Enormous fireball meteor turns the night sky green in eerie viral video

On September 2, 2023, residents of Erzurum, Turkey, were captivated by a radiant green fireball that streaked across the sky. 

The event, captured by Onur Kaçmaz, has ignited public interest and led to various questions about the nature of these celestial phenomena. This article delves into the science of green fireballs, their speed, composition, and the historical impact of similar events.

Fireballs are a specific type of meteor, distinguished by their brightness. According to the American Meteor Society (AMS), fireballs appear brighter than Venus and can, in theory, be visible during the day. Their unique luminance arises from their significant size and incredible speeds—ranging between 25,000 and 160,000 mph—as they enter Earth's atmosphere. These attributes contribute to the creation of immense friction, leading to their vibrant light emissions and, often, a sonic boom.

Upon entering Earth's atmosphere, fireballs begin to glow. This glowing effect occurs as the meteor's outer layers are eroded, exposing their metallic cores to superheating. The vibrant green color observed in the recent Turkish event is due to the presence of nickel, which, combined with iron, forms the most common elements in a meteor's core.

Fireballs are more than just visual marvels; they have had historical significance, sometimes causing extensive damage. One of the most explosive meteor events in modern history occurred over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. The energy released during that event was equivalent to 400 to 500 kilotons of TNT, resulting in substantial property damage and injuries to approximately 1,200 people.

Furthermore, archaeological evidence suggests that a devastating fireball event occurred about 3,600 years ago over the ancient city of Tall el-Hamman in the Middle East. The explosion was roughly 1,000 times more potent than the Hiroshima atomic bomb, instantly incinerating the city and its inhabitants.

The green fireball over Turkey serves as a compelling reminder of the awe-inspiring, yet potentially destructive, nature of celestial objects entering our atmosphere. As scientific understanding of these phenomena advances, it emphasizes the need for continued vigilance and research into preventive measures for mitigating the impact of future events.