A massive fireball exploded over the Bering Sea with enough energy equivalent to ten atomic bombs, reported NASA.
The meteor was the second biggest in three decades, and the largest to explode in the atmosphere since the incident in Chelyabinsk, Russia, six years ago.
NASA tweeted several satellite photos of the explosion on Friday which appeared in the upper stratosphere in December.
Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA, told BBC News that an explosion of this size is only expected to occur a couple of times a century.
Did you miss the meteor ☄️ spotted over the Bering Sea in December 2018? Don’t worry — our satellite 🛰 saw it! The MODIS instrument on @NASA's Terra satellite caught this view 👀 of the meteor’s shadow, visible as the gray streak above the clouds ☁️.https://t.co/VUDxPjWgqn pic.twitter.com/s8pcO6XxUE— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) March 22, 2019
The MISR instrument, also on Terra 🛰, saw the large "fireball" — the term used for exceptionally bright meteors ☄️ that are visible over a wide area — as it exploded 💥 about 16 miles above the Bering Sea, far enough way to pose no threat. pic.twitter.com/lyjyZKBZOm— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) March 22, 2019
The blast occurred on 18 December about 16 miles over the Bering Sea, off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula.
The meteor was traveling at a speed of 20 miles per second. It measured 30 feet long and weighing more than 1,500 tons, according to NASA.
The impact of the explosion was equivalent to roughly 173 kilotons, or about ten Hiroshimas.
Some colour views of the #meteor that flew over the North Pacific in December 2018, taken by Japan's #Himawari satellite.— Simon Proud (@simon_sat) March 18, 2019
The meteor is really clear here - bright orange fireball against the blue + white background!
Background: https://t.co/r403SQxicZ pic.twitter.com/ctNN8zxsXb
"That was 40% the energy release of Chelyabinsk, but it was over the Bering Sea so it didn't have the same type of effect or show up in the news," said Kelly Fast, near-Earth objects observations programme manager at Nasa.
NASA's Terra satellite captured the event with five of the nine cameras on the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer satellite. The space agency compiled footage of about seven minutes after the meteor exploded and transformed it into a GIF.
Congress tasked NASA in 2005 with developing technology that would spot 90% of near-Earth asteroids of 460 feet or larger by 2020. Meteors of that size are called "problems without passports" because the impact would be devastating. Scientists responded to Congresses' request by indicating such technology would not be available until the 2030s.
The latest space incident over the Bering Sea shows that meteors can collide with Earth without early warning, underlining the need for governments to enhance the global Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System.
So, why did NASA wait more than three months to alert the public that a huge meteor exploded off the coast of Russia? Well, the one thing governments don't like is panic, so, of course, the public is not allowed to know.