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For the Swedish guided missile BOLIDE, see RBS 70.
A bolide – a very bright meteor of an apparent magnitude of −14 or brighter
World map of bolide events (1994–2013)[1]

A bolide (from the Greek βολίς bolis, "missile" or "to flash"[2]) is an extremely bright meteor that often 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, which is more than twice as bright as the full moon.[3] 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.[4]

A superbolide is a bolide which reaches an apparent magnitude of a−17 or brighter.[3][5] Recent examples of superbolides are the Sutter's Mill meteorite and the Chelyabinsk meteor.


A bolide of apparent magnitude −3, from the Geminids meteor shower (SAO RAS).

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.[3] 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:


Geologists use the term bolide more often than astronomers do;[citation needed] 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 of which its composition (for example, whether it is a rocky or metallic asteroid, or an icy comet) is unknown.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "We are not Alone: Government Sensors Shed New Light on Asteroid Hazards". Universe Today. Retrieved 12 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "bolide". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c Belton, MJS (2004). Mitigation of hazardous comets and asteroids. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521827647. :156
  4. ^ a b "Introduction: What is a Bolide?". 1 April 1998. Retrieved 16 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Adushkin, Vitaly; Ivan Nemchinov (2008). Catastrophic events caused by cosmic objects. Springer. ISBN 1402064527. :133

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