Meteorite madness


[Updated 11.00 am CET]

[Update 2 13:40 CET – impact crater located and reported at 6m diameter]

[Update 3 20.00 CET – massive revision on the meteorite size. Early estimates of 2 cubic meters and 10 tons, increased by 3 orders of magnitude to 700 tons and over 3000 cubic meters (15 m) wide]


[UPDATE 4 – 16th Feb. Size revised upward again – see here for more info]

I was looking forward to seeing what exciting meteorite news today would bring. Far from precognition, I was anticipating the rather close flyby of asteroid DA14, which in a little under 12 hours is due to pass about 34,000 km over our heads.  While the ISS orbits at a piddly 300-400 kilometers, 34,000 km puts DA14 inside the orbit of our geosynchronous satellites.

Little did I realise that I was going to wake up to the altogether more spectacular footage emerging from Russia this morning. At about 9.00 am local time an asteroid plunged into the atmosphere over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia.  This was particularly good for several reasons. Firstly, it’s a time in the morning when there’s plenty of people around to see it, secondly, it was a beautiful crisp clear winters morning, and thirdly because it was in Russia, and the Russians love to have cameras on their car dashboards. Who knew corruption and scamming could have scientific benefits?

The result is videos like this:

and this

To have any footage at all of these events is unusual and useful. To have so much footage from so many different angles and perspectives is really quite incredible. There’s a good repository of some of the best clips here from Emily Lakdawalla

The obvious question which starts cropping up is whether this meteor is related to the DA14 event.  That question I think has been adequately dealt with – at elast based on preliminary data – by Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) who summarises that

“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.”

and furthermore

“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.”

I strongly recommend you read his post in full, as it also encompasses some great images.

The information coming out of Russia has been somewhat confused.  Initial claims even suggested the military had shot the meteorite down – a somewhat outlandish claim.  Injury estimates were ranging anything between 0 – 100, although the Russian Interior Ministery has since updated the numbers to over 400 people seeking medical attention. These were mostly due to broken glass, caused by the enormous sonic boom as the meteor passed overhead.

UPDATE: Meteosat caught the moment the asteroid started entering the atmosphere

There’s a massive thread on r/AskScience at Reddit that I’ve been looking after for the last few hours that’s worth checking out.

Here’s some more link and video repositories you might like to have a browse through.

About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in Astronomy, General, Geology, News, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Meteorite madness

  1. Pingback: Meteor madness 2 – look at the size of that thing | lithics

  2. Pingback: To be Shot at and Missed « Bill Housley

  3. Pingback: Nothing About Potatoes | Things I found on the internet. Cannot guarantee 100% potato-free.

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