On the same day that a medium-sized asteroid (2012 DA14) will pass safely by our planet, millions of people in Russia had a brief encounter with a much smaller vagabond of space.
Russian media overnight is reporting that a meteor entered the atmosphere, and broke into several pieces, then crashed into the Russian Urals, near Chelyabinsk.
Three impact sites have been indentified, hundreds of people have reportedly been injured, and and a number of buildings have been damaged from the blast effects.
The Russian space agency Roskosmos estimated the size of the object at about 10 tons before entry into our atmosphere, and has stated:
“According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/s.”
In this age of cell phones, and video cameras, it is not completely unexpected that we have some remarkable audio and video of the event. This from RT News.
Published: 15 February, 2013, 08:36
Edited: 15 February, 2013, 15:25
Russia’s Urals region has been rocked by a meteorite explosion in the stratosphere. The impact wave damaged several buildings, and blew out thousands of windows amid frigid winter weather. Hundreds are seeking medical attention for minor injuries.
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Eyewitness accounts of the meteorite phenomenon, handpicked by RT.
Army units found three meteorite debris impact sites, two of which are in an area near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. The third site was found some 80 kilometers further to the northwest, near the town of Zlatoust. One of the fragments that struck near Chebarkul left a crater six meters in diameter.
Servicemembers from the tank brigade that found the crater have confirmed that background radiation levels at the site are normal.
As of 15:00 Moscow time, 725 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, 112 of whom have been hospitalized .Among the injured there are 84 children, Emergency ministry reported.
While an unusual event, today’s damaging meteor impact is not unprecedented. The most famous impact in modern times was the Tunguska event, which occurred in Siberia, Russia in 1908 and is estimated to have generated an explosion more than 1,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.
Had that impact occurred in a populated region of the world the results would have been devastating.
More recent close encounters with space rocks include the Great Daylight 1972 Fireball (or US19720810) which spectacularly passed through our atmosphere but did not impact the earth’s surface.
Other close encounters include the January 18th, 2000 fireball exploded over the city of Whitehorse in the Canadian Yukon and the September 15th, 2007 meteor crash near the village of Carancas in southeastern Peru near Lake Titicaca.
It has been estimated that 4 meter diameter space rocks impact somewhere around the earth about once every year or so, while 7 meter objects make an appearance – on average – every 4.6 years.
Most end up in the sea, or explode high up in the atmosphere, but occasionally they can cause damage and injuries on the ground.
It is NASA’s NEO (Near Earth Object) Program’s job to keep track of potential earth-bound objects. But while they certainly track smaller meteors – like the one that struck last night – their emphasis is on larger, more damaging objects.
The purpose of the Near-Earth Object Program is to coordinate NASA-sponsored efforts to detect, track and characterize potentially hazardous asteroids and comets that could approach the Earth. The NEO Program will focus on the goal of locating at least 90 percent of the estimated 1,000 asteroids and comets that approach the Earth and are larger than 1 kilometer (about 2/3-mile) in diameter, by the end of the next decade. In addition to managing the detection and cataloging of Near-Earth objects, the NEO Program office will be responsible for facilitating communications between the astronomical community and the public should any potentially hazardous objects be discovered.
As of February 12, 2013, 9697 Near-Earth objects have been discovered. Some 861 of these NEOs are asteroids with a diameter of approximately 1 kilometer or larger. Also, 1378 of these NEOs have been classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs).
While no one should lay awake at night worried that there’s a meteor with their name on it, this is just another example of the many ways that nature can throw us a curve, and of the value of being prepared for any emergency.
AMERICAN RED CROSS http://www.redcross.org/
And finally, some of my own preparedness articles may be of interest: