Meteor detonates over Russia (with video)
A meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over Russia’s Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb Friday, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring nearly 1,000 people.
The spectacle deeply frightened many Russians, with some elderly women declaring that the world was coming to an end.
The meteor — estimated to be about 10 tons — entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered into pieces about 18-32 miles above the ground, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.
Amateur video broadcast on Russian television showed an object speeding across the sky about 9:20 a.m. local time, just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail and an intense flash. See several versions of the blast in one video here: http://youtu.be/90Omh7_I8vI
The meteor released several kilotons of energy above the Chelyabinsk region, the science academy said. The shock wave blew in an estimated more than 1 million square feet of glass, according to city officials.
“There was panic. People had no idea what was happening,” said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, a city of 1 million about 930 miles east of Moscow.
“We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud, thundering sound,” he told The Associated Press by telephone.
Another heavenly object: The meteor hit less than a day before Asteroid 2012DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth — about 17,150 miles. But the European Space Agency in a tweet said its experts had determined there was no connection — just cosmic coincidence.
Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling so much faster than the speed of sound.
At school: Lessons had just started at Chelyabinsk schools when the meteor exploded, and officials said 204 schoolchildren were among those injured.
Yekaterina Melikhova, a high school student whose nose was bloody and whose upper lip was covered with a bandage, said she was in her geography class when they saw a bright light outside.
“After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. I was not alone, I was there with Katya. The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us,” she said.
Some fragments of the meteor fell in a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul, the regional governor’s office said, according to the ITAR-Tass.
A 20-foot-wide crater was found in the same area, which could come from space fragments striking the ground, the news agency cited military spokesman Yaroslavl Roshchupkin as saying.
Small pieces of space debris — usually parts of comets or asteroids — that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids. They become meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.
Similar hit in 1908: The site of Friday’s spectacular show is about 3,000 miles west of Tunguska, which 1908 was the site of the largest recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth. That blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons; it leveled some 80 million trees.
Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth
Jokes: Other quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.
The Russian-language hashtags for the meteorite shot into Twitter’s top trends, and the country’s lively blogosphere quickly reacted with black humor.
One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall Dec. 21 last year — when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world — but was delivered late by Russia’s notoriously inefficient postal service.
Reported by JIM HEINTZ and VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV of the Associated Press from MOSCOW, Russia. Max Seddon contributed to this story.