Falling meteorite maybe radioactive, researchers warn

Colombo University Physics Professor Chandana Jayaratne confirmed to the Daily News that reports of people sighting a ‘fireball’ in the Southern skies and loud sounds akin to an explosion is that of a meteor entering the earth’s photosphere.

“This was spotted around 8:30pm yesterday in many parts of the country, not just over Southern skies. Even people who were in Nuwara Eliya and Colombo too had seen a ‘fireball’ in the sky,” he said. “However the sound was only heard in Matara since the meteorite was between 150 to 200 km above sea-level from there.”

Prof. Jayaratne however warned that falling debris could be radioactive in nature and warned people not to touch it. “We don’t know the degree of radioactivity, so we advise people not to touch it and inform us immediately.”

He added that meteorites enter the earth’s photosphere at a speed of 65km per second and can self-combust on entry which gives it the ‘fireball’ like appearance that many people had reported as seeing.

“The explosion could have caused damage, but it broke into small pieces, which happens often. People should not touch those pieces because it can be radioactive and potentially harmful."

On Wednesday night, people had reported seeing bright illuminating lights and some have heard explosions. It was not immediately clear the cause of the bright lights or the sound of the explosion.


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