Isle of Tenerife

The Great Tenerife Fireball

It happened nearly 12 years ago but people still recall it today – the Great Tenerife Fireball of 1995.

Thousands saw it, mostly in the east and north of the island, describing a brilliant fireball that flashed across the night sky shortly after 10pm.

It happened on Sunday May 7 and hundreds of people called the Canarian Institute of Astrophysics (IAC) seeking an explanation of the phenomenon.

Because it happened at a weekend there were many witnesses to the unusual event. Sunday had been a fine day on Tenerife and many people were returning to their homes from a day at the beach, in the mountains or with friends and family.

From the many hundreds of eye witness accounts, scientists were able to paint what they believe to be a fairly accurate picture of what happened.

It was around 10.30pm that radio stations on the island broke into their normal programmes to broadcast calls from witnesses who told of having seen a huge light in the sky.

Some said it had the appearance of a meteor but was much brighter, others feared it might have an aircraft crashing in flames.

That latter theory was quickly discounted by aviation authorities, confirming that no aircraft were unaccounted for. The object had not registered on air traffic control, military radar or on any of the many reconnaissance satellites that girdle the earth.

Many witnesses said it had been visible for around five seconds and looked like a comet with a long tail, others that a bright flash of light was seen as it disappeared.

A family in Tegueste reported that the final flash of light was so bright it lit up the inside of their home. An amateur astronomer in Santa Cruz reported hearing a noise, while others spoke of hearing a dull rumble in the distance.

In Puerto de la Cruz, two observers described the light as disappearing to the north. Some spoke of seeing Mount Teide lit up briefly, while in La Laguna reports described watching it disappear over the Anaga Mountains.

After studying the many reports from Tenerife and adding those from eye witnesses in the neighbouring islands of Gran Canaria and La Palma, IAC scientists concluded that it had indeed been a meteor and furthermore they had been able to plot quite accurately its progress across the night sky.

So sure were they of their findings that they were able to say with firm conviction that the meteorite had weighed around half a kilogram, that it had passed over the Atlantic Ocean, had started to burn up between the islands of Gran Canaria and Fuertaventura and travelled north west before exploding and falling into the ocean some 75 miles north of Tenerife.

Any surviving fragments might have yielded further information but they were well out of reach on the ocean floor at a depth of 3,000 metres.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 15th, 2007 at 5:00 am and is filed under About Tenerife, Anaga Mountains, La Laguna, Mount Teide, Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tegueste.

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