On January 21, a small asteroid lit up the night sky above the seaside resort town of Bude, northeast Cornwall, England, producing a mesmeric display. An image of the meteor was captured by one lucky photographer, which shows just how bright the explosion was.
The explosion produced a bright light which was strong enough to cast shadows and create a reflection over the water.
Photographer Chris Small was lucky enough to photograph the event, and told the European Space Agency (ESA): “I see a lot of meteors due to spending so long shooting the night sky, but I’ve never seen anything quite like that before!
“It was incredible, and lit up the entire coast almost as bright as daytime for a few seconds. There were beautiful green and blue colours.”
According to the ESA: “The fleeting flash was a fireball, defined as a meteor brighter than the planet Venus.
“Every day, roughly 54 tonnes of extra-terrestrial material reaches Earth, including interplanetary dust, meteoroids and asteroids.
“Fireballs like this one are estimated to strike Earth hundreds of times every year, however not all are caught on camera or shine so brightly.”
Asteroids and meteors produce a bright explosion of fire when they hit the atmosphere as it is the first time the space rock has ever met resistance.
Air seeps into the pores and cracks of the rock, pushing it apart and causing it to explode.
While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.
However, there are some plans on the go which could help Earth against potential asteroid strikes.
NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived in 2018.
Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.