Watch the incredible light show of a meteor over Spain and Portugal

A meteor traveling at 100,000mph hit Spain and Portugal this weekend, creating a fiery green, blue and white light show. Multiple videos posted on social media And news broadcasts show the object – later assessed by the European Space Agency to be a piece of comet that enters Earth's atmosphere on May 18 around 10:46 UTC (6:46 PM EST) before disintegrating about 60 kilometers above the Atlantic Ocean. According to Nova Portugalthe moment was attended by thousands of people, who shared their experiences online.

Further video analysis of the meteor's colors indicated the presence of magnesium, indicating that it may have been a so-called pallasite. These space objects feature dark green crystals made of a magnesium-iron silicate known as olivine. Some astronomers theorize that pallasites may originate in an asteroid, between its core and mantle. If so, fragments could help researchers learn more about how planets like Earth first formed in the solar system.

Unfortunately, it is somewhat likely that much (if any) of Saturday's air show survived the descent. Astronomers estimate that about 48.5 tons of space debris hits Earth every day, 90 to 95 percent of which burns up completely as it enters the atmosphere. While this may be disappointing for scientists and meteorite hunters, it is probably for the best. In 2013, a 17-meter-long meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk with a force equivalent to 440,000 tons of TNT. The resulting shock wave, 14 miles (22 kilometers) above the ground, damaged buildings within 200 square miles (320 square kilometers) of the blast and reportedly injured more than 1,600 people. Fortunately, such dramatic finales are extremely rare. Most meteoric material that survives the intense heat generated by friction arrives on Earth as dust or extremely small meteorites.

[Related: Mars might have an asteroid problem.]

Still, numerous organizations around the world are working to keep an eye on any problem asteroids and comets. NASAs Center for Near Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, for example, is charged with identifying and tracking all these cosmic bodies, and providing “comprehensive impact hazard assessments in support of the agency's Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters in Washington.” But “close to Earth” is somewhat relative, given the vast distances in space. NASA defines the term as asteroids and comets with orbits that bring them within 125 million miles of the sun.

However, rather than the potential problems millions of miles away, it is statistically more important to ensure that all the man-made space debris orbiting Earth remains under control. The fewer pieces of SpaceX and satellite debris accidentally fall through the atmosphere and end up in farmers' fields, the better.

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