Comet lights up night sky ‘like a movie’

Comet lights up Portuguese sky

Source: ESA

A blue fireball has lit up the skies in Spain and Portugal as a mystery object of “cometary origin” burned towards Earth.

Footage from cities across both countries shows the object streaking across the night sky on Saturday.

The European Space Agency shared a video on the X social media platform on Sunday that it said was captured by its “fireball camera”.

The ESA said the blue light streaking lighting up the sky above the western Spanish city of Caceres was a “stunning meteor” travelling at roughly 45 kilometres a second.

However, it later said the light was from a “small piece of a comet” and not a meteor.

The comet fragment eventually burned up over the Atlantic Ocean.

“We estimate that it flew over Spain and Portugal travelling at ~45km/s before burning up over the Atlantic Ocean at an altitude of ~60km,” the ESA said.

“The likelihood of any meteorites being found is very low.”

Footage from both countries went viral on social media in the hours after the flashy display, showing the object speeding across the dark sky and lighting its path in bright blue and green.

One witness said seeing the blue fireball “felt like a movie”.

“It almost looked like daylight … we all looked back and saw it,” Lisbon resident Bernardo Taborda, 31, told Reuters.

He was walking around the city with friends when the sky suddenly turned bright green.

“It felt like a movie, we all looked at each other and we were stunned,” Taborda said. “It was amazing.”

Spain’s Calar Alto astronomical observatory said a preliminary analysis by Andalusia’s Institute of Astrophysics revealed the object had a “cometary origin”.

The meteor follows a historic display of aurora lights in the northern and southern hemispheres last week.

It followed the effects of a severe solar storm on the Sun colliding with gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The aurora lights are usually restricted to areas around the north and south poles.

But last week’s breathtaking display was widely seen across Australia, including as far north as Queensland.

In the northern hemisphere, it was seen as far south as France.

Britain’s Met Office expert has said more displays are possible in the next fortnight due to a region of sunspots that will rotate back towards the Earth and potentially lead to more mass ejections.

Australian experts have also said other similar displays are possible Down Under in the remaining months of 2024.

-with agencies

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