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We are a worldwide social network of freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and secular humanists.

I assume you have all heard about the Russian meteor that exploded over over the region of Chelyabinsk in Russia, near the southern Ural Mountains. The fireball was quite a blinding sight (if such a thing makes sense). The explosion was equivalent to a nuclear blast in power, it blew thousands of windows and ~ 700 reported injuries as a result. Check out the NYT website here for some awe-striking videos taken by the locals. In a way, I wish I'd been there to witness it, but not close enough to be hurt by exploding glass shards! No warning was possible because the meteor was too small (<100 meters) to be detected by telescopes until it hit the atmosphere. Fortunately it exploded in the upper atmosphere, or the damage would have been far worse. The region is not very populated either, so that is lucky too. 



Russian meteor largest in a century


Explosion rivalled nuclear blast, but rock was still too small for advance-warning networks to spot.

15 February 2013


A meteor that exploded over Russia this morning was the largest recorded object to strike the Earth in more than a century, scientists say. Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today's blast released hundreds of kilotonnes of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago and the largest rock crashing on the planet since a meteor broke up over Siberia's Tunguska river in 1908.

"It was a very, very powerful event," says Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, who has studied data from two infrasound stations near the impact site. Her calculations show that the meteoroid was approximately 15 metres across when it entered the atmosphere, and put its mass at around 40 tonnes. "That would make it the biggest object recorded to hit the Earth since Tunguska," she says.

The meteor appeared at around 09:25 a.m. local time over the region of Chelyabinsk, near the southern Ural Mountains. The fireball blinded drivers and a subsequent explosion blew out windows and damaged hundreds of buildings. So far, more than 700 people are reported to have been injured, mainly from broken glass, according to a statement from the Russian Emergency Ministry.

The meteor contrail seen over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on 15 February. The object's explosion in the atmosphere is reported to have injured more than 700 people.

CHELYABINSK.RU/AP

Despite its massive size, the object went undetected until it hit the atmosphere. "I'm not aware of anyone who saw this coming," says Heiner Klinkrad, head of the European Space Agency's space debris office at the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany. Although a network of telescopes watches for asteroids that might strike Earth, it is geared towards spotting larger objects — between 100 metres and a kilometre in size.

Read the rest here


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Here's a compilation of more raw footage of the event:

 

Wow, that sounds like WAR! I wish i understood Russian, I'll ask my Russian friend what they're saying. I bet curses are involved :-)

More details:

More than 500 people were injured when a meteorite shot across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to Earth, shattering windows and damaging buildings.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1500 kilometres east of Moscow.

A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 kilometres away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phone networks were interrupted.

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he said.

No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.

A local ministry official said such incidents were extremely rare and Friday's events might have been linked to an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool due to pass Earth at a distance of 27,520 kilometres but this was not confirmed.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was travelling at a speed of 30 kilometres per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion had caused a sonic boom.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were kept in hospital. Search groups were set up to look for the remains of the meteorite.

"There have never been any cases of meteorites breaking up at such a low level over Russia before," said Yuri Burenko, head of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Emergencies Ministry.

Windows break, frames buckle

Windows were shattered on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street and some of the frames of shop fronts buckled.

A loud noise, resembling an explosion, rang out at around 9.20am local time. The shockwave could be felt in apartment buildings in the industrial city's centre.

"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows."

A wall was damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said there was no environmental threat.

Although such events are rare, a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 square kilometres in Siberia in 1908, smashing windows as far as 200 kilometres from the point of impact.

The Emergencies Ministry described Friday's events as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.

Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens. They said what sounded like a blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 metres.

The US space agency NASA has said an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 metres in diameter, would have an encounter with Earth closer than any asteroid since scientists began routinely monitoring them about 15 years ago.

Television, weather and communications satellites fly about 500 miles higher. The moon is 14 times farther away.

Oops, Michel, I missed that you had posted about this events in the comments.

On the footage above, you hear the actual blast and all the car alarms triggered all over the place. There must have been more than a few panicking Russians.

Shock Wave of Fireball Meteor Rattles Siberia, Injuring 1,000

Fire in the Russian Sky: The Times’s Ellen Barry and Richard P. Binzel, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, discuss the explosive event over western Siberia on Friday.

MOSCOW — Debris from a meteor streaked through the sky with a blinding flash in western Siberia early Friday, creating a thunderous shock wave that damaged buildings across a vast territory. Russia’s Interior Ministry said more than 1,000 people were injured, 200 of them children, mostly from shards of shattered glass.

Many of the injuries were reported in the city of Chelyabinsk, about 950 miles east of Moscow, in a region where there are many factories for defense, including nuclear weapons production. But there was no indication of damage that resulted in any radiation leaks, officials said.

The blast was caused by a 10-ton meteor, of a type known as a bolide, which created a powerful shock wave when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement. Scientists believe the bolide exploded and evaporated at a height of about 20 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface, but that small fragments — meteorites — may have reached the ground, the statement said.

The governor of the Chelyabinsk district reported that material from the sky had fallen into a lake on the outskirts of a city about 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk. Officials told Russian news agencies that they had sent police officers there.

The meteor event came hours before a small asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, passed close to Earth on Friday, which NASA was tracking on its Web site. Aleksandr Y. Dudorov, a physicist at Chelyabinsk State University, said it was possible that the meteorite may have been flying alongside the asteroid.

“What we witnessed today may have been the precursor of that asteroid,” said Mr. Dudorov in a telephone interview.

Others, however, disputed that view, saying there was almost certainly no connection. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, part of NASA, said in a statement posted earlier on its Web site that “preliminary information indicates that the fireball in Chelyabinsk, Russia, is not related to asteroid 2012 DA14, which is flying by Earth today.”

Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, told the BBC that 2012 Da14 approached Earth from the south, while the meteor struck the Earth’s atmosphere in the northern hemisphere, indicating that the objects were traveling in different directions. “This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one,” he said.

Fiery meteors are not unusual, but they typically evaporate far above the Earth’s surface, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in its statement. This meteor was unusual because it was so hard, and may have been made of iron, the statement said. Nothing similar has been recorded on Russian territory since 2002.

Video clips from Chelyabinsk showed an early morning sky illuminated by a brilliant flash, followed by the sound of breaking glass and multiple car alarms. Meteors typically cause sonic booms as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. On Friday, the force was powerful enough to shatter dishes and televisions in people’s homes.

Read the rest here.

Yeah! The mother-in-law was raving on about the end of the world when she heard about it. 

Nah, just the end of Siberia maybe ;-)

Well you and I know that but the mother-in-law watches the Russian equivalents to US soapies and is a bit out of touch with the real world!

Update: Just How Big Was That Russian Meteor?

By Corey S. Powell | February 15, 2013 4:01 pm

Reports are still coming in about the brilliant meteor (technically known as a bolide) that slammed into the atmosphere over Russia, causing injuries that sent hundreds of people to the hospital. In any breaking story like this, not all of the information is reliable and details keep getting updated as more facts come in. Here’s the latest.

Debris area of the meteor that struck the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, at 3:20 UTC on February 15. (Credit: Google Earth, NASA/JPL-Caltech)

* No, it was not related to asteroid 2012 DA, which streaked close past the Earth earlier today. As strange as it sounds, the Russian event seems to have been coincidental. The observed path of the Russian bolide was totally different than the path of 2012 DA.

* The original mass of the rock that hit over Russia may be much larger than originally estimated. Calculations by astronomer Margaret Campbell-Brown at the University of Western Ontario in London, reported in the journalNature, put its mass at 7,000 metric tons. At a density of 3 grams per cubic centimeter (typical of a stony meteorite), that means the parent body was about 15 meters (50 feet) wide. Early reports pegged it as being much smaller, probably because the vast majority of the meteor disintegrated in the atmosphere.

* Most of the injuries and damage seem to have been caused by shock waves–sonic booms–from the meteor streaking through and breaking up in the atmosphere. Bits of it hit the ground, but they did not cause significant destruction, based on early reports. The bulk of the injuries seem to have come from shattered glass from broken windows.

* Just as scientists kept revising their estimate of the mass of the meteor, so they kept changing their estimates of how often objects of similar size strike our planet. Early news stories stated that similar bolides occur a few times a year. Others stated once every decade. Now Nature is reporting that this was the largest meteor strike since the Tunguska event of 1908.

* At present, we have no way to detect meteors this size before they reach the Earth. But Deep Space Industries, one of the private companies angling to build a fleet that could monitor asteroids and ultimately mine them for resources, is eager to change that. And you can help collect statistics by keeping a watch on meteor events from the ground (the American Meteor Society offers some tips).

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