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Bright flash arouses speculation – could it have been a meteorite?

Separate fireball observations early Sunday morning have caused some to wonder whether a meteorite may have landed in Finland. The Ursa Astronomical Association says a meteorite hasn’t been recovered in Finland for decades.

Epäilty tulipallo näkyy kirkkaana valona Ursan kuvassa.
A fireball camera recorded a bright flash early Sunday morning in Helsinki’s Pukinmäki district. Image: Esko Lyytinen / Ursa

Ursa’s Marko Pekkola says that as of yet, there is no certainty whether the flash was the result of a fireball, but the presumption is strong.

“We only see two or three fireballs that bright each year. Finland hasn’t collected a meteorite that has fallen to the Earth in over 40 years, so it would be fantastically great to find one,” he says.

Cloud lightening or fireball?

A fireball is formed when an object falls to the Earth from space, for example, when a stone the size of a fist reaches the Earth’s atmosphere. The flash on Sunday morning was captured by two different fireball cameras, one in Helsinki and the other in Siuntio.

The flash could also have been caused by cloud lightning, but the people at Ursa says it is doubtful because cloud lightning does not usually appear as widely as the light phenomenon observed on Sunday. Observations made in Lohja saw the fireball even more distinctly, as the weather was clearer there. No meteorite search parties have been organised, however.

“A very rough preliminary model suggests a trajectory towards the Porvoo or Sipoo archipelago, but our indications are really so obscure that we can’t rely on them to find it,” says Pekkola.

Difficult terrain and sparse population inhibit the search

Pekkola says Finland is a difficult country for finding fallen meteorites.

“We have broad areas that are virtually uninhabited and people aren’t spending extended periods out and about in nature anymore. This, plus a difficult terrain of marshes, lakes, forests and lots of undergrowth, means that things are very hard to find.”

And even if someone found the meteorite, it is not entirely clear if he or she could keep it.

“The Museum of Natural History would probably offer a finder’s fee, but there’s no saying if you get to keep a meteorite if you find one,” says Pekkola.

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