BREAKING: Huge Meteor Explodes Over Russia.

37

Apparently, at about 09:30 local time, very big meteor burned up over Chelyabinsk, a city in Russia just east of the Ural mountains, and about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The fireball was incredibly bright, rivaling the Sun! There was a pretty big sonic boom from the fireball, which set off car alarms and shattered windows. I’m seeing some reports of many people injured (by shattered glass blown out by the shock wave). I’m also seeing reports that some pieces have fallen to the ground, but again as I write this those are unconfirmed.

Note: This is almost certainly unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass on Friday. See below for details.

[Let me be clear: This is breaking news, and reports are coming in so fast I can’t keep up. I’ll update this post as I can, but treat everything here as tentative until I can get more information! Note also lots of hoaxes are turning up, like a video of a flaming crater that's actually a flaming pit in Turkmenistan that's been burning for decades (called "The Door to Hell"). Be cautious and be skeptical.]

Dozens of videos are popping up on YouTube, and some are incredible. This one from a car’s dashboard camera shows the meteor coming through the atmosphere.

Written By: Phil Plait
continue to source article at slate.com

37 COMMENTS

  1. The accretion process continues. We need to take tracking these a bit more seriously!

    This seems to have hit at a shallow angle so as to burn a track across the sky. A steeper angle could have resulted in a surface impact!

  2. I wonder if any videos capture both the meteor and the sonic boom later, to give us a fix on the time delay and therefore the height. Some of my astronomy friends have done this for meteor showers, but those are usually high-level atmospheric events in which the delay is several minutes and the boom has faded to a barely audible level. This one is obviously really really low. Pretty frightening.

  3. The amazing thing about these events is scientists can foresee not only the close approach, but the fact that the meteor just misses Earth. They let us know that in advance. It’s incredible precision. Let’s see non-mathematical “subjects” like “theology” or “humanities” ever match this level of epistemic credence.

  4. In reply to #2 by Alan4discussion:

    The accretion process continues. We need to take tracking these a bit more seriously!

    This seems to have hit at a shallow angle so as to burn a track across the sky. A steeper angle could have resulted in a surface impact!

    Fortunately it seems to have disintegrated with only fragments reaching the surface. Even so it has done serious damage.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21468116

    A meteor crashing in Russia’s Ural mountains has injured at least 950 people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

    Most of those hurt, in the Chelyabinsk region where the meteor fell, suffered cuts and bruises but at least 46 remain in hospital.

    A fireball streaked through the clear morning sky, followed by loud bangs.

    President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no big fragments had fallen in populated areas.

    A large meteor fragment landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in Chelyabinsk region.

    The meteor’s dramatic passing was witnessed in Yekaterinburg, 200km (125 miles) to the north, and in Kazakhstan, to the south.

    “It was quite extraordinary,” Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC News. “We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky.”

    “The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city in general, the windows broke.”

    Officials say a large meteor partially burned up in the lower atmosphere, resulting in fragments falling earthwards.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Governor Yurevich reported that the meteor had landed in a lake 1km outside Chebarkul, which has a population of 46,000.

    A Russian army spokesman said a crater 6m (20ft) wide had been found on the shore of the lake.

    The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates that the meteor weighed about 10 tonnes and entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 km/h (33,000mph).

    It would have shattered about 30-50km (18-32 miles) above ground, with most of the meteor burning up.

  5. In reply to #3 by Dave H:

    I wonder if any videos capture both the meteor and the sonic boom later, to give us a fix on the time delay and therefore the height.

    The videos I’ve seen with sound generally show the trail – the boom comes long after.

    Here’s one

    I read an article, but can’t find it again, that put the height of the break up at around 30-40 km or so.

  6. As Jack Skellington would say, “what does it mean, what does it mean??”

    Another warning sign of imminent apocalypse (Chernobyl and asteroids!) doth sayeth revelations “expert” on tv. I love the smell of doom in the morning.

    Thanks for the article/updates, Mr. Plait. You are a trusted source :)

  7. They are saying it was 10 tons, would of been the size of a large ford transit van. The local gob shite priest said “its a message from god” the message it tells me is that we need to invest in meteor tracking as humans populate the earth more and more we are becoming a bigger target, had this happend100 years ago this incident would of gone unnoticed in chelyabinsk.

  8. In reply to #12 by Dublin-atheist:

    The local gob shite priest said “its a message from god”

    The deluded with their own political or religious agendas or axes to grind, will take any irresponsible opportunity to seek attention and spout drivel!

    One Russian politician said the event was not a meteor shower but a US weapons test, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21468116

    Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, was quoted as saying: “Meteors are falling. Those are not meteors, it is Americans testing their new weapon.”

  9. Alan4 discussion you know what i mean their are some who will swear it was a space ship from another world but why give them their 15 minutes i heard on sky news about the local gob shite priest’s comment about the meteor strike being a message from god, why dose sky give them any coverage at all. We know what these meteors are and where they come from, what would the theologians do if a real cosmic threat faced us, a Texas sized rock moving at 33000 miles an hour towards earth, thank f%@k for science at least we have some hope.

  10. This has got to be the biggest ever coincidence in astronomy.

    The entire world was waiting for the close encounter with an relatively distant asteroid and at that very moment another one slips through from the side and crash lands in front of multiple go pro’s.

  11. Just wondering…How do they know over 1,000 people had minor injuries from glass shattering. Were these injuries significant enough that they required medical attention? If I had a minor cut, I would just bandage it up.

  12. Couldn’t this event in Russia be linked to the asteroid fly-by?

    I seem to remember a photo taken by a probe of an asteroid ( several years ago) with a small (really small) “moon” in orbit around it.
    Couldn’t the event be the entry of such a “moon” into the atmosphere – or the entry of something else that has tagged-on (gravitationally) to the asteroid?

    Otherwise it seems quite a coincidence: the very close fly-by of the asteroid and the entry of this rock within a three hour time slot.

  13. In reply to #22 by judithjmidwinter:

    Couldn’t this event in Russia be linked to the asteroid fly-by?

    No. – They came from different directions. If they were linked they would be on roughly the same trajectory.

    BTW. New calculations are suggesting the Russian meteor was bigger than first thought.

    There are thousand of these in the inner Solar System, and millions in the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt. . . .

    Alt Text .. ..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort-cloud-object

  14. In reply to #20 by QuestioningKat:

    Just wondering…How do they know over 1,000 people had minor injuries from glass shattering. Were these injuries significant enough that they required medical attention? If I had a minor cut, I would just bandage it up.

    I think some glass fell from high windows, – the sheer quantity of broken glass and the force of the shock-wave must have contributed.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21482252

    President Vladimir Putin ordered the operation to help some 1,200 people who were injured, including 200 children, mostly by shattered glass.

    The shockwave damaged an estimated 200,000 sq m (50 acres) of windows.

    Mr Putin said he had thanked God that no big fragments of the 10-tonne meteor – which was thought to be made of iron and travelling at some 30 km (19 miles) per second – had fallen in populated areas.

    It had entered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (20-30 miles) above ground, according to Russia’s Academy of Sciences, releasing several kilotons of energy –
    the equivalent of a small atomic weapon.

    Some 50 people remain in hospital for treatment – mainly for cuts and bruises from shattered glass.

    The shockwave blew out windows in more than 4,000 buildings in the region.

    >

  15. In reply to #23 by judithjmidwinter:

    PS: It was the Galileo probe en route to Jupiter that photographed this tiny moon (in 1995). The asteroid here (Ida) will have a much stronger gravity field than the little one that flew by the earth – but it’s surely still a real possibility.

    There are millions of meteors and asteroids flying around the inner Solar System, and billions of rocks and comets out in the Kuiper belt and Oort Cloud.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oort-cloud

    [Edit] – I see the edit of added links to my post 24 which disappeared, has now reappeared!

  16. In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #22 by judithjmidwinter:

    Couldn’t this event in Russia be linked to the asteroid fly-by?

    No. – They came from different directions. If they were linked they would be on roughly the same trajectory.

    BTW. New calculations are suggesting the Russian meteor was bigger than first thought.

    Yes. NASA has mentioned an explosion of 30 X Hiroshima, 150 Kilotonnes yield equivalent (and 10 K Tonnes mass – or is that the newspaper?)

    I take the point about the different trajectories. But would that necessarily apply if the object was a moon whose (tangential) orbital velocity was directed elsewhere? Perhaps a small moon could suffer extreme deflection in the atmosphere, or even skip (bounce) off the atmosphere and then re-enter. It seems such a coincidence: both events said to be of the roughly once in a 100 years type – yet both within a 3 hour period.

  17. In reply to #24 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #22 by judithjmidwinter:

    Couldn’t this event in Russia be linked to the asteroid fly-by?

    No. – They came from different directions. If they were linked they would be on roughly the same trajectory.

    BTW. New calculations are suggesting the Russian meteor was bigger than first thought.

    Yes, NASA talk about a 150 Kilotonne yield in the explosion (Hiroshima x 30) and 10,000 Tonne mass.
    (I think the newspaper means a 10 Tonne Mass and 3 x Hiroshima or 150 K tonne equivalent yield)

    Could the different trajectories be the result of the object being a moon – i.e. if its orbital velocity were suitably directed? Or could it be explained by the rock maybe bouncing off the atmosphere and then re-entering?
    The two events (very close asteroid passage and entry of the rock) are said to be around once in 100 year ones, and they both occurred in a single 3 hour period. I’m doubtful though about the quantification for the asteroid fly-by.

  18. In reply to #28 by judithjmidwinter:

    Yes, NASA talk about a 150 Kilotonne yield in the explosion (Hiroshima x 30) and 10,000 Tonne mass.
    (I think the newspaper means a 10 Tonne Mass and 3 x Hiroshima or 150 K tonne equivalent yield)

    Journalists are not good sources of science. Many are scientifically illiterate. The energy of the explosion comes from the friction, rapid deceleration and heating when it hits the atmosphere. From 33,000 mph to about zero in a few miles and in a minute or two. (Apollo space capsules dropped from 24,000 mph using a carefully chosen flight path and an ablative heat shield.)

    Could the different trajectories be the result of the object being a moon – i.e. if its orbital velocity was suitably directed?

    It was not a moon. The velocity was too high for it to orbit the Earth and there is nothing else to orbit near enough. It was orbiting the Sun in an Earth crossing orbit.

    Or could it be explained by severe turbulence in the atmosphere – even maybe bouncing off the atmosphere and then re-entering?

    No. – Far too fast.

    The two events (very close asteroid passage and entry of the rock) are said to be around once in 100 year ones.

    Each has its own orbital period which can be calculated if it is tracked, but the asteroid in passing will have been bent into a new Solar orbit by the Earth’s gravity.

    Astronomers can usually calculate these times very accurately if they have tracking data.

    This one will be visiting us on Friday 13 April 2029 – and again in March 2036. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis

    On April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass Earth within the orbits of geosynchronous communication satellites, but will come no closer than 19,400 miles (31,300 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.[9] The 2029 pass will actually be much closer than the first predictions. The pass in late March 2036 will be no closer than about 14 million miles — and more likely miss us by something closer to 35 million miles.

    There is more data and some diagrams on the link.

    Tons of space dust and meteorites fall into Earth’s atmosphere all the time.

  19. In reply to #29 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #28 by judithjmidwinter:

    Yes, NASA talk about a 150 Kilotonne yield in the explosion (Hiroshima x 30) and 10,000 Tonne mass.
    (I think the newspaper means a 10 Tonne Mass and 3 x Hiroshima or 150 K tonne equivalent yield)

    Journalists are not good sources of science. Many are scientifically illiterate. The energy of the explosion comes from the friction, rapid deceleration and heating when it hits the atmosphere. From 33,000 mph to about zero in a few miles and in a minute or two. (Apollo space capsules dropped from 24,000 mph using a carefully chosen flight path and an ablative heat shield.)

    Could the different trajectories be the result of the object being a moon – i.e. if its orbital velocity was suitably directed?

    It was not a moon. The velocity was too high for it to orbit the Earth and there is nothing else to orbit near enough. It was orbiting the Sun in an Earth crossing orbit.

    Or could it be explained by severe turbulence in the atmosphere – even maybe bouncing off the atmosphere and then re-entering?

    No. – Far too fast.

    The two events (very close asteroid passage and entry of the rock) are said to be around once in 100 year ones.

    Each has its own orbital period which can be calculated if it is tracked, but the asteroid in passing will have been bent into a new Solar orbit by the Earth’s gravity.

    Astronomers can usually calculate these times very accurately if they have tracking data.

    This one will be visiting us on Friday 13 April 2029 – and again in March 2036. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/99942_Apophis

    On April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass Earth within the orbits of geosynchronous communication satellites, but will come no closer than 19,400 miles (31,300 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.[9] The 2029 pass will actually be much closer than the first predictions. The pass in late March 2036 will be no closer than about 14 million miles — and more likely miss us by something closer to 35 million miles.

    There is more data and some diagrams on the link.

    Tons of space dust and meteorites fall into Earth’s atmosphere all the time.

    Thank you Alan for your replies.

    I meant a “moon” of the asteroid – if it was such a thing then it would have an orbital velocity around the asteroid which could have been directed in some direction other than that of the asteroid’s velocity (although it probably would have the asteroid’s greater velocity superimposed on it).

    Just a thought really – but thanks again.

  20. In reply to #30 by judithjmidwinter:

    I meant a “moon” of the asteroid – if it was such a thing then it would have an orbital velocity around the asteroid which could have been directed in some direction other than that of the asteroid’s velocity (although it probably would have the asteroid’s greater velocity superimposed on it).

    Just a thought really – but thanks again.

    Ah! That’s why i did not get it!

    No – this size of asteroid does not have strong enough gravity to retain a moon – especially not in the inner Solar System where the gravity of planets and the Sun will deflect them.

    The “asteroids”/ dwarf planets etc., which have little “moons” orbiting them are larger, a lot further from the Sun, and well away from the planets.

  21. Imagine this: Its late at night – 17th of Nov ’11. I’m in the bathroom towelling dry my wet face when looking up at the mottled glass window – facing south – over the English Channel. I notice a dull light, slowly dropping, as if on a parachute, while increasing in intensity. I count off about 8 seconds or so. I’m thinking, “No, thats not a plane or our local police helicopter’s ‘beam’. Total silence in the dark bathroom. Suddenly, every object in the room is lit up by the bright flare. I realize what ‘it’ is and rush out and thru to the kitchen. I pull the blinds up, and, tilting my head at the same angle, watch thin, low cloud pass. I start to count, . . . .8, 9. . . .13,14 – WOW, another ‘one’ appears and, (on my mother’s grave), a brilliant white light “explodes” over the back court – arcing right towards my face and over our roof! What a wonderful and impossibly rare experience that was! A double meteorite! * m * : )

  22. In reply to #31 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #30 by judithjmidwinter:

    I meant a “moon” of the asteroid – if it was such a thing then it would have an orbital velocity around the asteroid which could have been directed in some direction other than that of the asteroid’s velocity (although it probably would have the asteroid’s greater velocity superimposed on it).

    Just a thought really – but thanks again.

    Ah! That’s why i did not get it!

    No – this size of asteroid does not have strong enough gravity to retain a moon – especially not in the inner Solar System where the gravity of planets and the Sun will deflect them.

    The “asteroids”/ dwarf planets etc., which have little “moons” orbiting them are larger, a lot further from the Sun, and well away from the planets.

    But even though it was a low mass asteroid possibly with a tiny moon – the combination would be in free fall all the time in whatever gravity field they were in ( a complex and changing field, as the Earth comes to be more significant as they approach it). So there could not be any relative acceleration between asteroid and its (possible) moon.

    (The astronaut and his vehicle suffer no “disruptive effects” from the Sun etc in the inner solar system – everything is always in free fall – except when using a rocket engine)

    If this argument is right, a moon and asteroid pair should be quite as likely in the inner solar system as in the outer. The pair would always be in free fall together, no matter where they were in the solar system.

  23. In reply to #32 by memetical:

    Imagine this: Its late at night – 17th of Nov ’11. I’m in the bathroom towelling dry my wet face when looking up at the mottled glass window – facing south – over the English Channel. I notice a dull light, slowly dropping, as if on a parachute, while increasing in intensity. I count off about 8 seconds or so. I’m thinking, “No, thats not a plane or our local police helicopter’s ‘beam’. Total silence in the dark bathroom. Suddenly, every object in the room is lit up by the bright flare. I realize what ‘it’ is and rush out and thru to the kitchen. I pull the blinds up, and, tilting my head at the same angle, watch thin, low cloud pass. I start to count, . . . .8, 9. . . .13,14 – WOW, another ‘one’ appears and, (on my mother’s grave), a brilliant white light “explodes” over the back court – arcing right towards my face and over our roof! What a wonderful and impossibly rare experience that was! A double meteorite! * m * : )

    When I was a child of about 10 (in Lancashire, England) I was waiting in front of the house for my brother and parents to walk to a relative’s house. It was a dark winter night around 8 pm. Our little road ran roughly north to south and had very poor lighting.
    Looking up I saw a red/dull orange light in the sky moving from the north, from very low down in elevation. It moved so very smoothly (as you see satellites move today). It was not a point source, and it was giving off what looked like dull red sparks, staying close to it (no sound at all) and trailing a bit behind it too. At that age I knew what it probably was: a lump of something skimming the atmosphere high up and probably leaving the atmosphere and going on its way. It passed in the same way, as far as I could see to the south.
    It wasn’t a rocket (firework) – its motion was unlike any other motion I had seen at that time: progressive and smooth. I’d love to see one again (or even the same one if it returned!)

    Very dull (dull orange/red!) compared to yours – but the memory is precious.

  24. In reply to #33 by judithjmidwinter:

    Ah! That’s why i did not get it!

    No – this size of asteroid does not have strong enough gravity to retain a moon – especially not in the inner Solar System where the gravity of planets and the Sun will deflect them.

    The “asteroids”/ dwarf planets etc., which have little “moons” orbiting them are larger, a lot further from the Sun, and well away from the planets.

    But even though it was a low mass asteroid possibly with a tiny moon – the combination would be in free fall all the time in whatever gravity field they were in ( a complex and changing field, as the Earth comes to be more significant as they approach it). So there could not be any relative acceleration between asteroid and its (possible) moon.

    When a smaller body is orbiting a larger one, the smaller one is nearer the Sun (or large Planet) on part of its orbit, so the pull of gravity there is stronger, and weaker in the opposite position. In time, this will deform a circular orbit into an elliptical one, with the difference increasing and the “moon” escaping all together from one of the the high points of the orbit at some stage, or crashing at the low points.

    This is why the planet Mercury (being close to the Sun) is incapable of retaining a moon.

    In the inner Solar System, the gravity of the Sun is strong. It causes substantial tides on Earth. The gravity of a small asteroid is tiny. Far too small to resist any noticeable gravitational tugs on anything trying to orbit it.

    There were other features of gravity, planetary orbits, and planetary spin, discussed here:-
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/2/4/what-if-earth-became-tidally-locked?category=Science#

    If this argument is right, a moon and asteroid pair should be quite as likely in the inner solar system as in the outer.
    The pair would always be in free fall together, no matter where they were in the solar system.

    Meteors often orbit in showers (sometimes being pieces broken off comets) falling together, but not orbiting each other for the reasons given above. In the outer Solar System the Sun’s gravity has been so reduced by the inverse square law of gravity, that the gravity of smaller planets and large asteroid size bodies, can retain moons. It is also why why the Solar System accretion disk has formed into planets in the plane of the ecliptic, while the Oort Cloud and Kuiper belt are less of a flattened disk shape.

  25. It seems to me that historically Russia is hit by these large meteors more often then other places on Earth. Anyone know if that is correct and if so is there some reason for it or is it just that Russia has so much land that its a bigger target?

  26. In reply to #32 by memetical:

    Suddenly, every object in the room is lit up by the bright flare. I realize what ‘it’ is and rush out and thru to the kitchen. I pull the blinds up, and, tilting my head at the same angle, watch thin, low cloud pass. I start to count, . . . .8, 9. . . .13,14 – – WOW, another ‘one’ appears and, (on my mother’s grave), a brilliant white light “explodes” over the back court – arcing right towards my face and over our roof! What a wonderful and impossibly rare experience that was! A double meteorite! * m * : )

    Some times they come in whole swarms.

    One August I was camped with some pals in a high mountain valley, having some beers. The only light came from the embers of our fire and the stars.

    There were Perseid meteors streaking across the sky every few minutes.
    List of meteor showers

    People in towns with street-light-pollution, miss all except the biggest ones, and most of the stars too!

  27. In reply to #36 by Red Dog:

    It seems to me that historically Russia is hit by these large meteors more often then other places on Earth. Anyone know if that is correct and if so is there some reason for it or is it just that Russia has so much land that its a bigger target?

    Probably because Russia has the most land area (3% of Earths surface). Also, Earth is 71% water, so no-one sees most of them.

Leave a Reply