Dramatic Meteorite Fall, Sonic Booms In Cuba

Meteorite fall over Cuba. This video includes the boom which sounds like a gunshot.

Boom! That’s what the residents of Viñales in western Cuba heard coming from the sky yesterday afternoon around 1:15 p.m. local time. Seconds earlier, Floridians watched a bright meteor streak the sky headed southwest. By the time it reached western Cuba, the meteoroid had plunged deep enough into the atmosphere to shatter to pieces, some of which survived and landed on the ground and rooftops as meteorites.

A close-up look at the fragments

In the videos you can see the fresh, gray-black “char” on the stones called fusion crust caused by heating in the atmosphere. Cosmic rocks enter the atmosphere at extreme speeds from about 25,000 mph to 160,000 mph. Because they spend so little time in the air, only the outer millimeter or two gets melted with the inside remaining intact. The second video offers a good look at some of the fragments. We can clearly see that it’s a stony meteorite, probably a chondrite, the most common variety.

Midway through you’ll see a meteorite with red marks on it

Pause the video for a closer look at the texture of the stones. See those dark veins? Those are shock veins that formed hundreds of thousands if not millions of years ago when the asteroid that contained what would become the future Cuban meteorite was struck by another asteroid. The impact fractured and partially melted the interior of the object, creating spider webs of dark shock veins made of melted, sulfur-bearing minerals. Cuban scientists have now retrieved pieces and will have it classified, so we’ll know more specifics soon.

In the final video about midway through you’ll see a rock with red markings on its exterior. This is almost certainly earthly material — maybe from the roof in the photo that follows — or from striking something on the ground. The Worden meteorite, which fell in Worden, Mich. on Sept. 1, 1997, “bloodied” itself when it struck the roof of a red 1988 Toyota Celica.

Witnesses described the Cuban fall as a “ball of fire.” The smoke trail, which lingered for minutes in the bright, blue sky, is made of meteor dust sloughed off or left in the wake of the explosion that shattered the object. Lucky no one was hurt by the fall.  Witnessed meteorite falls are rare with an average of about 10 a year. A search through the Meteoritical Database reveals that Cuba until yesterday had but one meteorite to its name, an iron-nickel type simply called “Cuba” found in 1871. That makes the Feb. 1 meteorite fall the first witnessed meteorite fall in the country.

5 Responses

    1. astrobob

      Hi Barbara,
      Yes! Isn’t that something? Not a day later a fresh cosmic rock falls. Could this please happen over Duluth sometime?

  1. Edward M Boll

    Good thing no body was hot. I had a school bus that would not start after cold weather. My boss came out, and I got up early to plug it in, and caught a beautiful solar system trio of Jupiter, Venus and very thin crescent Moon. On the fainter side, Comet Stephan Ortema, so well placed, the last report I saw was with about a 13 inch scope at 80 power. I may look with binoculars at that part of the sky tonight and note the stars nearby the comet.

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