A meteor explosion over Russia this morning sounded like a bomb or a UFO crashing to some people's fears, but it was caught on camera as it exploded and damaged buildings, injuring at least 1,200 people as it streaked across the sky. The meteor and broke up and hit the ground in rock fragments this morning over the Ural Mountain city of Chelyabinsk, unleashing a tremendous shock wave that smashed windows, collapsed roofs and injured at least 1,200 people, and around 3,000 buildings were damaged, according to news reports.
The meteor explosion was bigger than previously reported. See, "NASA: Meteor blast bigger than previously thought." Already meteorite hunters are descending upon the scene hoping to cash in on fragments of the meteor that they can sell to collectors. See the site, "Meteorite Collectors Race to Find Fragments in Russia."
There have been frequent space rock flybys, close shaves, and near misses
In June 2011, a bus-sized rock of real estate missed the Earth by only 7,500 miles. If this asteroid had hit the Earth, it would have blown a sizable crater in the ground, perhaps injuring or killing some folks as well. Current global research reports that asteroids also have a potential to be mined for valuable minerals sometime in the imaginable near future. Locally, Californians in San Francisco saw a fireball and flashes of light. Check out the video, "Bizarre flashes of light and fireball in California and Cuba after meteor hits Russia." If a meteor crash comes once in a century, the close shaves have been frequent during the past three years.
Earlier in 2011, a smaller asteroid missed the Earth by only 3,400 miles. Some Russian scientists caution that even if the asteroid, Apophis misses the Earth in the flybys of 2029, 2036, or 2046, it could break into many smaller parts, any of which could strike the planet, according to the article, "Will an Asteroid Strike the Planet Earth?"
Meanwhile today's meteor explosion in Russia was captured several times on video and posted on YouTube. Locally, some people from the large Slavic population in Sacramento were making phone calls in Russian to any relatives or friends living in the Ural Mountain's area. Sacramento has one of the largest Slavic (mainly Russian and Ukrainian) communities in Northern California with their own publications and phone books published in Russian. The focus today in various news publications was on the meteor and its size.
Latest meteor weighed around 10 tons
The Russian Academy of Sciences estimated that the meteor weighed around 10 tons and was traveling at 10 to 12 miles per second (roughly 30,000 to 45,000 mph) when it disintegrated. Searchers found a circular hole in the ice, 15 to 20 feet across, in a lake west of Chelyabinsk, and roped it off, according to news reports. The meteor wasn't debris cast off by this morning's asteroid #2012DA14 flyby at the close shave of only 17,200 miles, closer than many of the satellites.
Instead, the meteor slammed into a city in Russia this morning injuring about 1,200 people with cuts from broken, flying glass and the concussion to the body that follows the noise from a shock wave explosion. See the site, NASA, ESA: Meteor and asteroid events are unrelated. Most people aren't aware of what a meteor looks and sounds like because so few have crashed into large cities, exploded, and fell to the ground on buildings, blowing out windows, at least in the past century, well, not since the 1908 meteor explosion over Siberia.
Intense flash following by loud noise, concussion, collapsing rooftops, and breaking glass
The intense flash of light was recorded on video as far away as Nizhny Tagil, nearly 300 miles to the north. The trail of the meteor was also visible in Kazakhstan, more than 80 miles to the south. At first it was mistaken for a bomb a defense weapons test by some residents. Others thought someone was testing weapons from one of the Western countries.
The meteor event hospitalized 48 people. An act of nature appeared to be less believable at first than something more sinister like a bomb attack, space satellites, or other explosive space 'junk' metal falling, until those video recording the event realized it was a meteor crashing randomly to Earth.
Major problems were breaking glass, the loud concussion of the explosion destroying objects left on apartment balconies or window sills as many windows broke, shaking buildings, roofs caving in, and damage to property in the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, in the Urals, about 80 miles from the border of Kazakhstan. People came outdoors at 9:20 a.m. local time, as a double contrail stretched across the sky. Check out, Live Updates: Meteor in Russia's Ural Mountain region. You can watch the videos taken of the meteor on YouTube. Also see, Stunning amateur videos of the Russian meteorite explosion. There are various YouTube recordings posted of the event.
The sound wave concussion that broke windows, shook buildings, and caved in a factory roof
After the bright flash came, followed a few long moments later by the sound and shock of a huge explosion, people may have thought they were nuked. But videos posted on Web sites recorded a cacophony of shattering glass, hundreds of car alarms and a considerable amount of swearing. Many of the videos were from dashboard cameras that many Russians use to document accidents. Was this a chip off the asteroid that passed Earth this morning only two hours earlier at 17,200 miles? Or was it a meteor following the asteroid? To many it felt like an Earthquake followed by a loud explosion.
The European Space Agency said the two were not connected
The meteorite's path looked like a UFO engulfed in fire, described as a fireball flying from southeast to northwest. First there was a bright flare of fire so hot it exceeded 2,500 degrees (Celsiu). Then there were three explosions, with the first explosion the strongest.
With all this damage, the small rock exploded about 36 to 42 miles above the ground and had about the force of one to 10 kilotons, according to news reports. But if you check other news reports, the size varies. Other measurements placed the altitude of the explosion at about 18 miles, which would put its force at 0.1 to one kiloton.
Footage of the meteorite was seen streaking across the sky above Russia's Chelyabinsk region on several videos. Check out this video. But if you speak Russian, be aware the video contains strong language in Russian. See, Link to video: Meteor shards hit Russia after explosion in the sky.
Many thought it was a weapons test from the USA
News reports also noted that an anti-Western Russian parliament member claimed that the meteor was actually a U.S. weapons test. Ironically, some people blamed other nations for the explosion rather than first check to see whether it was simply an act of nature, a meteorite or meteor. The meteor preceded by 16 hours the close passage of an asteroid, known as 2012 DA14. And other people thought it might have been related, like a piece of rock, but scientists say the two events were coincidental. The asteroid #2012DA14 passed the point of nearest proximity early this morning and is moving away from Earth again, the AP reported from Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning.
The asteroid that flew by without crashing was a 150-foot (46-meter) cosmic rock that hurtled safely past Earth early this morning. But within two hours, the meteor, a different event, say scientists exploded over Russia. As far as the 150-foot wide asteroid, that event was the closest known flyby for a rock of its size, passing within 17,000 miles (27,357 kilometers) of Earth. That's closer than some satellites, but scientists insist the asteroid's flyby wasn't related to the meteor explosion in Russia within two hours. See, Q&A: What is a meteorite strike, and how common are they?.
The meteor that exploded in Russia broke into large pieces
In the case of the meteor exploding over Russia, it broke into a few large chunks. And it didn't burn up in the air as what happened in 1908 when a meteor exploded over Siberia. This time, the meteorite fragments were identified on the ground in the city of Chebarkul, about 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk.
And more fragments spread along a line of settlements stretching 75 miles farther west. You can bet meteorite collectors will be on the scene soon as meteorites are valuable and expensive as collectibles where they are priced, bought and sold by those who 'hunt' meteorites with devices that detect a meteorite compared to an ordinary rock.
Russians were injured, but the meteorite fragments that were largest didn't hit the densely populated areas of Russia such as Moscow. After the meteorite exploded, about 10,000 police were called in to deal with the situation. As the meteor streaked across the dark sky early in the morning before dawn, the sky suddenly lighted up as if it were full daylight.
People could see contrails that were wider and more ragged than a plane would make. Some people thought they were being sprayed with some chemical being dumped on them from the sky and wondered what if the contrails would be falling to Earth with some harmful chemical? But they soon realized after the explosion, that something had crashed from the sky.
Was it a spaceship, a satellite, an asteroid, a defense weapon, or what, people asked?
After the loud explosion, the closed windows of people's apartments opened by themselves and if any knickknacks were on the windowsill, they flew to the center of the room. That made more people think of an invasion from space when the closed windows opened after the explosion. It could be a very scary experience for anyone not familiar with meteors, which don't crash often in an explosion and fall in pieces to the ground.
A meteorite is what happens to a meteor when it falls to the ground in fragments that can be picked up. A meteor either explodes in the air or streaks across the sky and burns up without necessarily falling to the ground as a solid. People collect meteorites or "shooting stars" that fall to the ground as small rocks. See, Meteor and meteorite: After the explosion over Russia, what is the difference?
A number of schools and hospitals, equipped with older windows, were damaged
The city of Chelyabinsk, Russia in the Ural mountains is populated with 1.1 million people. What frightened people that the explosion may have been a weapons test coming from one of the Western powers was the fact that the city contains a high concentration of defense industries. Also, aside from anyone from another country testing weapons is the city's own defense artillery.
There are so many weapons and and arsenals in its vicinity that sometimes inhabitants may hear ammunition or other devices exploding. The meteor crash didn't explode any defense systems. There's a zinc factory, which could burn, but in this case, the explosion did cause the factory's roof to cave in. What did receive damage were hundreds of apartment houses, 12 schools, a few social service facilities, and various industrial businesses.
After all the damage, of course, there's the Russian winter's cold in the Urals
The temperature in that city usually is about 23 degrees F. this month, but at night, the temperature drops much lower. If the heat doesn't work in the damaged apartments or offices or various homes because the windows blew out or were broken, it's going to take a long time to get the windows repaired as the temperature drops each evening.
Many people related the meteor crash to the Siberian meteor explosion that blew out miles of trees in 1908, known as the Tunguska event. The 1908 meteor exploded 1,000 miles east of Chelyabinks, flattening 1,000 square miles of trees, destroying wildlife and other plants. That meteor was assumed to be around 300 feet wide when it exploded, which is a lot bigger than the meteor that exploded today. The point is that even a tiny meteor can do a lot of damage when it explodes and fragments hit the ground like a bomb.
Videos from the scene at 9:23a.m. local time showed objects plunging through the clear morning sky and erupting into enormous fireballs to the sound of multiple explosions. Long vapor trails were seen hundreds of miles away, say news reports from Europe.