A Meteor With the Power of an Atomic Bomb Exploded Over the Atlantic and Nobody Noticed

By James O Malley on at

On the 6th February at 2pm UTC - a Saturday afternoon - a meteor with roughly the same explosive power as the nuclear bomb which hit Hiroshima - equivalent to 13,000 tonnes of TNT exploded over the Atlantic Ocean, NASA has announced. What, you didn't notice?

The news sounds rather shocking. A nuclear-sized blast! What if it had happened over London or New York? Surely this is a potent reminder of the fragility of life as we float through the infinite vacuum of space on the tiny blue marble we call home?

Umm, not quite.

The good news is that even if we had noticed - say, if the meteor had exploded over a city rather than the ocean - it wouldn't have been as catastrophic as you might assume. Astronomer Phil Plait says that "Had it happened over a populated area it, [it] would’ve rattled some windows and probably terrified a lot of people, but I don’t think it would’ve done any real damage."

The Huffington Post reports that this makes it the largest meteor explosion in Earth's atmosphere since the Chelyabinsk meteor over Russia in 2013. In that case, the explosive yield was closer to 500,000 tonnes of TNT. So by comparison, this was something of an intergalactic damp-squib.

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