Perplexing media reports state that a mysterious meteor has penetrated Earth’s atmosphere on July 25, exploding over a U.S. military base stationed in Greenland.
The bolide managed to slip past the early-warning radar at Thule Air Force Base and remained unnoticed until it disintegrated some 43 kilometers (26 miles) above the base, per Fox News.
According to Syfy Wire, the detonation unleashed an energy of about 8.8 trillion Joules, equivalent to the explosion of 2,100 tons of TNT. Luckily, the U.S. personnel stationed at Thule Air didn’t mistake the meteor explosion of an incoming nuke, otherwise the bolide might have sparked a nuclear war, notes the media outlet, which specifies the meteor came from an asteroid the size of a small car.
As it is, the bright meteor remained just another fireball lighting up the sky — one of the countless others that frequently burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
For instance, between 1994 and 2013, 556 small asteroids ranging in size from 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) crashed in our planet’s atmosphere, resulting in bolides, shows a 2014 report by NASA.
“Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are usually harmless,” space agency officials stated at the time.
The curious thing about last week’s incident is that the U.S. Air Force has failed to report on the matter, notes the Business Insider.
“No reporting about any such event appears on the public news website of the 12th Space Warning Squadron based at Thule, the 21st Space Wing, or the wing’s 821st Air Base Group,” states the media outlet.
Don't panic! A small asteroid burning up over Greenland last week didn't start a war. https://t.co/R9rtqs9v3A
— SYFY WIRE (@SyfyWire) August 3, 2018
Instead, the news of the event first broke on social media and came from two “credible” sources: the Twitter account of “Rocket Ron,” a user who describes himself as a “Space Explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” and the director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, Hans Kristensen.
The first tweet about the meteor exploding over Thule Air was posted by “Rocket Ron” on July 31 at 3.10 p.m. ET.
“A fireball was detected over Greenland on July 25, 2018 by US Government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 km. The energy from the explosion is estimated to be 2.1 kilotons.”
A day later, Kristensen retweeted the news at 5:14 p.m. ET, writing: “Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base.”
“We’re still here, so they correctly concluded it was not a Russian first strike. There are nearly 2,000 nukes on alert, ready to launch,” Kristensen added in his Twitter post.
We’re still here, so they correctly concluded it was not a Russian first strike. There are nearly 2,000 nukes on alert, ready to launch. pic.twitter.com/q01oJfRUp4
— Hans Kristensen (@nukestrat) August 1, 2018
The news is corroborated by a report from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which recorded a space object of unspecified size flying almost directly over Thule on July 25 at 21:55 UTC (5.55 p.m. ET).
The object was traveling at speeds of 24.4 kilometers per second — about 54,000 mph, or Mach 74, notes the Business Insider — and fits the altitude, latitude, and longitude coordinates specified by the original source.