A piece of space debris fell to Earth over Japan on Sunday morning, lighting up the night sky with a brilliant flash.
The fireball was only visible for a brief moment or two, but it caught the eye of many onlookers.
The fireball, or bolide, was likely totally destroyed during its trip through Earth’s atmosphere.
One of the things about living on Earth — or any planet, I suppose — is that you never know when an object from space is going to make a spontaneous appearance in the sky. For people across a huge area of western and central Japan, Sunday morning was one of those times. In the still-dark hours of the morning, a fireball appeared in the sky and produced a flash so bright that it rivaled a full moon, according to witnesses.
As Kyodo News reports, the fireball appeared at roughly 1:35 a.m. local time on Sunday morning. Despite the late hour, there were plenty of people who managed to catch a glimpse of the object streaking through the sky before flashing brilliantly and lighting up the landscape.
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Plenty of social media users quickly posted about the bright flash, with a few managing to capture images or video of the fireball in the few seconds it was visible. One video shows the fireball’s descent, flash, and fizzle-out from start to finish. The video, shown below as part of a news broadcast, shows just how incredibly bright the fireball (or “bolide” as they are known) flashed as it careened through Earth’s atmosphere.
That’s a seriously bright bolide, but the visuals aren’t the only thing the falling chunk of space material produced. According to some witnesses, the fireball produced a “rumbling” sound.
A bolide is a chunk of space rock that gets too close to Earth and is drawn in by our planet’s gravitational pull. As it tumbles through the atmosphere, the friction is too intense for the object to survive. It catches fire, producing a streak in the sky, and the bright flash that is seen usually occurs when the object breaks up into small pieces and is incinerated. It’s common for there to be no debris found from such objects, but hearing something from them is a rare treat.
When these fireballs make it closer to the ground, they can explode, creating a boom that can be powerful enough to damage structures. Russia, in particular, has dealt with a few of these kinds of explosions over populated areas. There’s been no indication that this fireball — which, despite the bright light show it produced, was likely the result of a relatively small object — exploded in such a way, but the fact that rumbling was reported is somewhat unusual for such a sighting.