Scientists Spot Rare Minimoon Fireball Over Australia

A fiery meteor explosion over the Australian desert may have been an ultra-rare minimoon, researchers think. 

Chelsea Gohd |

A fireball exploded in the night sky over the Bay Area in San Francisco, CA on 17 Oct 2012. (Image: © NASA/Robert P. Moreno Jr)

Sometimes, objects from space come really close to Earth but are not immediately pulled in by our planet’s gravity. They often orbit for a short period of time before being either pulled into the atmosphere or hurled back out into space. These objects are called temporarily captured orbiters (TCOs), but are commonly referred to as natural Earth satellites or minimoons. 

In poring over data from Australia’s Desert Fireball Network (DFN) — a network of cameras set up across Australia to capture images of minimoon fireballs, or minimoons entering Earth’s atmosphere and burning up — a group of researchers have identified what they think is a minimoon meteor, or fireball. 

This is the second time that researchers have identified a TCO blazing through the atmosphere before hitting the ground. In finding the fireball, named DN160822_03, the researchers think that it exploded over the Australian desert on Aug. 22, 2016.

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