Basic Astronomy

Russian meteor fragment found

19 February 2013: Russian scientists discovered more than 50 fragments of the meteor that exploded above the Urals city of Chelyabinsk and injured about 1,200 people. Preliminary tests are ongoing to find information on the contents of these fragments.

Meteor hit at Russia
(Alexander Khlopotov / Urals Federal University AFP/Getty Images)

Local people are seem to be more interested in the black market value of the fragments. Many of them searched their own pieces of the meteor and trying to make money from that. Internet is already filled with many sales offers of meteorites and police are warning about possible fraud.

Viktor Grokhovsky from Urals Federal University was team leader of the expedition team, which led the fragment search program. He said that 53 fragments of the meteor have been plucked from the ice-covered Chebarkul Lake. He added that these fragments are less than a centimeter in size, about 10 per cent iron, and belong to the chondrite type, the most common variation of meteorites found on Earth.

NASA scientists calculated that the meteor hit the ground with a force about 30 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb.

The meteor was made of 15 meter wide rock with approximately 7,000 to 8,000 tonnes mass.

The dazzling fireball burned brighter than the Sun and it is estimated that the energy released as the meteor's disintegrated in the atmosphere was about 500 kilotons which is around 30 times the size of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The meteor entered the atmosphere at 44,000 miles per hour, taking 32.5 seconds to break up at an altitude of around 15 miles above the earth's surface.

"When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case there were probably some large ones," said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office. "We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average," he said in a statement published on the NASA website.

In 1908, there was another very strong meteor event on Russia in the Tunguska region in which a massive blast took place when some cosmic body ripped through Siberia - the blast leveled some 80 million trees. Most scientists believe an asteroid or a comet is the reason behind the incident. Tunguska blast is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons. Tunguska region meteor incident was largest recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth before the present Chebarkul incident. The site of Chebarkul meteor event is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska.

The meteor fall on Siberia just hours before an asteroid (named 2012 DA 14) safely past Earth at the unprecedented distance of 17,200 miles. NASA confirm that the 2012 DA 14 asteroid's passing was "the closest-ever predicted approach to Earth for an object this large."

Scientists believe that there are no indication that the meteor is any way related with the asteroid 2012 DA 14 as the the trajectories of two events are totally different - the Russian meteor fall from North but 2012 DA 14 passed Earth from South to North. So, it is just a coincidence that two separate cosmic events took place in nearly same time.

NASA scientists estimated that a smallish asteroid such as the 2012 DA 14 flies close to Earth every 40 years on average while only once every 1,200 years it hit the planet.

This unprecedented event forces some Russian officials to call for the creation of a global system of space object defense. Alexei Pushkov, Russian parliament’s foreign affairs committee chief and close ally of President Vladimir Putin, wrote on his Twitter account late Friday that "instead of fighting on Earth, people should be creating a joint system of asteroid defense". He also added "Instead of creating a (military) European space defense system, the United States should join us and China in creating the AADS - the Anti-Asteroid Defense System".

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