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Western Cuba Got Showered by Meteorites in Broad Daylight

Residents of Viñales, a town in western Cuba, were in for a surprise on the afternoon of February 1, when a large plume of smoke appeared in the sky, followed by a loud boom. By all accounts, a meteorite had struck, causing an explosion and flashes of light. Sightings were also reported in the Florida Keys, as the large meteor hurtled toward earth.

Luckily, there were no injuries. Several radars picked up on the activity, with the US National Weather Service saying that one radar had noticed the meteor at about 26,000 feet. Reporters were able to find pieces of the meteorite, which resemble large black stones. Some measure about the size of a smartphone.

Thanks to the quick thinking of one man in Viñales, who started filming the smoke-filled sky, we have a look at what occurred. A long streak of smoke fills the sky and then a large explosion goes off. This could be a sonic boom, which happens when objects move faster than the speed of sound. The shockwaves produced by a sonic boom can break glass, which is what occurred when a house-sized asteroid broke up over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. There, the impact was so great that glass broke in six different cities and over 1,500 people were injured.

In this case, astronomers believe that the rock that broke up over Cuba was about the size of a van before entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Interestingly, satellites seem to indicate that the space rocks contain sodium, which was also found in the rocks from the Chelyabinsk explosion. Further testing will be needed in order to learn more about the rocks.

Though this may seem like an out of this world event, these types of occurrences aren’t as rare as you’d think. Meteors frequently enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but most disintegrate before ever touching town. This also isn’t the first time meteorites have rained down over Cuba. There have been six other previous sightings, with the last occurring in 1994.

Pieces of a meteorite rained down on the town of Viñales in western Cuba.

Sightings in Florida help show the trajectory of the meteorite.

The phenomenon was also visible on satellites and from the EarthCam at Ft. Meyer, Florida.

Check out this video taken by a resident in Viñales. At about 46 seconds a large sonic boom occurs.

h/t: [Gizmodo, EarthSky]

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