Meteorite Struck Russia

(Article No. 10 – The Vincent Times)
February 16, 2013

Reminiscent of a scene from the movie “Deep Impact,” a meteorite streaked through the skies over central Russia on February 15 then blew up about 10 miles above the surface causing damage and panic in the area.

What has been considered as a rare astronomical event happened in Chelyabinsk, an industrial city located 950 miles east of Moscow.

According to estimates of experts from NASA, the meteorite, approximately 7,000 tons was about the size of a bus. The explosion was equivalent to  the force of 20 atomic bombs.  People in the area was said to be lucky enough that it was the atmosphere that absorbed most of the impact .

The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, reported that the meteorite travelled at a speed of 19 miles per second and left a white trail  as it blazed across the horizon. So visible is the trail it left that it could be seen  from as far as 125 miles away.

Extent of Damage

Russian  scientists speculated that the meteorite might  have been made of iron that broke apart as it entered the earth’s atmosphere. Its explosion resulted to  fireballs raining down in the area. It also   created  a shock wave strong enough to break glasses   and inflict damages  in the buildings and houses and cause injuries to more than 1000 people.

Aside from the damages it wrought to the buildings and houses, the explosion also was said to have caused car alarms  to sound. Additionally, operation of mobile phone networks were disrupted.

Initially the damage to property was estimated to be around $30 million.  Luckily, no deaths were reported.

Back-to-Back Celestial Events

It was an asteroid named 2012 DA14 whose  passing within 17,000 miles off earth that the world awaited. It came as a surprise that hours before the said astronomical event happened the meteorite came. Scientists said that the two celestial incidents are not related for the asteroid and meteorite traveled in opposite directions.

This is the second time in the past 100 years that a meteor entered the earth’s atmosphere through Russia. In June 30, 1908, a meteor, actually much  larger than the recent one, exploded over Tunguska, Siberia. NASA reported that the meteor that hit Siberia wiped out an estimated 80 million trees in about 2,000 square kilometers of forests.  The damage brought about by the meteorite that hit Chelyabinsk pales in comparison.

The explosion in Tunguska is touted as  the largest impact event on or near Earth in the modern times.

In most cases that the atmosphere would protect  the earth by heating up the meteor and meteorites  causing  their disintegration upon entry. Without the help of the earth’s atmosphere, the more extensive the damages that heavenly bodies would cause .

Rare Occurrence

Meteor showers like the Leonid meteor storms were occurrences in the skies  that people keenly await through the centuries. Such meteor showers are a beauty to behold. But there are instances when this event may cause tremendous damage.

And while the back-to-back celestial events, the surprise entry of the meteorite that struck Russia recently and the passing of the asteroid 2012 DA14 were considered as amazing astronomical displays, people could not help but ask how safe is mankind from undetected meteors.

Simon Goodwin, an astrophysicist from the University of Sheffeld in Britain said that around 1,000 to 10,000 metric tons of materials enter the earth daily, fortunately most of them would burn up in the atmosphere. In rare instances that they get nearer or struck earth they could indeed cause loss of lives and damage to property.

The unfortunate thing, Goodwin said,  is that there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop impacts.

It is common knowledge that scientists closely monitor any heavenly body that could pose a risk to earth. But a planetary scientist named Richard Binzel said that  something the size of the Russian meteorite was small enough that it could not be detected.

If Binzel’s claims are to be believed, the scientists are more dedicated to objects from the skies  that may result to  more extensive damage to the planet. Lucky if something of the size that struck Russia could be detected before impact.

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