Košice bolide. A bright fireball accompanied by sonic booms.[58]
2010, July 10[7] Pacific Ocean 34°06′S 174°30′W / 34.1°S 174.5°W / -34.1; -174.5 14 kilotonnes of TNT (59 TJ) 26 km (16 mi)
2010, Sep 3[7] Pacific Ocean 61°00′S 146°42′E / 61.0°S 146.7°E / -61.0; 146.7 3.8 kilotonnes of TNT (16 TJ) 33.3 km (20.7 mi)
2010, Dec 25[7] Pacific Ocean 38°00′N 158°00′E / 38.0°N 158.0°E / 38.0; 158.0 33 kilotonnes of TNT (140 TJ) 26 km (16 mi)
2011, May 25[7] Africa: Cameroon 4°06′N 14°00′E / 4.1°N 14.0°E / 4.1; 14.0 4.8 kilotonnes of TNT (20 TJ) 59 km (37 mi)
2012, Apr 22 United States: La Grange, California 37°6′N 120°5′W / 37.100°N 120.083°W / 37.100; -120.083 4 kilotonnes of TNT (17 TJ) [59] 30–47 km [60] Sutter's Mill meteorite. Numerous fragments from object recovered. (not in JPL reports)
2013, Jan 25[7] Canada: Quebec 60°18′N 64°36′W / 60.3°N 64.6°W / 60.3; -64.6 6.9 kilotonnes of TNT (29 TJ)
2013, Feb 15[7] Russia: near Chelyabinsk 54°30′N 61°30′E / 54.500°N 61.500°E / 54.500; 61.500 500 kilotonnes of TNT (2,100 TJ) [61] Estimated 30–50 km [62] Chelyabinsk meteor.[63] Largest meteor airburst known since Tunguska in 1908. Fragments called the Chelyabinsk meteorite was later found.
2013, Apr 21[7] South America: Argentina 28°06′S 64°36′W / 28.1°S 64.6°W / -28.1; -64.6 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.[8]
2013, Apr 30[7] Atlantic Ocean 35°30′N 30°42′W / 35.5°N 30.7°W / 35.5; -30.7 10 kilotonnes of TNT (42 TJ) 21.2 km (13.2 mi)
2013, Oct 12[7] Atlantic Ocean 19°06′S 25°00′W / 19.1°S 25.0°W / -19.1; -25.0 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)[64] Montreal bolide.[65][66][67][68]
2014, Feb 18[7] South America: Argentina 32°48′S 61°30′W / 32.8°S 61.5°W / -32.8; -61.5 0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ) Even though this was a low-energy event, there were reports of windows/buildings shaking.[9]
2014, Aug 23[7] Antarctic Ocean 61°42′S 132°36′E / 61.7°S 132.6°E / -61.7; 132.6 7.6 kilotonnes of TNT (32 TJ) 22.2 km (13.8 mi)
2015, Jan 9[7] South America: Brazil 23°18′S 49°12′W / 23.3°S 49.2°W / -23.3; -49.2 0.1 kilotonnes of TNT (0.42 TJ) Porangaba bolide. A daylight fireball with a loud thunder-like noise.[69]
2015, Sep 7[7] Asia: Bangkok, Thailand 14°30′N 98°54′E / 14.5°N 98.9°E / 14.5; 98.9 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[70][71]
2015, Nov 13[7] Asia: India 16°00′N 124°18′E / 16.0°N 124.3°E / 16.0; 124.3 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.[72]
2015, Dec 12[7] Asia: eastern Turkey 39°06′N 40°12′E / 39.1°N 40.2°E / 39.1; 40.2 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.[73] More than 15 kg of fragments were found and villagers made an est. $300,000 selling the space rocks.[10]
2016, Feb 6[7] Atlantic Ocean 30°24′S 25°30′W / 30.4°S 25.5°W / -30.4; -25.5 13 kilotonnes of TNT (54 TJ) 31 km (19 mi) Largest fireball for 2016 and largest since Chelyabinsk.[74]
  After 2005, but not in JPL reports.

As of 2017, the statistics per year since 2005 for airbursts mentioned by the JPL Fireball and Bolide Reports[7] are,

Year Number of
airbursts
2016 29
2015 43
2014 33
2013 20
2012 31
2011 23
2010 32
2009 25
2008 27
2007 21
2006 32
2005 38

There was a relatively high number of detected airbursts for the year 2015,[dubious ] some of which were accompanied by meteorite falls listed in the main table.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "We are not Alone: Government Sensors Shed New Light on Asteroid Hazards". Universe Today. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Robert Marcus; H. Jay Melosh & Gareth Collins (2010). "Earth Impact Effects Program". Imperial College London / Purdue University. Retrieved 2013-02-04.  (solution using 2600kg/m^3, 17km/s, 45 degrees)
  3. ^ a b Yau, K., Weissman, P., & Yeomans, D. Meteorite Falls In China And Some Related Human Casualty Events, Meteoritics, Vol. 29, No. 6, pp. 864-871, ISSN 0026-1114, bibliographic code: 1994Metic..29..864Y.
  4. ^ McFarland, John. The Day the Earth Trembled, Armagh, Northern Ireland: Armagh Observatory website, last revised on November 10, 2009.
  5. ^ Lienhard, John H. Meteorite at Curuçá, The Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston with KUHF-FM Houston.
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  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Fireball and Bolide Reports (JPL)
  8. ^ a b Bright Meteor Rocks Argentina Rock Concert
  9. ^ a b "Scientists probe meteor link to Argentina explosion". Phys.org. 2014-02-18.  INERC
  10. ^ a b Thomas Seibert (2015). A Meteorite Saved My Town, Dec 12, 2015.
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  12. ^ Earth quivers as sky phenomenon descends, The Washington Times (Washington, D.C.) 1919 Nov 27 page 1b
  13. ^ C. Wylie (1927). The Tilden Meteor, an Illinois Daylight Fall, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 21, p.338
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  15. ^ "Curuça 1930: A probable mini-Tunguska?". Planetary and Space Science. 59: 10–16. Bibcode:2011P&SS...59...10C. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2010.10.012. 
  16. ^ No. 1102: METEORITE AT CURUÇA By John H. Lienhard The Engines of Our Ingenuity
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  18. ^ http://www.comciencia.br/reportagens/espaco/espc17.htm
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  20. ^ Leonard David (2013). Russia Meteor Blast Is Biggest in 100 Years
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  23. ^ Norton County at LPI
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  25. ^ Yardymly at LPI
  26. ^ a b c 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. 
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  31. ^ Vilna at LPI
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  33. ^ Allende at LPI
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  35. ^ Jilin at LPI
  36. ^ Gujba at LPI
  37. ^ The spectacular airburst over (Lugo) Italy on January 19, 1993
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  43. ^ January 18, 2000 Yukon/Northern BC Fireball (The Tagish Lake Meteorite)
  44. ^ a b c B612 list of infrasound detections from 2000-2013
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  51. ^ http://yle.fi/uutiset/super-meteor_lights_up_northern_sky/5803349
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]