Meteor explodes in fiery blaze over Cyprus: How unusual?

Meteors are common. Sometimes they hit Earth. But given that 70 percent of the planet is covered with water, most of these go unnoticed by humans.

What appears to be a meteor burst across the nighttime sky in Cyprus early on Friday, flashing and thundering so powerfully overhead that the ground shook, according to reports from residents.

A Cyprus Geological Department official, Iordanis Demetriades, said there's no indication that the object hit Earth. It probably "exploded in the sky," he said. Those living in the Troodos Mountain range said they saw green-white lights in the sky around 1 a.m., and then heard large blasts, according to police.

This type of near-Earth encounter with a space object may seem rare (and terrifying), but is actually quite common. NASA has identified more than 13,500 asteroids or comets of all sizes circulating within 30 million miles of Earth. On average, it tracks 30 meteorite impacts annually, according to Forbes. But given that 70 percent of the planet's surface is covered with water, most of these go unnoticed by humans.

Though some do.

In 2013 a meteor the size of a bus caused havoc when it shot in a fiery blaze over the Russian Urals city of Chelyabinsk, exploding several miles above the Earth with a blast that shattered windows, damaged buildings, and injured more than 1,000 people.

This Russian incident was followed by another on Feb. 6, 2016, when the second largest fireball crashed into the ocean off Brazil, releasing the same amount of energy as 13,000 tons of TNT. The Chelyabinsk explosion was much bigger: 500,000-TNT-tons-worth, as The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time.

Also this February, a small blue object dropped from the sky in southern India and crashed into the ground, shooting out debris that killed a bus driver standing nearby. Local officials weren’t sure if it was a meteorite, a chunk of a satellite, or other space debris.

Despite these recent incidents, the chances of such catastrophic events are very low, says NASA.  Space debris strikes Earth every year, almost always with no damage. Only a handful of meteorites have even damaged property, and prior to the incident in India, there were no records of a meteor impact ever killing a human. (Though, importantly, a massive asteroid or comet plummeted to Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs some 65.5 million years ago.)

Just in case, though, Tulane University environmental sciences professor Stephen A. Nelson has calculated the odds of getting killed by a meteorite at about 1 in 250,000 – much lower chances than dying in a tornado (1 in 60,000). On the other hand, the chances of getting killed by a meteorite are much higher than winning the PowerBall. The chances of that happening? 1 in more than 195 million.

"We live in a solar system that's full of asteroids and meteorites. There's no avoiding them. Thousands of tons of meteorites fall onto the Earth every year, far more than we can even keep track of. So, try not to worry too much," Nikolai Zheleznov, a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, told the Monitor in 2013. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Meteor explodes in fiery blaze over Cyprus: How unusual?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today