COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A blazing fireball lit up the dark skies of Arctic Finland for five seconds, giving off what scientists said was “the glow of 100 full moons” and igniting hurried attempts to find the reported meteorite.
Finnish experts were scrambling to calculate its trajectory and find where it landed, according to Tomas Kohout of the University of Helsinki’s physics department, who said Thursday night’s fireball “seems to have been one of the brightest ones.”
It produced a blast wave that felt like an explosion about 6:40 p.m. and could also be seen in northern Norway and in Russia’s Kola peninsula, he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
It might have weighed about 100 kilograms (220 pounds), according to Nikolai Kruglikov of Yekaterinburg’s Urals Federal University.
“We believe it didn’t disintegrate but reached a remote corner of Finland,” Kohout said, adding that any search plans for the meteorite must face the fact that “right now we don’t have much daylight” — four hours, to be precise.
The Norwegian meteorite network said the fireball “had the glow of 100 full moons” and likely was going northeast, perhaps “to the Norwegian peninsula of Varanger,” north of where the borders of Russia, Finland, and Norway meet.
Kohout said scientists looked forward to any space debris they can get their hands on.
“We are happy to recover (it) since this is a unique opportunity to get otherwise inaccessible space material,” said Kohout. “This is why it’s worth it to search for them.”
Viktor Troshenkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences told the Tass news agency that the fireball could be part of a prolific meteor shower known as the Leonids, which peaks at this time of year. He said he felt Thursday’s fireball likely wasn’t the sole meteorite but others maybe were not seen due to thick clouds elsewhere.
Troshenkov told Tass that meteor showers can be even stronger. The Leonids reach their maximum once every 33 years — and the last time that happened was in 1998, he said. Amateur astronomers in the Arctic then saw about 1,000 meteors, 40 meteorites, and one fireball in just one night.