SCIENCE
08/12/2016 6:45 AM AEDT | Updated 09/12/2016 5:23 AM AEDT

Fireball Rips Through Siberian Sky In Brilliant Display Of Light

"Frankly, I was scared. I thought that it was a bomb," one witness said.

A strange display of light blazed across the Siberian night sky early this week, according to witnesses in the area. The fireball’s stunning display created a moment of daylight for people in the Khakassia region of Russia.

Although NASA doesn’t have independent confirmation of the event, Paul Chodas, manager of their Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the dazzling streak could be explained by a “really tiny asteroid hitting the atmosphere.” 

“It looks to me to be real,” he told The Huffington Post. “This would be a fireball ― that’s a large, bright meteor.”

Witness Olga Sagalakova described her terrifying experience to RT, an English-language news outlet funded by the Russian government.

“At first, I couldn’t understand what’s going on. There was a sudden luminescence. It wasn’t as light as day, but still quite bright,” she said. “Frankly, I was scared. I thought that it was a bomb.”

Several witnesses apparently caught the celestial flyby on video:

Judging from the brightness of the fireball, Chodas estimates it may have been 10 to 15 meters in size.

“There were no reports of a shockwave,” he said. “That tells me it was not a large meteor like Chelyabinsk.”

The 2013 Chelyabinsk fireball was about 17 meters in diameter, and its explosion was about 30 times as powerful as the atomic bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.

While visions of space rocks hurling through the sky might seem extraordinary, Chodas said they aren’t unusual.

“Something like this probably happens every day or two,” Chodas added. “Just not necessarily over populated areas.”

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