A meteor has left 2.1 kilotons of energy after exploding above the Thule Air Force base in Greenland that is home to ballistic missiles warning satellite.
Hans Kristensen, the Director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, informed the public about the incident. The explosion was fortunately not misidentified as a Russian strike. If not, there are nearly 2,000 nuclear weapons on alert, ready to launch, Kristensen said.
The meteor, estimated to be the size of a small car, was detected by the U.S. government sensors at an altitude of 43.3 kilometers according to a space explorer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who goes by the Twitter name "Rocket Ron."
The Thule Air Base is the Air Force's northernmost base, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 947 miles south of the North Pole.
Meteor explodes with 2.1 kilotons force 43 km above missile early warning radar at Thule Air Base. https://t.co/qGvhRDXyfK
We’re still here, so they correctly concluded it was not a Russian first strike. There are nearly 2,000 nukes on alert, ready to launch. pic.twitter.com/q01oJfRUp4 — Hans Kristensen (@nukestrat) August 1, 2018
Object With Unspecified Size
No major news outlet has made reports of the incident yet but specifics can be found via NASA's JPL Fireball and Bolide Data page. The page lists meteor explosions that are big enough to be detected by military satellites.
According to the records' description, an object of unspecified size was detected traveling at 24.4 kilometers per second or about 54,000 miles per hour. It was detected at 76.9 degrees' north latitude, 69.0 degrees' west longitude on July 25. It can be inferred based on these latitudes that the meteor hovered almost directly over Thule base.
Reacting to the news, Captain Hope Cronin, spokeswoman for the Air Force, said the base did not suffer any impact from the meteor explosion.
JoAnna Wendel, a NASA spokeswoman, said meteor explosions of this kind and size happened a few times a year. They result from the impact of small asteroids with Earth's atmosphere.
"By comparison, the 2013 meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia released over 200 times the energy of the Greenland meteor," she said.
A Meteor The Size Of Mini Cooper
Phil Plait of SyFyWire compared the size of the Greenland meteor to the size of the Mini Cooper. It exploded while it was at 40 or more kilometers above the Thule base. In comparison, most of the meteors, like the ones during meteor shower events, only have the size comparable to a grain of sand.
Compared to a nuclear weapon, a meteor takes several seconds to explode while a nuke detonates immediately, giving off flashes of gamma rays. The Greenland meteor was also traveling faster than a missile.
Thule Air Base is where the 21st Space Wing's global network of sensors is stationed. It provides missile warning, space surveillance, and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command and Air Force Space Command. The base also is home to the 12th Space Warning Squadron who operates a Ballistic Missile Early Warning System designed to detect and track ICBMs launched against the United States.