Astronomer: Sulawesi Blast Bigger Than Atom Bomb (And Caused by Meteorite)

By webadmin on 12:49 am Oct 28, 2009
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Anita Rachman

An astronomer with Indonesia’s National Institute of Aeronautics and Space says he has finally figured out what was behind the mysterious explosion in Bone, South Sulawesi, this month.

Thomas Djamaluddin, head of atmospheric sciences and chief of astronomy research, said on Tuesday that the thundering noise was generated by a meteorite exploding as it hit the Earth’s atmosphere at a mind-boggling 20.3 kilometers per second. The blast released energy equal to about 50 kilotons of TNT, more than three times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, near the end of World War II.

His conclusion was reached after poring over data and sharing information with US space agency NASA. “It apparently was a meteorite . . . and had a diameter of 10 meters,” Djamaluddin said. “That is big. It’s fortunate that [the debris] fell into Bone Bay, instead of onto a land area. It could have caused damage.”

On the morning of Oct. 8, residents of Bone district were rattled by the sound of a huge explosion. Witnesses reported seeing an object emitting fire and smoke in the air.

Rumors about its origins spread rapidly, ranging from an Air Force fighter jet to an earthquake.

A 9-year-old girl suffered a fatal cardiac arrest after hearing the explosion, and shockwaves damaged homes in Bone’s Panyula village.

Djamaluddin said an international surveillance system thatn monitors for unauthorized nuclear tests detected a massive explosion near the spot at about 11 a.m.

“We haven’t gone to Bone, but we are quite sure with what we’ve got now. Several colleagues, including those from NASA, tried to solve the mystery.” He added that a team from the institute would collect more data from the site.

Djamaluddin said the distribution of meteoroids and asteroids in near-earth orbit meant a similar explosion could be expected every two to 12 years somewhere in the world.