A flash surprised hundreds of Costa Ricans who were awake early Monday morning: a strange figure, similar to a meteorite when it burns as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, illuminated the sky between 1:45 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. on February 12.
Numerous videos recorded early Monday morning captured the unusual phenomenon in the country.
According to experts from the University of Costa Rica (UCR), what many people were able to see was space debris. In other words, man-made artificial objects that are in orbit, for example, old satellites or discarded rocket stages. These usually come from past space missions or accidents. After they remain in space, they may return to Earth, and as they enter the atmosphere, they burn up.
Eric Sanchez, director of the Planetarium of the University of Costa Rica, explained that what was captured in the videos was debris in the process of disintegration as it enters the atmosphere.
Sanchez also pointed out that, although it is a common occurrence on Earth, it is a “great coincidence” to have seen it in our country. This was possible thanks to the clear skies of the dry season.
He also ruled out that this type of event represents a risk to living beings. Usually, he added, the remains of this space debris fall in unpopulated areas.
Xiomara Márquez, an academic from the Physics Department of the National University, indicated that large rocks and stones are also considered space debris. She also mentioned that this debris does not pose a risk to humanity.
“When this debris, which orbits around the Earth, loses altitude, then gravity ‘pulls it in’ and as it enters the atmosphere and due to friction, it accelerates and the objects burn,” she detailed.
The phenomenon was visible throughout the country, and several people reported on social networks having seen it in the Costa Rican capital and in coastal provinces such as Limon and Puntarenas.