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A massive fireball appeared over Tokyo, and we have the video

Published Jul 6th, 2020 5:20PM EDT
tokyo fireball
Image: Reid Wiseman/NASA

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  • A space rock entered Earth’s atmosphere over Tokyo, producing a brilliant flash and a loud sonic boom.
  • The incident was captured on video, showing the fireball lighting up and then fizzling out.
  • No damage was reported but the sonic boom was heard for great distances.

This past weekend gave those of us in the United States plenty of reasons to look up at the sky, what with all the totally legal fireworks people were blowing off in the backyards and whatnot. Tokyo residents were treated to a sky show of their own a few days earlier when a large space rock came speeding through Earth’s atmosphere above Japan and exploding in the process.

The fireball, which is believed to have been a chunk of space debris that simply got a bit too close to our planet, appeared at around 2:30 a.m. local time. Its early morning arrival meant that many people were already in for the night by the time it showed up, but its bright flash of light was met with an equally powerful sonic boom that surely woke some of them up.

As reported by Japan Times, the loud bang that the space rock produced was enough that residents noticed something amiss. Some apartment residents reportedly thought the boom came from the unit above them, while others though the loud thump came from inside their own home. No serious damage was reported, which is obviously good news.

Incredibly, despite the event taking place bright and early in the morning, someone managed to record an absolutely stunning video of the fireball’s appearance and eventual demise. The clip, which is just 13 seconds long, unfortunately, does not include the sound of the sonic boom that like arrived shortly after the fireball fizzled out, but it’s still a great look at the object being annihilated by the friction produced as it sped into Earth’s atmosphere.

The video’s description, which is written in Japanese, translates to the following:

A fireball brighter than the full moon (a particularly bright meteor) flowed from west to east over Tokyo. A few minutes later I heard a roaring boom that could be heard indoors, which may be related to the fireball. The video plays at the actual speed. It was taken from the balcony. I’m surprised that the meteor creates a halo.

That loud boom was definitely related to the meteor, and it’s not uncommon for meteor sightings to be accompanied by sonic booms. In fact, some of the larger and more impressive meteors that have come down above populated areas have even caused damage due to the energy released by the explosions.

Back in 2013, a particularly powerful boom was produced when the space rock now known as the Chelyabinsk meteor entered Earth’s atmosphere above Russia. It exploded with the energy of up to 500 kilotons of TNT, sending a shockwave the shattered windows and tested the structural integrity of many buildings below.

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