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BREAKING: Meteor fall causes damage in Russia [UPDATED]

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

15-02-2013 1:44 CST

Topics: events and announcements, asteroids, Earth impact hazard, meteors, near-Earth asteroids

Watch the video from our live-webcast about the Russian Meteor and Asteroid 2012 DA14's closest approch from earlier today.

UPDATES on the morning of February 15

I am traveling so can't do my usual thorough picture post until Monday. So, until then, I'll just post some more links to useful resources on this story.

News stories about the Russian Meteor:
Fact-filled update from Nature
Guardian article with answers to FAQs
RIA Novosti article

Useful graphics:
Awesome several frame video showing meteor train dissipating from Meteosat-9
Still image from Meteosat-9
Really cool view of meteor train on Earth's limb from Meteosat-10
Diagram explaining how Russian meteor and asteroid 2012 DA14 are not related (Alice's Astro Info)
Another explanation with diagram of how meteor and DA14 are not related (Michael Khan)
METEOSAT image plotted on Google Maps to show that train is about 320 km long
Sonic boom recorded in seismograms
Amusing poster from Neil Tyson
: "Asteroids are nature's way of asking: How's that space program going?"
Great infographic summarizing the impact and its effects from the Guardian UK
Animated GIF processed from a dashcam of the meteor flaring in the sky

Background information:
Explainer on what causes meteors to explode by Ethan Siegel (from 2009 but quite relevant)
Answers to FAQs about meteors (frequency, brightness, etc) from the AMS

Quick and dirty roundup of Russian Meteorite stories So at about 0325 UTC on February 15, there appears to have been a very large meteor event in Russia, near the town of Chelyabinsk. Videos show a massive fireball, outshining the Sun (which had not, in fact, quite risen yet). Many videos show a contrail, which is intriguingly split. Many of these videos suddenly get shaky and loud as the shock wave hits. The bangs, as Phil Plait pointed out in his post, are not of the meteorites hitting the ground, but are rather from the sonic boom of the fast-moving and exploding meteor. The shock wave is so forceful that many of the videos include the noise of shattering windows.

I'll let Phil do the analysis, as he has already done on his blog. For more measured journalistic media reporting on what has yet been confirmed, check Alan Boyle.

Here is a very quick and dirty set of links to videos and information. I can't do more tonight because it's late and I'm traveling. If you see another good video -- post a link in the comments, please!

Reuters story
LiveJournal website listing videos, images of damage

Views of meteorite arcing through sky, from car dash-mounted webcams
(distant) (7c-0iwBEswE)
much closer 1:46
more distant, flash at 0:09 of 2:59 (XRJWhnUAk0w)
brief, very bright 0:01 of 0:19 (LFsZitw6CKk)
tangential, parallel to street, lights up like daylight (f525TmMSBs0)
unusual perspective, very low on horizon, from "behind" (zJ-Y7vhS1JE)
very good dashcam view, car immobile (lxBFb9jN_HY)

Webcam views, mostly no audio:
Light brighter than day at 4:15 in this one (though no direct view of contrail and no audio, still neat lighting effects) (bXifSi2K278)
Light brighter than day at 0:40

After flash, shows contrail, shock waves 4:45, shock wave 20 sec in (b7mLUIDGqmw)
0:18, shock wave immediately (b0cRHsApzt8)
1:34, shock wave at 0:28 (Np_mpGYSBSA)
MANY MANY shock waves 0:32 to 0.53, very clear view of split contrail (0ozSq3yEm3g)
2:12 sound of breaking glass, multiple bangs, video of broken windows, bangs slightly quieter than above (UE4p8gCOY7Q)
Dissipated contrail, rising sun

See other posts from February 2013


Or read more blog entries about: events and announcements, asteroids, Earth impact hazard, meteors, near-Earth asteroids


Patrick Wiggins: 02/15/2013 01:58 CST

And now I see one report reading "A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers." Somehow I think they got that part wrong. Then again, maybe Bruce Willis was involved. LOL! Here's the report in case anyone's interested: patrick :)

Jim E: 02/15/2013 06:40 CST

As I watch these videos, I keep thinking about how there were many periods during the last 50 years when this might have started a nuclear war. During the Cold War, couldn't this have been interpreted by a paranoid politician as a missile attack, complete with multiple contrails from a MIRV?

Lorient: 02/15/2013 07:55 CST

About the split contrails: they remind the counter-rotating vortex emanating from the opposite wing tips of an aircraft (there are very nice photos of Concorde with that effect). I think the meteor was not spherical but had a shape (e.g. flattened) and angle of attack that produced some lift, and thus created counter rotating contrails.

David: 02/15/2013 08:22 CST

Enlighten me, please. Is this morning's meteor strike in Russia part of the expected miss later today? Is it possible that the bulk of the asteroid will miss later but parts of it have fragmented off and are striking early? Just curious.

Jim E: 02/15/2013 08:36 CST

David: not according to this:

Michael Khan: 02/15/2013 12:02 CST

Basic analysis of the trajectory of 2012 DA14 and of the possible locations at which an object arriving from the same direction as 2012 DA14 does might conceivably enter the Earth's atmosphere shows that the object that underwent an airburst above Chelyabinsk, Russia, cannot be related to asteroid 2012 DA14. Viz:

Mike Kerna: 02/15/2013 02:51 CST

Was there any detection of this meteroid before today? Or was it too small to be detectable?

Mike: 02/15/2013 07:24 CST

Here's a nice animation of the meteor impact:

AaronQuah : 02/17/2013 11:13 CST

In order to curtail the threat posed by an asteroid impact, I had created a petition urging Obama to spend more budgets on Near Earth Asteroid detection and deflection Here's the link:

OlesenTV: 02/24/2013 03:22 CST

Sonic Boom of Russian Meteor:

thewondererabout: 08/27/2013 09:05 CDT

Why did this happen? Can this kind of disaster be predicted and prevented by donating? Yes or no?

Gary Walston: 11/08/2013 10:19 CST

Recently received request for support of the laser bee research program. Sounds like an excellent research program, but I think the Society would be developing concepts regarding how such a capability would be fielded as the actual deployment of any asteroid path change system would be at least a state level program, perhaps a planet wide system like the ISS. I would support research that leads to fielding a real system, but at this stage it would seem to be a Ph D employment program.

Bruce Betts: 11/11/2013 04:02 CST

Regarding the Laser Bees comment: the eventual deployment of Laser Bees spacecraft indeed would be a state level program, but the key now is to understand whether that would be a path that should be followed when in the future we have a dangerous asteroid coming towards Earth: is the approach viable, how effective is it, how much force would it impart, things like that. Laser Bees theoretically seems like an excellent option to add to possible ways to deflect an asteroid, but we need the lab work to understand it better at this point in order to confirm that and better understand the option. That is precisely a Planetary Society sized project and one that can have great implications for the future.

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