On January 17, a space rock came hurtling towards Earth with the small asteroid entering the atmosphere above Puerto Rico. The International Meteor Organisation (IMO) reported the phenomenon, and said it received 31 witness reports.

In a video of the unexpected asteroid, a bright streak of light can be seen before a small explosion occurs at the end of its trail.

According to calculations from the IMO, the small asteroid was about a metre in diameter, and entered the atmosphere at a staggering speed of 14 kilometres per second, or 50,400 kilometres per hour.

The IMO said: “On Friday, January 17 2020 Puerto Rico was witness to yet another extreme event. Just north of the island a small asteroid created a bright fireball in the sky.

“Due to its brightness it was visible from a large part of the island and many reported to also hear a loud boom.

“The object had such a high energy that the pressure change that its path through the atmosphere caused could be measured by infrasound stations.”

Asteroids and meteors produce a bright explosion of fire when they hit the atmosphere as it is the first time the space rock has ever met resistance.

Air seeps into the pores and cracks of the rock, pushing it apart and causing it to explode.

The IMO said: “Fireballs are meteors that appear brighter than normal.

“Due to the velocity at which they strike the Earth’s atmosphere, fragments larger than one millimetre have the capability to produce a bright flash as they streak through the heavens above.

“These bright meteors are what we call fireballs and they often strike fear and awe for those who witness them.”

While this meteor was small, the bright flash reiterates the need for eyes on the skies to watch out for potential asteroid collisions.

While the chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one in 300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – the devastating prospect is not impossible.

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However, there are some plans on the go which could help Earth against potential asteroid strikes.

NASA is currently studying Asteroid Bennu, where its OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft arrived in 2018.

Part of the reason NASA is sending the OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft there is to gather more information about the space rock which is 500 metres in length.

NASA fears that the asteroid, which has the potential to wipe out a country on Earth, could hit our planet within the next 120 years, with the next close flyby in 2135.

The mission will give vital information on how to deflect asteroids from their collision course with Earth, but NASA reiterates that while there is a small chance Earth could be impacted, “over millions of years, of all of the planets, Bennu is most likely to hit Venus.”

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