A stunning fireball over Spain and Portugal was tracked from space by a lightning imager

ESA’s Fireball Camera in Cáceres, Spain captured this spectacular meteor on the night of Saturday, May 18, 2024. Credit: ESA/PDO/AMS82 – AllSky7 Fireball Network

A meteor that lit up the skies over Spain and Portugal was captured by the Meteosat third-generation imager satellite and ground-based camera in Spain. The event showcased the capabilities of the new Lightning Imager, which is designed for advanced atmospheric monitoring, particularly of lightning events.

On May 18, a meteor lit up the night sky over Spain and Portugal – not only impressing those lucky enough to see it with their own eyes, but also captured by the fireball camera operated by ESA’s Planetary Defense in Cáceres, Spain. Office.

Also, as it zoomed across the sky at 160,000 km (100,000 miles) per hour, it was captured by the Lightning Imager on board the Meteosat third-generation imager satellite at a distance of 36,000 km (22,000 miles). In this remarkable event.

As its name suggests, the Lightning Imager will be used to detect lightning once the satellite is fully operational following launch in late 2022.


ESA’s Fireball Camera at Cáceres, Spain captured this spectacular meteor on the night of May 18-19, 2024 (00:46 CEST 19 May / 22:46). UTC 18 May). Credit: ESA/PDO/AMS82 – AllSky7 Fireball Network

Advanced lightning detection technology

The Meteosat third-generation imager satellite is the first geostationary weather satellite capable of detecting lightning over Europe, Africa and the surrounding ocean. It continuously monitors more than 80% of the Earth’s disk for lightning discharges that take place between clouds or between clouds and the ground.

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The tool has four cameras covering parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Each camera can take up to 1000 images per second and continuously monitor lightning activity from space.

Improved weather forecasting

Data from the lightning imager can give weather forecasters more confidence in their predictions of severe storms, especially in remote areas and oceans where lightning detection capabilities are limited.

Although designed to track lightning, it also captured flashes of light from meteors burning over Spain and Portugal.

Also zooming across the sky at 160,000 km per hour, it was captured by the Lightning Imager on board the Meteosat third-generation imager satellite in high-Earth orbit, providing another view of this remarkable event.

A meteor seen by the Mediosat third-generation imager

While a meteor lit up the skies over Spain and Portugal recently, it was captured by Meteosat, a third-generation weather satellite orbiting 35,000 km in geostationary orbit. Using preliminary data from the Lightning Imager, the animation here shows a six-second burst of light flashes as the meteor moves across the instrument’s field of view. Credit: ESA/EUMETSAT

As its name suggests, the Lightning Imager will be used to detect lightning once the satellite is fully operational following launch in late 2022.

The Meteosat third-generation imager satellite is the first geostationary weather satellite capable of detecting lightning over Europe, Africa and the surrounding ocean. It continuously monitors more than 80% of the Earth’s disk for lightning discharges that take place between clouds or between clouds and the ground.

The tool has four cameras covering parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America. Each camera can take up to 1000 images per second and continuously monitor lightning activity from space.

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Data from the lightning imager can give weather forecasters more confidence in their predictions of severe storms, especially in remote areas and oceans where lightning detection capabilities are limited.

Although designed to track lightning, it also captured flashes of light from meteors burning over Spain and Portugal.

Using preliminary data from the Lightning Imager, the animation above shows a six-second burst of light flashes as the meteor moves across the instrument’s field of view.

Joint Satellite Mission

The Meteosat third generation mission is a collaboration between Eumetsat and ESA. ESA is responsible for building and procuring six satellites. UMETSAT defines system requirements, builds ground systems, procures launch services, operates satellites and makes data available to users.

Meteosat third generation satellites are being developed by a large consortium of European industries led by Thales Alenia Space in collaboration with OHB. The innovative lightning imager was developed by Leonardo in Italy.

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