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Fireball lights up Russian sky

A blazing fireball appeared over the northern Murmansk region of Russia last week. Recorded with dashboard cameras, the explosion evokes the February 2013 meteorite explosion over the city of Chelyabinsk, which injured more than 1,200 people.

A screen shot from a video showing a blazing fireball seen over the northern Murmansk region of Russia.

During the weekend, the northern Murmansk region of Russia witnessed a fireball that very briefly lit up the sky. No damages were reported.

The explosion, recorded by dashboard video cameras and posted on YouTube, is a grim reminder of what happened on February 2013, when a meteor strike over the city of Chelyabinsk injured more than 1,200.

"In one of the dashcam videos, the automobile's passengers can be heard marveling over the flash," writes Alan Boyle of NBC News. "Such dashcam views helped researchers reconstruct the timeline for last year's Chelyabinsk explosion."

After watching the video of the fireball, Sergei Smirnov, chief researcher at the Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory near St. Petersburg, couldn’t establish the trajectory or the exact altitude of the meteor but, he said that "it was traveling 'many tens of kilometers' above the ground," reported The Moscow Times.

Also, the object seen was a meteor, not a meteorite, as its flight "ended in combustion" instead of a collision with the Earth, Dr. Smirnov told Interfax.

A meteor, or a shooting star is a streak of light observed when a meteoroid, or a small particle from an asteroid or a comet enters the Earth and vaporizes. When a meteoroid survives the Earth's atmosphere and lands on its surface, it is called a meteorite.

But the Russian news outlet RT News reported Saturday that most observers believe that the object was "a meteorite, though officials have neither confirmed it nor said where the fragments are likely to have landed. Others speculated that the object may have been space debris, re-entering the atmosphere."

Russia's TV Tsentr television said the event was part of the annual Lyrid meteor shower and disintegrated before it could land on the Earth. The Lyrids, which usually peak on April 21-22, comes from the dust trail of Comet Thatcher.

"This month's Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of April 22 and the morning of April 23," according to NASA. "Every year in late April Earth passes through a stream of debris from the old comet, which has been bringing Lyrid meteors to our planet for at least 2600 years. Specks of Thatcher’s dust hit the top of atmosphere at 110,000 mph and disintegrate in a flurry of meteors.  Most years, the shower produces about 15 to 20 Lyrids per hour."

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