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Meteor 'as bright as the full moon' sighted in night sky across eastern Japan

An image of the meteor over the city of Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, is seen in this image taken in the same city on Aug. 21, 2020, and provided by Hiratsuka City Museum curator Daiji Fujii.

TOKYO -- A bolide, or extremely bright meteor, was spotted lighting up the night sky over eastern Japan's Kanto region, including in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture, on Aug. 21.

    "A completely red ball of fire came down," one of many accounts posted to social media read, while others uploaded videos of the phenomenon.

    Daiji Fujii, a curator at the Hiratsuka City Museum in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo, observed the bolide at about 10:33 p.m. on Aug. 21 with a camera set up at his home in Hiratsuka. "It was about as bright as the full moon at its most luminescent. Its light was continuous, and it descended over a space of about 10 seconds, so there's no doubt it was a meteor."

    Fujii added that the meteor fell at a rate of about 15 kilometers per second. It appears to have come from the asteroid belt close to Jupiter. The part of it which didn't burn up in the atmosphere looked to have fallen in the Pacific Ocean off of Izu Oshima, a Tokyo island off of the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan. But it is also possible that it fell on the opposite side of Tokyo Bay, in the vicinity of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba Prefecture, east of the capital.

    A meteor that fell on July 2 was also observed in skies over a wide stretch of the country, with reports of sightings in eastern and central Japan. Suspected meteorite fragments were found in the Chiba prefectural city of Narashino, and the National Museum of Nature and Science is registering it as the "Narashino meteorite" with the Meteoritical Society, an international body.

    (Japanese original by Ayumu Iwasaki, Science & Environment News Department)

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