An asteroid entered our planet’s atmosphere on its path towards Jupiter, according to astronomers from Australia.
The phenomenon took place in July 2017, and it was observed in the Australian sky. It was spectacular due to the extended duration of the flames.
It was observed by researchers from the Desert Fireball Network (DFN), the biggest fireball observation network in the world, of the Curtin University. Their discovery was published on April 7 in the Astronomical Journal.
The network is capable of covering a third of the Australian sky.
The meteor burned brightly for a whole minute and a half before its trajectory was modified.
Earth As A Slingshot
The researchers revealed how our planet worked a lot like a slingshot for the asteroid, propelling it deeper into the solar system.
Data analysis was commenced to determine the trajectory, velocity, and energy of the foreign object.
Patrick Shober, lead researcher, and Ph.D. candidate highlighted how this is the first time scientists ever recorded a “slingshot event.”
Shober said: “The 2017 fireball was extraordinary on two fronts – the extended length of time it spent in our atmosphere, producing a brilliant 90 second light show, and the fact it didn’t crash-land on Earth – but was flung back into space.”
He also added that the “most intriguing quality about this fireball is that it used Earth as a type of slingshot, gaining itself an express ticket to Jupiter, where it will most likely spend around 200 thousand years in an orbit near the gas giant.”
Estimations showed that a close encounter with Jupiter in 2025 is very likely.
The initial mass of the meteorite was approximated at 60 kilograms. However, the meteorite lost one-third of its weight before leaving Earth’s atmosphere. Friction and Oxygen took their toll on the celestial object.