Meteor that exploded over Earth was 'stronger than Hiroshima bomb'

This was the second largest explosion detected in recent years. Credit NASA

This was the second largest explosion detected in recent years. Credit NASA

According to information just released by NASA, the blast, which occurred on December 18, is the biggest since the fireball over Chelyabinsk in Russian Federation six years ago.

Unlike the Chelyabinsk meteor, which was captured on CCTV, mobile phones and auto dashboard cameras, the December arrival from outer space went largely unnoticed at the time because it exploded in such a remote location. That's about 10 times bigger than the atomic bomb used on Hiroshima in 1945.

The meteor exploded with a force equal to 173 kilotons of TNT, or about 10 times as much as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at the end of World War II, a NASA chart of fireballs shows. The explosion was detected by military satellites over the area which tracked the blast to around 25 km above the ground.

Suspiciously, the massive meteor flew unnoticed until it blasted when hit the Earth's atmosphere over the Bering Sea, near Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.

The explosion went largely undetected by the public or press while scientists collected data because of the remote location, said Kelly Fast, manager of NASA's near-Earth objects observations program, BBC News reported.

Dr Fast was discussing the event here at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, near Houston, Texas.

He said a fireball of such a size and scale is only expected two or three times every 100 years.

"That's another thing we have in our defence, there's plenty of water on the planet".

Congress has asked NASA to locate 90 percent of the near-Earth asteroids that are 460 feet or larger by 2020, but researchers say this effort could take 30 years or more.

The recent incident has uncovered a loophole that NASA is attempting to fix: large-enough space rocks on a collision course with Earth that can affect entire regions on land.

A mission concept in development would see a telescope called NeoCam launched to a gravitational balance point in space, where it would discover and characterise potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 140m.

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