Sky and sea light up as phenomenon is seen at both ends of Japan’s largest prefecture.

Hokkaido is practically synonymous with snow. Japan’s northernmost prefecture is where the annual Sapporo Snow Festival is held, and in August of this year conditions were chilly enough on one mountaintop that snow fell even as the rest of Japan was experiencing record-breaking heat.

But on the night of October 18, it wasn’t snowflakes that Hokkaido residents saw in the sky, but fire.

Shortly before 9 o’clock, a ball of fire was seen streaking across the night sky. Locals reported spotting it from various parts of the island, and the above video (compiled by public news outlet NHK), opens with the sphere clearly visible above Hakodate, a port city in southwest Hokkaido, and immediately follows that with a clip of it lighting up both the sea and sky in Shari, a town on the rural Shiretoko Peninsula that juts out from the northwestern coast of the island.

▼ Hakodate (marked in red) and Shiretoko Peninsula (yellow)

The other Hokkaido locations shown in the video (in sequence) are Okhotsk Monbetsu Airport, Rishiri Airport, Rebun Island, Muroran, and Nakashibetsu Airport, and social media users also reported seeing it from the prefectural capital of Sapporo.

We’ve previously seen strange lights shining in the night sky of Japan when the temperature gets cold enough that ice crystals form in the air, and due to Hokkaido’s northern longitude, some parts of the island are already experiencing overnight lows of zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit). However, shining ice crystals don’t move like the light in the video, and Fumitake Watanabe, from Hokkaido’s Nayoro Observatory, believes that what we’re seeing in the video is actually a small meteor, perhaps broken off from a larger piece of space debris, that’s ignited as it enters Earth’s atmosphere.

Judging from the angle at which the light is moving in the video, Watanabe believes the meteor likely burned up completely before it could hit the planet’s surface. That explanation gels with the fact that no impact was reported after the fireball was seen, and thankfully it caused no damage, though this also sadly means no one will be able to use the meteor to make another awesome katana.

Source: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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