KEY POINTS

  • An asteroid exploded over Purto Rico
  • The asteroid's explosion produced a bright flash
  • The incident occurred weeks after Puerto Rico was hit by earthquakes

An international agency reported that Earth was hit by a small asteroid over a week ago. According to the agency, the space rock burned up in the atmosphere and detonated over Puerto Rico.

The International Meteor Organization (IMO) noted that the incident took place on Jan. 17 at around 4:30 p.m. EST. Although it was still daytime, the explosion from the asteroid was still bright enough to create a visible fireball.

Aside from the IMO, the American Meteor Society was also able to monitor the incident. Both agencies received a total 32 of eyewitness reports of the asteroid airburst. Many of the reports came from different cities in Puerto Rico such as Aguadilla, Bayamon, Camuy, Fajardo and Santa Isabel.

The most distant report the agencies received came from the Cruz Bay in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although the explosion of the asteroid was photographed and recorded by many people in the area, most of the images were captured accidentally.

Through observations made by the IMO, the agency was able to calculate the entry speed and size of the asteroid that exploded in the atmosphere. According to the agency, the space rock measured almost 4 feet wide and hit the atmosphere at a speed of over 31,000 miles per hour.

As noted by the agency, the energy released by the asteroid’s explosion was equivalent to about 45 tons of TNT. Although the blast produced a loud booming sound that was heard by many eyewitnesses, it was not powerful enough to affect anyone on the ground.

Despite being a harmless incident, many residents in Puerto Rico feared the sudden appearance of the daytime fireball. Many of them thought it was an indication of another disaster that’s about to happen.

Their fears stem from the earthquake swarm that rocked large portions of their island. These seismic events began in December last year, Reuters reported. The series of earthquakes, many of which were magnitude 5 and greater, severely affected Puerto Rico. In addition to the loss of power, over 8,000 people became homeless due to the level of damage caused by the earthquakes on their houses.

NASA Asteroid family Mars and Jupiter This artist concept catastrophic collisions between asteroids located in the belt between Mars and Jupiter and how they have formed families of objects on similar orbits around the sun. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech