Satellite images used to create video of meteor explosion

A scientist from the University of Oxford has used satellite data to create a video of an enormous explosion in the atmosphere which took place last year, but was only recently discovered.

The blast from the meteor was 10 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and was first spotted by a US military satellite being referred to NASA.

Now, a team from the University of Oxford has created a video of the incident based on data captured by the Japanese meteorological agency's Himawari satellites.

Dr Simon Proud of the Atmospheric Physics Department told Sky News: "We process the Himawari data 'live' as it comes in from the satellite and then archive all the resulting images and science data. So for this video I just had to go back into our archive and grab the right images."

The Himawari satellite takes "one picture of the whole Earth every 10 minutes," explained Dr Proud, who said: "The video is an zoomed-in animation of these 10 minute frames and covers around 4.5 hours in total."

Running from roughly 11.30pm GMT on 18 December to 3.50am the next morning, the video shows the smoke trail from the meteor as it passes over the Bering Strait.

Image: The meteor exploded just 16 miles above the Earth. File image.

An atmospheric physicist at the University of Oxford and the UK's National Centre for Earth Observation, Dr Proud researches how data from satellites can detect bad weather (thunderstorms and turbulence) as it happens.

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This helps to make air travel safer and more efficient by alerting airlines to where this bad weather is, Dr Proud explained.

He added: "The same weather satellites can also see many other interesting phenomena, and it was exciting to see the trail made by the meteor in some of our satellite data, which is why I made the video."

The blast from the meteor was the second-largest such explosion in the last century, just behind the meteor which exploded over the Russian region of Chelyabinsk in 2013.

It was just 25.6km (16 miles) above the planet's surface and hurtling down at a steep angle of seven degrees when the friction of the atmosphere caused it to explode.

The explosion was detected by US military satellites last year, and subsequently referred to NASA.

According to NASA's planetary defence officer Lindley Johnson, the fireball exploded near to a common flight route, and so researchers are asking airlines if they saw any signs of it.

The blast from the Bering Sea meteor was only 40% as powerful as the Chelyabinsk meteor strike in 2013, in which hundreds of people were injured.

It briefly outshone the sun and inflicted severe burns on observers below, as well as smashing windows and rattling buildings.

Dr Proud published a paper in 2013 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters about how his team reconstructed the orbit of the Chelyabinsk meteor using satellite observations.

It was the largest object to hit Earth since the Tunguska event of 1908, when an exploding body destroyed 2,000 square kilometres of Siberian forest.

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