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Incoming! Russia feels meteor blast

This morning, residents of the Chelyabinsk region of Russia saw an enormous meteor streak across the sky. Cars’ dashboard cameras captured one or more objects falling to Earth.

The strike is reported to have occurred around 03:25 UTC this morning, according to the Planetary Society, just before sunrise locally. Other videos record the shock wave from the meteor — probably either a sonic boom as it entered the atmosphere and/or the sound of it breaking up:

There are reports of hundreds injured by broken glass across the region, and additional videos show apparent damage to some buildings.

It’s not entirely clear what’s caused the damage. The shock-wave video shows that it was a powerful burst that could have probably shattered windows on its own, but the New York Times reports that an impact crater has been found on the outskirts of a town 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk city. Meteorites are also reported to have rained down around the city of Satka, but these reports are unconfirmed.

The strike comes as an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 is about to pass Earth in a geosynchronous orbit, but initial reports make it sound as though the meteor or meteors are unrelated. Astronomer Phil Plait says that the trajectories simply don’t seem to add up — this meteor came from a different direction. The European Space Agency’s Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany, has tweeted that they believe the meteorite is unrelated. They’ve also posted a photo, taken by Meteosat-10, of the meteor’s vapour trail.

 

Comments

  1. Report this comment

    James Dwyer said:

    From Phil Plait’s blog

    I’m trying to piece together what happened from the videos. First of all, I do not think this is related in any way to the asteroid 2102 DA14! For one thing, this occurred about 16 hours before DA14 passes. At 8 kilometers per second that’s nearly half a million kilometers away from DA14. That puts it on a totally different orbit.

    For another, from the lighting, time of day, and videos showing the rising Sun, it looks like this was moving mostly east-to-west. I may be off, but that’s how it looks. DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, so any fragment of that rock would also appear to move south-to-north.,,So again, I think this is unrelated to 2012 DA14.

    But wow, what a huge coincidence!

    These remarks seem to consider only the possibility that the meteorite broke away from 2012 DA14 as it neared Earth – quite reasonable for a quick assessment. However, as I understand there are other, more distant, potential interactions that could have resulted in the meteorite strike. As Phil indicates, the coincidental appearance to two large asteroids in Earth’s space on the same day would be a very unlikely event. As I understand, if the independent appearance of each asteroid is considered to be a 50 year event, then the probability of two such events occurring on the same day would be 1/((365*50)^2) or about 1/333 million, for example.

    Given that the probability of two such unrelated events independently occurring within 24 hours of each other are so small, it seems that a much more rigorous evaluation of whether and how these two events might be causally related is warranted.

    I understand that some are calling for the development of some intercept capability. It would be important to understand whether multiple intercepts might be required to address what is essentially the occurrence of a single event…

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      Michael Maran said:

      You are correct if the events both had to occur on a particular day. However, given that the first event could occur on any day over a 50 year period, only the second event has to occur on the same day. The probability is therefore only 1/(365*50) = 1/18,250.
      I still think it was too much of a coinicidence though. There is probably a connection between the two events.

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