The Wall Street Journal reported today that on a meteorite fell to the earth and disintegrated in the Ural Mountains of Russia, “exploding into flames in a powerful blast that damaged buildings in nearby areas, and injuring around 1,000 people. The State television showed amateur videos of a streak of smoke training across the sky which then turned into a fireball. Chelyabinsk residents said it then let off a sonic boom which created a shock wave that, “blew in doors, smashed glass and set off car alarms.”
The Wall Street Journal quoted Sergei Zakharov, head of the Russian Geographical Society in Chelyabinsk as saying, "The light was so intense that it completely illuminated the courtyard of our apartment block… the shock wave came around six minutes later. No one could understand what had happened. I'd compare it to the explosion of a large flare bomb."
The Wall Street Journal goes on to say, “Almost 1,000 people sought medical attention, mostly for cuts from flying glass, and 43 were hospitalized, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. Around 3,000 buildings were damaged by the blast, which blew a hole in the walls of a metals factory in Chelyabinsk, approximately 900 miles east of Moscow. Children were sent home from schools, and the explosion temporarily knocked out one mobile operator's network.”
The people who lived in the region were panicked. This often happens when people fear the unknown. However, not many people understand the science behind meteorology. According to NASA Science News, “Surprising but true: Every day, on average, more than 40 tons of meteoroids strike our planet. Most are tiny specks of comet dust that disintegrate harmlessly high up in Earth's atmosphere, producing a slow drizzle of meteors in the night sky. Bigger chunks of asteroid and comet debris yield dozens of nightly fireballs around the globe. Some are large enough to pepper the ground with actual meteorites.”
Call for leading powers to set-up early warning systems
The “Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin called for leading world powers to create an early-warning system, and consider technology to shoot down meteors. Roskosmos, Russia's space agency, said it was impossible to track objects falling as fast as the meteor.
Last September the European Space Agency announced that it would, “develop a radar system that will be capable of tracking space hazards such as asteroids and orbital debris. ESA and France's Office National d'Etudes et Recherches Aérospatiales - research center will work with five other partners in France, Spain and Switzerland to … design a test surveillance radar and develop a $6 million demonstrator model.”
NASA already has a set of cameras surveying the skies for space objects. “The NASA All-sky Fireball Network is a network of cameras set up by the NASA Meteoroid Environment Office (MEO) with the goal of observing meteors brighter than the planet Venus, which are called fireballs. The collected data will be used by the MEO in constructing models of the meteoroid environment, which are important to spacecraft designers. Network: The network currently consists of 8 cameras, 6 of which are placed in locations in north Alabama, north Georgia, southern Tennessee, and southern North Carolina. The remaining 2 are located in southern New Mexico. The network is growing all the time, with plans to place a total of 15 cameras in schools, science centers, and planetaria in the United States, predominantly east of the Mississippi River, where there are few such systems.”
NASA has developed an app that even the general public can use
In 2011, NASA came out with a way for amateur meteorologist to watch for meteors. “The Meteor Counter is designed for all kinds of observers, ranging from experts with experience in science-grade meteor observations to first-time sky watchers who might never have seen a meteor before. The Meteor Counter also acts as a meteor shower alert system. When a known shower is in the offing, the app pops up a reminder for observers. News feed and events calendar is routinely updated by professional scientists to keep users informed of the latest meteor happenings.”
When more and more countries participate in meteor detection harnessed with the capacity to shoot them down before entering our atmosphere meteorites such as the one that just hit Russia will cease to exist.