Discover the origin of the fireball spotted over Madrid

They discover where the fireball spotted over Madrid on July 31 came from. They reported that its origin was comet 169P/NEAT, responsible for the annual Alpha-Capricorn meteor shower.

Every year our planet receives between 40,000 and 80,000 tons of solid particles called meteoroids. They are fragments that come off asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun. When they cross Earth’s orbit, they hit our atmosphere at speeds between 12 and 72 km/s.

At these high speeds, there is friction with the air which raises the temperature of these solid particles. When meteoroid and air molecules rub together, energy and, visually, light are generated. When crossing the sky, we can appreciate that luminous trail we know as a “shooting star”

Earth’s atmosphere acts as a shield, destroying these meteoroids at high altitudes before they can be seen. But, in some cases, these solids have a size and strength that can pass through it and impact the soil of the earth.

When do meteor showers occur?

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through the debris-filled path of a comet, which as it approaches the Sun and the ices ‘sublimate’ from solid to gas, spewing a stream of material that stays in place. As these objects collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they burn up like bright meteors, the brightest of which are known as fireballs.

These showers are periodic reminders that Earth is experiencing an environment filled with ancient remnants of the early Solar System. While there are no major dangers, these impressive meteor showers remind us of their origin, the large meteorites that once passed close to Earth’s orbit, and could do so again.

How to identify a fireball?

Using images from terrestrial cameras across Europe, including an ESA-operated camera from the AllSky7 network in Cebreros, Spain, and cameras on the Southwest Europe Meteor Network (SWEMN), SWEMN calculated the trajectory of the fireball and traced its origins back in time. time. Entering the atmosphere at a height of 100 kilometers above Madrid and burning 77 kilometers above the Spanish province of Guadalajara, the icy body is believed to have been about 10 cm in size before contact with Earth.

fireball, meteor shower, meteoroids, meteorites, atmosphere

The Fireball and Meteor Network of Southwest Europe is a project coordinated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) that analyzes the meteoric phenomenon, approaching it from multiple directions. Thus, the study of meteoroids, meteors and meteorites is carried out both from an astrophysical point of view and from a chemical point of view. Thanks to this, important data can be obtained, for example, on the origin, orbit and behavior of these materials in the Earth’s atmosphere. And, at the same time, it is possible to obtain fundamental information about its chemical composition.

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The multidisciplinary analysis and study of meteoroids and the phenomena they give rise to is of great importance both from a technological and scientific point of view, constituting a very active area within the Space Sciences. So, for example, these particles play a key role in the safety of space missions and the operation of artificial satellites.

They also provide valuable clues about the chemical mechanisms that led to the emergence of life on our planet, as meteoroids are believed to have provided part of the molecules necessary for life to arise.

The Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower

The Alpha Capricornids meteor shower is believed to have been created between 3,500 and 5,000 years ago, when half of Comet 169P/NEAT disintegrated into dust. The comet itself will have formed at the same time as our Solar System, about 4.6 billion years ago.

The dusty trail of this ancient comet drifted into Earth orbit creating rare but reasonably bright meteors. At its peak, it only creates about five meteors an hour, but these are usually very bright and often turn into fireballs; particularly bright meteors.

As this drift continues, the rain is expected to become stronger. By the year 2220, it should be stronger than any current annual meteor shower.

Reference:

THIS. 2022. The cometary origins of the Madrid meteor discovered. (Press release)

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