How Come Nobody Saw the Meteor That ‘Exploded’ Over the Thule Air Base in Greenland?


On 25 July there was a fireball streaking the sky over Greenland, right over the Thule Air Base. It had released 2.1 kilotons of energy, making it the second biggest energetic explosion of this year.

Social media and media outlets have started wondering what the U.S. Air Force would say about the event and if something happened to the base.

The Aviationist reported that the rock traveled 74 times the speed of sound, reaching 54,000 mph (87,000 km/h). However, not many people would have been north of the Arctic Circle to see the phenomenon or see if there were meteorites reaching the ground.

The meteor was reported on 31 July by Ron Baalke (Solar System Dynamics group, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory), writing the following on Twitter:

The tweet then was followed by an announcement from Hans Kristensen (director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists), who wrote on Twitter:

Was the Thule Air Base harmed?

A meteor observer, Robert Lunsford (American Meteor Society) explained that the glazing ball of fire was too small to be seen before striking the Earth:

“These objects are only a few meters across and smaller, which is too small to be detected before they strike the Earth. Therefore, we have no idea when and where such events will occur.”

As soon as it passed through the atmosphere, some sensors picked the meteor that exploded over Greenland. Lunsford believes that either it could have disintegrated or there could be some remnants on the ground, also explaining why the explosion was so huge:

“The shock wave generated by the collision with the atmosphere is the source of the ‘explosion’ and resulting estimate of impact energy.”

The explosion was great, but nobody saw it, because it was a remote location. Lunsford concludes that they “have not received any visual reports, either. If not for the U.S. government sensors, we would not even know about this object.”


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