Last week a space rock was caught skimming the edge of our planet over Europe before heading back out to space.
The rare “earth-grazing” meteoroid was caught by Global Meteor Network (GMN) cameras in the early morning hours of September 22.
Denis Vida from GMN and Western University in Ontario shared dramatic sky camera footage of the asteroid traversing the sky. It’s odd to watch the flaming chunk make it all the way across the field of view. Typical meteors are fleeting and even the most impressive fireballs flame out in under a few seconds.
According to Vida, the meteor slipped into our upper atmosphere at a speed of 34.1 km/s, or over 76,000 miles per hour. Vida calculated it reached an altitude of 91 km or 56 miles before then heading back on its way to deep space.
The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute reported detecting “low-frequency inaudible sound from this event all over the Netherlands.”
“It took the sound wave 5 minutes to reach the Earth surface,” geophysicist Jelle Assink at the institute wrote on Twitter. “The waveforms suggest a high altitude meteor shock.”
The European Space Agency says that a meteoroid is typically a fragment of a comet or an asteroid, but Vida says he was unable to come up with a conclusive match to a parent body it may have broken off of.
“This lucky visitor… didn’t get low enough to completely burn up and managed to escape again, only grazing the edges of our planet’s protective gassy shield,” ESA wrote in a blog post.
The space agency estimates that, of the thousands of meteors observed near earth each year, only a handful are considered earth-grazers.