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Meteorite soars over Russia

A fireball has flown over Russia, delivering a sonic boom with enough force to shatter windows, amateur footage shows. The…

A bright flash over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region may have been a meteor. YouTube screenshot

A fireball has flown over Russia, delivering a sonic boom with enough force to shatter windows, amateur footage shows.

The astronomical event comes just one day before a large asteroid is expected to pass within 27,700km of Earth.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry was reported to have issued a statement saying a meteorite “disintegrated above the Urals, partially burning up in the lower atmosphere”. As many as 150 people were hurt in the blast, mostly by shards of glass, according to a Reuters report.

Amateur footage posted on YouTube showed the fireball shooting across the sky and the sound of a sonic boom with enough force to shatter window glass and set car alarms off.

Asteroid expert Phil Bland, ARC Laureate Fellow at Curtin University, said the footage appeared to be legitimate.

“It’s a very big fireball. It looks like the fireball itself lasts around 13 to 15 seconds. There’s a big flare at around 10 or 11 seconds and then it tapers off. The thing is huge,” he said.

“The trail that you see in the sky on the other videos is from dust that hangs in the air after the passage of the fireball. For the shock wave to break windows, the thing must have been massive. It’s amazing to get videos of something like this!”

The flash in the sky may have been a meteorite but “this sort of fireball can sometimes dump all its energy in the upper atmosphere, so all you might get at the surface is dust. We won’t know until they’ve had a chance to search,” said Dr Bland.

Dr Bland said the fireball could be connected to 2012 DA14, the asteroid expected to pass within range of communication satellites on Saturday morning.

“Is it connected to the flyby? A lot of folks would say ‘no’. Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the idea that there are streams of asteroid debris – so you can have smaller stuff that precede and trail a bigger object,” said Dr Bland.

“It seems like an awful big coincidence if it’s not connected.”

However, Simon O'Toole, Research Astronomer at Australian Astronomical Observatory was more cautious in linking the two events.

“It has been suggested that this is linked to 2012 DA14. I’m not so sure about this. It might be, but the Universe is filled with a lot of unusual coincidences. As pointed out elsewhere, DA14 is still half a million kilometres away, travelling at 8km per second, for a start! Could it be part of the asteroid that has broken away and reached Earth already? This seems unlikely to me,” said Dr O'Toole.

Dr O'Toole said a group of Finnish astronomers had identified the object as a meteor and said it was unlikely to be linked to the asteroid because it was coming from a different direction.

“If this was a meteor entering the atmosphere, it’s a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are and why we need to monitor the skies very closely for potentially larger objects.”

Further reading: Look out: close encounters of the asteroidal kind

Join the conversation

11 Comments sorted by

  1. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Sensational video's, such a good time to be alive, gotta love youtube

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  2. StrangeRelationship

    logged in via Twitter

    "it’s a stark reminder of how vulnerable we are and why we need to monitor the skies very closely for potentially larger objects.”

    In order to confirm our vulnerability?

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  3. Ketan Joshi

    Research and Communications Officer at Infigen Energy

    "Fireball explodes over Russia, 150 hurt"

    vs

    "“There has been no confirmation that it ‘exploded’; so far the confirmed damage was almost certainly caused by a shock wave as the object broke the sound barrier,” he said."

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  4. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    NASA statement on Russia meteor:
    "According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russia meteor was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. Information is still being collected about the Russia meteor and analysis is preliminary at this point. In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14's trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north."

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  5. Michael J. I. Brown

    ARC Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer at Monash University

    From http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/asteroids/news/asteroid20130215.html

    Preliminary information indicates that a meteor in Chelyabinsk, Russia, is not related to asteroid 2012 DA14, which is flying by Earth safely today.

    The Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia. The meteor entered the atmosphere at about 40,000 mph (18 kilometers per second). The impact time was 7:20:26 p.m. PST, or 10:20:26 p.m. EST on Feb. 14 (3:20:26 UTC on Feb. 15…

    Read more
  6. Shane LaChance

    logged in via Facebook

    A recently published book called "Comets and the Horns of Moses" does a great job of explaining the history of comets and asteroids and their interaction with our planet. The book also provides evidence that major impact events are by no means "rare" in human history. It's a 'must read' for those who want to get up to speed on this increasingly important topic. Your life, or the life of a loved one, could depend on it!

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  7. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    "streams of asteroid debris – so you can have smaller stuff that precede and trail a bigger object..." You bet Dr Bland .

    I remember as a kid up on top of the mountains around here watching meteor showers streaking across the sky ... sprinklings of stars. Seems to make sense to me that meteors and asteroids would travel in packs ... dust and debris held together by a weak gravititational grip only to be torn away when hitting our gravity field.

    Wonderful that we can actually watch such spontaneous and ephemeral events... maybe mobile phones are more use than I thought. Wish I'd had one when I was a kid... I could've shown you ... but I can still remember them most clearly 50 years on.

    Thanks for posting that footage... pretty to watch.

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  8. Wade Macdonald

    Technician

    Just heard a report that the injured toll is now 1000....if true that terrible.

    At least with human induced climate change we can do something about it!

    Actually, given recent certainties promoted on that topic, I am surprised that some on here didn't predict this meteor as well?

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