What Turned a Night in Finland into Day

Fagjun | Published 2017-12-01 17:13

Video footage shows the amazing moment that a fireball from a meteor lit up the night sky over Finland with the brightness of 100 full moons.


Footage by Aurora Service Tours


Witnessing a meteor streak across the sky is already an amazing sight in itself. However, seeing a fireball from a meteor light up the night sky and make it seem like day for an instant is certainly something else.


That’s what people in Finland experienced on the night of November 16. The meteorite caused the sky to have a day-like glow for a full five seconds, and scientists had scrambled afterward to find the by-now extinguished fireball. Scientists think that the meteorite may have soared on to the northeast of Finland, maybe to Varanger, a peninsula in Norway.

The Fireball in the Sky

Leonid meteor shower; November 17, 1966 [Photo by A. Scott Murrell/NMSU; courtesy Sky & Telescope]



“We are happy to recover (it) since this is a unique opportunity to get otherwise inaccessible space material,” said Tomas Kohout at the University of Helsinki’s physics department. “This is why it’s worth it to search for them.”


Witnesses saw the flash of light in the sky over Inari in Lapland, Finland. “The lights came from all around us, like a massive explosion that lasted for some five or six seconds,” said Atle Staaleen, one of the people who witnessed the event.


Scientists say that though this meteorite was quite special, it’s possible that it wasn’t unique. It may have been part of the Leonid meteor shower, whose peak coincided with the time that the meteorite made its appearance. There were probably other meteorites streaking across the sky that night, though they might have been obscured by thick clouds.


The Leonids are quite prolific, and they occur every year. This year, they peaked on the night of November 17, just a day after the bright meteorite made its appearance. Thus, it’s highly possible that the meteorite had indeed been a part of the Leonids.

Finding a Meteorite

A meteorite weighing a little less than half a kilo, found in a Saudi Arabian desert. [Photo by Meteor Recon]



However, scientists still aren’t sure where it is, or if it even hit the surface or exploded and disintegrated in the atmosphere instead. If the meteorite hit the ground, experts in Russia think that it’s likely outside their country. Scientists think that the fireball may have weighed about 100 kilograms, which may make it easier for scientists to find. However, it’s also possible that the rock broke up on impact.


If it’s still out there somewhere--scientists certainly hope so--how can it be found? If you’re planning on joining the hunt for the meteorite, or for any other space rock that may be lying around, follow these five steps. After all, Earth gets hit by meteorites all the time, though some are so small that they’re hard to notice.

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