Russian dash-cams, while widely used for insurance integrity purposes, are one of the best things that has ever happened to the internet. In addition to providing hours of entertainment with videos of intense police chases, hilarious drunken escapades, and random acts of kindness, the filming of certain phenomena has been of scientific interest as well. The scientific value of these videos became most apparent after the asteroid fireball over Chelyabinsk in February 2013, and they have now helped to solve another mystery that occurred just last week.
On the evening of Friday, November 14, citizens near Russia’s Sverdlovsk region saw a large orange burst of light. There was not an immediately obvious cause for this giant flash in the sky. Was it another asteroid? A meteor? A munitions explosion?
Check out the footage here:
According to a local news source, the initial cause was presumed to be the military performing routine disposal of explosives. However, there aren’t any bases near where this event took place, and a military representative has said that they weren’t involved.
The next logical assumption was that it was a bolide associated with the peak of the Leonids meteor shower. The orange color doesn’t seem to fit, as bolides—extremely bright lights from meteors burning up in the atmosphere—typically appear white, blue, or green because of their temperature. While it is possible that the clouds and environmental conditions altered the color, the light doesn’t appear to have a trajectory that would be expected from a meteor. In fact, the light didn’t appear to be moving at all.
A break in determining the origin of the mysterious light came when another video was released, providing a new vantage point. In addition to the bright light in the sky, this new video shows a bright light on the ground. It’s visible on the horizon toward the left, and can be seen around the 0:20 mark.
It’s definitely possible that the light wasn’t originating in the sky; it came from the ground and was being reflected off of the clouds. Some have speculated that this looks a lot like a rocket launch, but the nearby Plesetsk cosmodrome did not have any launches scheduled. Perhaps with the release of more dash-cam videos, the ground blast that caused this blazing light in the sky will be identified.