Large Explosion Over Atlantic, But No One Paid Attention

February 23, 2016 Updated: March 1, 2016

On Feb. 6, a large meteor exploded over the South Atlantic Ocean, and no one noticed. The meteor released 13 kilotons of energy while it burned in the atmosphere, close to the amount released by the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

It was the most powerful meteor to have entered the atmosphere since 3 years ago, when the 440 kiloton meteor exploded over the skies of Chelyabinsk, Russia. The sound from the Chelyabinsk was so loud that glass windows were shattered for miles around the blast region, and many people were injured. 

On the other hand, because the Feb. 6 meteor blazed up over an area without inhabitants, it was first publicized by NASA employee Ron Balkee on Feb. 18, nearly two weeks after it hit the atmosphere. 

Meteors of that size are rare. In all of 2015, for example, there was only one meteor that had released more than 1 kiloton of energy. NASA keeps a running list of all the meteors that blaze up in the atmosphere and become “fireballs.” 

The list isn’t a comprehensive one of all the meteors that enter the atmosphere. That would be impossible to count. Everyday, more than 100 tons of meteoroids enter the earth’s atmosphere, most of it burning up before it becomes visible to the naked eye.