It’s not particularly uncommon for meteorites to enter the Earth’s atmosphere that are large enough to create fireballs and explosions. The latest unidentified fireball entered the atmosphere and streaked over Nanqiang County in China. According to Chinese media, the event happened on Wednesday, and there was no damage or casualties caused by the fireball. It did produce loud explosions heard by many residents of the area.
The fireball was also caught on video, which is somewhat rare. The footage shows the fireball glowing extremely brightly for about 20 seconds. While it’s unknown exactly what the meteorite was comprised of, Chinese media suggests the fireball could’ve been a bolide, which is a bright meteor that typically explodes when it enters the atmosphere.
The Chinese Earthquake Network Center recorded the meteorite’s impact near the border of Nanqiang and Yushu counties. NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies estimates that the fireball’s optical radiated energy was equivalent to the energy released by the detonation of 9.5 kilotons of trinitrotoluene. This was the largest fireball event over China since 1988.
As interesting as the Chinese fireball was, it was no match for the largest ever recorded. The largest fireball ever recorded happened on February 15, 2013, in Russia. That fireball exploded with enough force to shatter glass in nearby buildings, and some observers on the ground were cut by falling debris.
The Russian Chelyabinsk meteorite had a total optical radiated energy equivalent of 440 kilotons of trinitrotoluene. The Chinese fireball was so bright that it made nighttime look like daylight. The video of the incident is embedded in the tweet above. It’s unclear if any remnants of the meteorite have been collected for study at this time.