In the Ural Mountains of Russia at 9:20 a.m. local time this morning, a fiery ball with a long tail streaked across the sky and then over Chelyabinsk, a city of 1.1 million people. Just before what appeared to be a meteor hit the earth, there was a bright flash of light and then the noise and shock of a huge explosion. The explosion released several kilotons of energy and is being likened to an atomic bomb in strength. Residents were left stunned and terrified by the unexpected event.
Hundreds of buildings were damaged as windows exploded, small meteorites pelted the area and the roof of a zinc factory collapsed. The Interior Ministry said 985 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 44 of them were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, it said. The winter chill is one of the biggest problems Chelyabinsk is facing at the moment. The community is working to quickly board up windows to keep the cold winter air from freezing up heating systems. Amateur video of the meteor is popping up all over the internet and everyone is wondering if this meteorite is related to tonight’s impending pass by from 2012 DA14.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that in a live interview with Russian state television, Rossia 24, Sergei Smirnov, a senior astronomer at the Central Astronomical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences noted the two events were not related. He stated. “It is clear now that they had different orbits and their orbital planes were inclined considerably. The asteroid that we expect in a few hours is approaching the Earth from the Southern Hemisphere side, in other words its general trajectory lies from south to north, while the Chelyabinsk bolide came from east to west.” The Russian Academy of Sciences estimated that the meteor that entered the earth’s atmosphere weighed roughly 10 tons and was traveling at 10 to 12 miles per second when it exploded in the atmosphere.
The meteor was too small to be detected before entering the atmosphere, despite the amount of damage it seems to have done on entry. Had it been larger and actually hit the earth at impact it could have caused catastrophic damage. The Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space. Many other scientists agree. Wondering what we might do in the event of a potentially catastrophic meteorite? Tune in to Top Secrets: Doomsday tonight, Friday February 15 at 11:30 PM et/pt and get the secrets and possibilities about what may fall from the sky. You don’t want to miss it!
Confused about the difference between an asteroid, meter and meteorite? According to NASA definition:
Asteroid — A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
Meteor — Any of the small particles of matter in the solar system that are directly observable only by their incandescence from frictional heating on entry into the atmosphere.
Meteorite — A meteor that reaches the surface of the earth without being completely vaporized.