NASA: Fireball over Cuba exploded with more energy than a ton of TNT

A bright fireball blazed a smoky, steamy trail across the Florida sky Friday afternoon as it rushed to its final fate over Vinales, Cuba. Moments later, a loud sonic boom preceded the meteor breaking up and raining fragments down on the western end of the island nation. 

Newly posted data from NASA and US government sensors say the bolide’s collision with our atmosphere released as much energy as 1,400 tons of TNT. 

Such powerful meteoroid events actually aren’t all that rare, but they usually happen over the ocean or unpopulated areas with few potential witnesses. A more powerful blast was actually recorded when a meteor entered the atmosphere off the coast of Madagascar on Sept. 25.

The International Meteor Organization reports that hundreds of people witnessed the rare daytime fireball and 13 filed eyewitness reports from Fort Myers to the Florida Keys and off the coast of Cuba.

National Weather Service radar in Key West also picked up the space rock succumbing to its collision with our atmosphere. The agency reported that “a signature was detected near Viñales, Cuba, at a height of over 26,000 feet above ground level.”

The fireball was caught as a bright, smoky flash in this webcam footage from Fort Meyers, Florida:

Almost immediately after the spectacle in the sky, reports began to surface that meteorite fragments had been found on the ground in western Cuba.

The event is one of the most dramatic meteor strikes we’ve seen since a much larger bolide exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. The resulting sonic boom and shock wave equaled 440,000 tons of TNT and blew out thousands of windows, causing numerous minor injuries on the ground. 

Journalist Hatzel Vela reported from Vinales that some windows were broken by Friday’s event, but no injuries have yet been heard of.

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