Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteorite Strikes Russia, Destroys Building

Photo from user @TimurKhorev
A chunk of space rock, estimated to weigh about 10 tons, struck Chelyabinsk, Russia this morning, destroying a building, and killing at least 5 people?

Thanks to ubiquitous dash cameras in Russia (apparently needed for court purposes) there are a number of videos of the meteor streaking through the sky

Remember the old poem:
A meteor is a flash of light
Made by a falling meteorite
I hope to God this answers right

Initial reports suggest it was shot at by Russian air defense forces, but they do not appear to have fired on it.  The meteorite apparently exploded at an altitude of 10,000 feet, due to the heat of reentry, as meteorites often do.

It is suspected the meteorite may be a piece of the larger asteroid 2012 DA14, which will make a pass at the Earth around 2 PM EST today about 17,000 miles away, a close shave by astronomical standards.  Meteorites and asteroids often shed pieces or explode in space due to a process called the YORP effect, uneven solar heating which causes them to rotate faster and faster, until the centripetal force overcomes their weak gravity, and they break apart.

UPDATE:  Apparently the Chelybinsk meteorite and the 2012 DA14 had very different orbits, and so are probably not related:

1 comment:

  1. Why did NASA not see the meteorite?

    1) because it came out of the daytime sky. These are nearly impossible to find ahead of time because telescopes can only spot asteroids during the night

    2) The Russia meteor is estimated to have been less than 20 meters in diameter, which is considered a tiny asteroid

    3) The small asteroid hit the atmosphere moving at a blistering 40,000 miles per hour. That's more than twice as fast as asteroid 2012 DA12 is moving. The space rock lasted about 30 seconds in the atmosphere before breaking apart 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface.

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