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Hundreds Reported Injured in Blast from Meteor Strike over Russia [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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A meteor fireball lit up the morning sky over Chelyabinsk in central Russia, producing a shock wave that shattered windows and injured an estimated 500 1,000 people.** Although much of the parent object likely burned up in the atmosphere, Russian authorities say that several meteorite fragments have already been recovered, according to the Interfax news agency.

A preliminary analysis posted to the Web site of the Russian Academy of Sciences estimates that the object that struck Earth’s atmosphere was a few meters in diameter, “the weight of the order of ten tons [and] the energy of a few kilotons,” according to a Google translation.* That  would make the Chelyabinsk event a fairly common occurrence, although such strikes usually occur over less-populated regions, not cities of more than a million people. On average, a four-meter asteroid hits Earth every year, delivering five kilotons of energy, Southwest Research Institute senior scientist Clark Chapman found in a 2004 analysis.

The Chelyabinsk impact appears unrelated to the close passage of the 50-meter asteroid 2012 DA14, which is expected to zip past Earth at a distance of less than 30,000 kilometers around 2:30 P.M. Eastern time today—inside the orbit of some satellites. On Twitter, the European Space Agency stated that agency experts have confirmed that there is no link between the two events.

A dashboard camera captured some dramatic footage (below) of this morning’s event.

We will update this post as more information becomes available.

*UPDATE (11:33 A.M. EST): Other analyses point to a larger size for the impactor. Margaret Campbell-Brown of the University of Western Ontario told Nature that her calculations show an initial size of 15 meters for the object when it hit the atmosphere. “That would make it the biggest object recorded to hit the Earth since Tunguska,” a giant blast over Siberia in 1908, she said.

**UPDATE (4:10 P.M.): The New York Times, citing information from Russia’s Interior Ministry, reports that the number of injured is more than 1,000.

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. SAReadersince67 12:28 pm 02/15/2013

    As to whether this “Chelyabinsk impact” is related to the Asteroid 2012 DA14 would seem to be a function of the azimuth, velocity and trajectory of the former, which will be verified in due course from the observations. But if these are unrelated objects, what is the (im)probability of a 15 meter object impacting earth at the same time as a 45 meter object is passing by so close? If the objects are part of a cluster, the probability is high, if not, then it shows how even highly improbable events can be part of our experience. Low probability is not “no” probability. We shall see what analysis discovers…

    Link to this
  2. 2. jtdwyer 1:08 pm 02/15/2013

    Put another way, what is the probability that a 100 year meteorite event and a perhaps even rarer asteroid flyby event randomly occur in the same 24 hour period?
    I think the evidence indicates that there is most likely a causal relationship between the two events, even if we cannot determine what that might be.

    Link to this
  3. 3. karenalcott 2:25 pm 02/15/2013

    I also am tempted to believe that this object is at least traveling in some sort of related trajectory to the next object. This is a terrible event for those poor souls who lost someone or who were lost, however some important good can come of it; if the countries of our world get serious about cataloging and tracking all near Earth and periodic objects, that could pose a threat.

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  4. 4. ErnestPayne 3:00 pm 02/15/2013

    WOW!!! I can’t wait for the scientific studies. I am glad that this did not happen during the “cold war”. It would have “impacted” the doomsday machine of Dr. Strangelove.

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  5. 5. alan6302 3:32 pm 02/15/2013

    The link could be the disruption caused by the approaching non- existent brown dwarf co-sun. The prediction for this time period is a solar storm , rock storm and asteroid hit.

    Link to this
  6. 6. wx2013 4:07 pm 02/15/2013

    Correct. The probability seems too small to be non-correlated. I could image there are a bunch of small ones accompanying the large one. If this is the case, there may or may not be another one falling from the sky soon. This really depends on how many there are there.

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  7. 7. foras05t 4:36 pm 02/15/2013

    The Voice of the Sacred Cosmos!
    The Signs of Time.
    The Earth and the Last Days of Man.
    Where the Future?
    Francisco de Alencar.

    Link to this
  8. 8. greenhome123 4:48 pm 02/15/2013

    that would suck if you were in a plane and it got hit by one of those.

    Link to this
  9. 9. karenalcott 5:48 pm 02/15/2013

    I’m watching Journal, Deutsche Welle on PBS and the Europeans are saying that there were hundreds of injuries but no deaths, thank God. They also say initial comparison of the trajectory’s of this smaller object and the one we are still waiting for, show that they did not come from the same area.

    Link to this
  10. 10. stargene 7:40 pm 02/15/2013

    Hmmm… Tunguska, Sikhote-Alin.. and now Chelyabinsk.
    The Russians seem to have all the luck.

    Link to this
  11. 11. alan6302 7:43 pm 02/15/2013

    wow, Russia has those chemtrails. Just like Canada.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Sparky31411 8:28 pm 02/15/2013

    The one that missed us came at us from the south. The one that hit us came at us from the north. Ergo, they were not related.


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  13. 13. jtdwyer 9:04 pm 02/15/2013

    Regardless of their approach, two objects that likely originated in the asteroid belt some time ago that arrive in Earth’s space on the same day could have been initially perturbed, potentially along with other asteroids, by a single event. Alternatively, a large near-Earth asteroid could perturb the orbit of another, causing it to impact the Earth on this approach. We don’t know what the orbital path of the impactor was – only its final oblique path through the atmosphere.

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  14. 14. jtdwyer 9:14 pm 02/15/2013

    stargene – More specifically, Siberia. All three recent large impact events happened to take place in or on the periphery of (today’s event) the massive flood basalt deposits of the Siberian Traps…

    Link to this
  15. 15. Plain-2009 2:35 am 02/16/2013

    Yes, good thing this did not happen during the Cold War.
    Yes, and I am sorry I mention this in a Scientific Magazine (or Popular Science, no offense intended)it may be an Act of God.
    It was really terrible, I am very sorry about the people injured or the children scared. [Good people in trouble. It seems unfair.]
    I think it was a big object. But if it had fallen in the ocean we may have not noticed it.
    It is clear that we do not have means to detect what is about to fall over our heads.
    Probably is not practical to do so (except with really big objects).
    Without any data or scientific basis I would say that object this size do not fall frequently on Earth.
    I once saw a big strange (unfamiliar) red light moving above a layer of clouds. I never knew what it was. But (it was) very different than this meteorite.
    It is a fantastic phenomenon but very dangerous.
    I think a portion of the meteorite has been recovered. It will be extremely interesting to very carefully analyze it.

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  16. 16. m 3:50 am 02/16/2013

    at Plain-2009

    Please please go aw3y, this is a science site, take your faith elsewhere.

    Your ramblings about good people..wheres your data?
    Your ramblings about it falling in the ocean we wont have noticed it? Really?

    Take your acts of god and go back to faith monthly or whatever hole you came from.

    Link to this
  17. 17. SAReadersince67 3:51 pm 02/16/2013

    From what is reported so far, the “Chelyabinsk impact” appears not to be related to the Asteroid 2012 DA14; however, further analysis may show otherwise. Is it not possible that these objects are part of an harmonic phenomenon of ancient origin, even if not of the same source object?

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  18. 18. American Muse 4:49 pm 02/16/2013

    There are more in that batch. Will arrive between 2/15/13 and 5/17/13. The big one is on the way!

    Link to this
  19. 19. Mark656515 7:43 pm 02/16/2013

    I agree that two large objects in a row seems more like a cloud than a coincidence.

    Stargene – not luck, largest country in area.

    Link to this
  20. 20. stargene 5:12 am 02/17/2013

    Just a thought. This quote is from the wikipedia entry: “Witnesses in Chelyabinsk reported that the air of the city smelled like gunpowder.[27]” And this reminds me that when
    Armstrong and Aldrin climbed back inside their module lander
    on a break during the Apollo 11 moon landing, they both noticed and exclaimed that, with the moon dust tracked into
    the module, the air smelled just “like gunpowder”. What
    might be behind this similar experience?

    Link to this
  21. 21. jtdwyer 4:32 pm 02/17/2013

    stargene – perhaps incinerated meteorites smell like gunpowder…

    Link to this

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