Category Archives: Near-Earth Objects
I’m sure you’ve heard the reports of the meteorite that entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia this morning. For me it was a really great way to wake up and begin the day! Not 15 minutes after waking up and taking a shower I checked my Facebook and saw Phit Plait’s article on Bad Astronomy. Man oh man were those videos cool! It’s been a while since we had a daytime fireball like this. Although it’s being reported that hundreds of people have been injured by shattered glass and such, no serious injuries were reported.
The fireball appeared around 9:30 am local time in Chelyabinsk, Russia which is a city near the Ural Mountains, about 1500 km east of Moscow. It is estimated that the meteorite weighed about 10 tons, or 20,000 pounds. Upon entering the atmosphere the space rock began to break apart as seen in the train (the smoke trail) where it forms two columns of smoke. One video included below shows someone driving and captures some amazing footage of the fireball at the moment of entry. The meteorite blazes almost as bright as the sun while it glows white-hot from the friction of the atmosphere! Although it broke apart upon entry reports have come in that small fragments did indeed impact the surface. Mostly raining down as relatively harmless small chunks, several impact areas have been proposed.
By far the coolest part of the “impact” is the shock wave felt by residents that was caused by the meteorite breaking the sound barrier several times over. People hundreds of miles away from where entry occurred could hear the sonic boom. In Chelyabinsk, many windows were shattered and car alarms blared from the shock wave. I can imagine how startled and confused the residents might have felt seeing the giant train and hearing sonic booms like artillery fire. If I didn’t know anything about space and astronomy I’d probably assume that North Korea was attacking!
In case you haven’t already had this confirmed by dozens of media members and scientists, this is NOT related to the close shave we’re about to have with asteroid 2012 DA14 . The meteorite entered the atmosphere too early and was travelling the wrong direction to be a fragment of the asteroid. But it is a very cool coincidence that these two events would happen on the same day! That’s the nature of meteors and space, they can be totally unpredictable. I think this is further proof that we need to be able to detect things like this before they happen in case a much larger and more deadly meteorite were to impact us. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that both events occurred today. This Russian fireball and the close approach will hopefully serve as a wake-up call that more extensive near Earth object detection systems are needed to prevent casualties from impacts.
Anyway, enough rambling from me. Here’s some of the videos posted on YouTube from eyewitnesses. They’re pretty cool!
Car dashboard camera capture the fireball as it enters the atmosphere
I love this video because you not only hear the sonic boom, but you see the person’s reaction to the boom as almost jumps out of his pants!
Another longer video of a city street where you can hear glass shattering from the sonic boom.