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A Meteor Gave Spain a Fireworks Show on New Year’s Eve

An observatory captured the burn up of space dust bright enough to shine through the clouds.
January 2, 2016, 10:30pm
Image: Image: Observatori de l'Ebre (E. Blanch/CSIC-URLl- J.M.Trigo-Rodríguez/CSIC-IEEC) by the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC)

New Year's Eve fireworks have nothing on what the universe can throw our way. In Spain, many people got a cosmic fireworks show thanks to a re-entering meteor.

The images were captured by Observatori de l'Ebre, showing an event just a few seconds long. Astronomer Phil Plait writes that the image actually involves an object high up, near the boundary between the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space. However, the bit of space rock burned bright enough to light up the sky through the clouds and appear much closer. He also conjectures that it was a small rock, possibly a meter in length, and the separate flashes of light were the object breaking up.

While the Spanish meteorite happened to be caught by the Observatori de l'Ebre, there were still a few reports of other fireballs on New Years Eve, one in France, two in Canada, and two in the United States. Of course, if you missed those, there's a meteor shower going on the next few days, so you might be able to catch a glimpse of something not quite as bright.

Correction: This story has been updated with the proper name of the observatory.