Siberian Times and other media reported this week (January 9, 2018) on an exceedingly bright flash that “turned night to day” over a wide swath of Russia on Sunday, January 7. Some media reported that the flash caused speculation about a U.S. air strike over North Korea. A next logical assumption might be a meteor, but – as of this writing – there are no reports about the event in the meteor logs for both the International Meteor Organization and the American Meteor Society, suggesting no bright streak of a meteor was seen.
The flash was seen primarily over three regions Bashkortostan, Udmurtia, and Tatarstan. Siberian Times reported:
The black sky suddenly turned momentarily deep blue as if on a bright day – but according to some accounts, the Earth moved too.
Experts insist the phenomenon was not manmade: there were no reports of missile tests or explosions.
Nor were there reports of meteorites striking the Earth.
Witnesses had the feeling something massive had happened – but what?
Looking back, I noticed a story about a similar bright flash over Russia in 2014. In that story, an IFLScience report concluded:
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.
Other explanations include “dry thunderstorms” to “atmospheric electricity.”
Bottom line: A flash seen over a wide swath of Russia on January 7, 2018 is so far unexplained.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.