Meteor Plowed Into Earth, We Failed to Notice

Impact happened 600 miles off Brazil on Feb. 6
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2016 10:05 AM CST
Meteor Plowed Into Earth, We Failed to Notice
A meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/, Yekaterina Pustynnikova)

Earth recently saw its largest meteor impact since the Chelyabinsk incident. Missed it? So did everyone else. While the Chelyabinsk impact shattered windows and injured more than 1,000 people, an impact more than 600 miles off the coast of Brazil on Feb. 6 was relatively quiet in comparison. For one thing, the space rock was only about a third of the size of the Chelyabinsk asteroid, though it was still the size of a large living room, astronomer Phil Plait writes for Slate. The impact about 20 miles above Earth did release the equivalent energy yield of 13,000 tons of TNT—the same amount of energy as the first atomic bomb, per the Independent—but Chelyabinsk's meteor impact, with the equivalent of 500,000 tons of TNT, puts that in better perspective.

Had the impact been in a populated area, people might have simply felt their windows shake, Plait says. It isn't clear how the impact—first reported by a NASA astronomer and recorded in NASA's fireball reports—was detected; Plait notes most impacts are detected by satellites, seismic monitors, and atmospheric microphones. Some outlets, including the Mirror, have questioned why NASA didn't "warn the world," but Plait notes 100 tons of space debris hit Earth's atmosphere each day. NASA estimates about 30 space rocks burn up in the atmosphere each year in "impacts," per Forbes, and rare pieces that make it to the surface tend to fall into the ocean. In other words, this impact wasn't the end of the world. (Meteors actually make Earth stronger.)

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