Meteor explodes over Russia, 1,100 injured

With a blinding flash and a booming shock wave, a meteor blazed across the western Siberian sky Friday and exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs, injuring more than 1,000 people as it blasted out windows and spread panic in a city of 1 million.
Associated Press
Feb 15, 2013


While NASA estimated the meteor was only about the size of a bus and weighed an estimated 7,000 tons, the fireball it produced was dramatic. Video shot by startled residents of the city of Chelyabinsk showed its streaming contrails as it arced toward the horizon just after sunrise, looking like something from a world-ending science-fiction movie.

The largest recorded meteor strike in more than a century occurred hours before a 150-foot asteroid passed within about 17,000 miles (28,000 kilometers) of Earth. The European Space Agency said its experts had determined there was no connection between the asteroid and the Russian meteor — just cosmic coincidence.

The meteor above western Siberia entered the Earth's atmosphere about 9:20 a.m. local time (10:20 p.m. EST Thursday) at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph (54,000 kph) and shattered into pieces about 30-50 kilometers (18 to 32 miles) high, the Russian Academy of Sciences said. NASA estimated its speed at about 40,000 mph, said it exploded about 12 to 15 miles high, released 300 to 500 kilotons of energy and left a trail 300 miles long.

"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening," said Sergey Hametov of Chelyabinsk, about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) east of Moscow in the Ural Mountains.

"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.

The shock wave blew in an estimated 100,000 square meters (more than 1 million square feet) of glass, according to city officials, who said 3,000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged. At a zinc factory, part of the roof collapsed.

The Interior Ministry said about 1,100 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 48 were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, officials said.

Scientists estimated the meteor unleashed a force 20 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, although the space rock exploded at a much higher altitude. Amy Mainzer, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the atmosphere acted as a shield.

The shock wave may have shattered windows, but "the atmosphere absorbed the vast majority of that energy," she said.

Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Vladimir Purgin said many of the injured were cut as they flocked to windows to see what caused the intense flash of light, which momentarily was brighter than the sun.

There was no immediate word on any deaths or anyone struck by space fragments.

President Vladimir Putin summoned the nation's emergencies minister and ordered immediate repairs. "We need to think how to help the people and do it immediately," he said.

Some meteorite fragments fell in a reservoir outside the town of Chebarkul, the regional Interior Ministry office said. The crash left an eight-meter (26-foot) crater in the ice.

Lessons had just started at Chelyabinsk schools when the meteor exploded, and officials said 258 children were among those injured. Amateur video showed a teacher speaking to her class as a powerful shock wave hit the room.

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 a bright light flashed outside.

"After the flash, nothing happened for about three minutes. Then we rushed outdoors. ... The door was made of glass, a shock wave made it hit us," she said.

Russian television ran video of athletes at a city sports arena who were showered by shards of glass from huge windows. Some of them were still bleeding.

Other videos showed a long shard of glass slamming into the floor close to a factory worker and massive doors blown away by the shock wave.

Meteors typically cause sizeable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are traveling so much faster than the speed of sound. Injuries on the scale reported Friday, however, are extraordinarily rare.

"I went to see what that flash in the sky was about," recalled resident Marat Lobkovsky. "And then the window glass shattered, bouncing back on me. My beard was cut open, but not deep. They patched me up. It's OK now."

Another resident, Valya Kazakov, said some elderly women in his neighborhood started crying out that the world was ending.

The many broken windows exposed residents to the bitter cold as temperatures in the city were expected to plummet to minus 20 Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit) overnight. The regional governor put out a call for any workers who knew how to repair windows.

Russian-language hashtags for the meteorite quickly shot up into Twitter's top trends.

"Jeez, I just woke up because my bed started shaking! The whole house is moving!" tweeted Alisa Malkova.

Social media was flooded with video from the many dashboard cameras that Russians mount in their cars, in case of pressure from corrupt traffic police or a dispute after an accident.

The dramatic event prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russians.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that "not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet."

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader noted for his vehement statements, blamed the Americans.

"It's not meteors falling. It's the test of a new weapon by the Americans," the RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

"At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies" to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Meteoroids are small pieces of space debris — usually parts of comets or asteroids — that are on a collision course with the Earth. 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.

NASA said the Russian fireball was the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia, and flattened an estimated 80 million trees. Chelyabinsk is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska. The Tunguska blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons.

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.

The object hailed from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, becoming a meteor as it streaked through the earth's atmosphere, Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said.

Paul Chodas, research scientist at the Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that ground telescopes would have needed to point in the right direction at the right time to spot Friday's incoming meteor.

"It would be very faint and difficult to detect, not impossible, but difficult," Chodas said.

The 150-foot space rock that safely hurtled past Earth at 2:25 p.m. EST Friday was dubbed Asteroid 2012 DA14 and was discovered a year ago. It came closer than many communication and weather satellites that orbit 22,300 miles up.

The asteroid was invisible to astronomers in the United States at the time of its closest approach on the opposite of the world. But in Australia, astronomers used binoculars and telescopes to watch the point of light speed across the clear night sky.

Jim Green, NASA's director of planetary science, called the back-to-back celestial events an amazing display.

"This is indeed very rare and it is historic," he said on NASA TV. "These fireballs happen about once a day or so, but we just don't see them because many of them fall over the ocean or in remote areas. "

Experts said the Russian meteor could have produced much more serious problems in the area hosting nuclear and chemical weapons disposal facilities.

Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia noted that the meteor struck only 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Mayak nuclear storage and disposal facility, which holds dozens of tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

The panic and confusion that followed the meteor quickly gave way to typical Russian black humor and entrepreneurial instincts. Several people smashed in the windows of their houses in the hopes of receiving compensation, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Others quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.

One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21, 2012 — when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world — but was delivered late by Russia's notoriously inefficient postal service.




Meteors hate Russia. Didn't they teach their kids the "duck and cover" thing?

Bada Bing

probably another north korea nuke test being covered up by the media


Imagine if that had been around here? I would hope we had gotten a warning instead of the lack of one like the dear Russians give their folks. What a mess that would have been. I can't imagine the fear all of those people must have experienced. The deaths alone must have been terrible....death by shockwave? OMG.

Licorice Schtick

Warning? (eyeballs rolling) Umm...did you notice it was travelling 33 THOUSAND miles per hour? No one knew it was coming. When the thing was just one hour away, to see it would been roughly equivalent to spotting a 1/1000 inch diameter speck of dust from 300 feet. An that neglects the difficulty of seeing through the Earth's atmosphere.

Most of the injuries were minor, from from broken glass and the like, caused by the shockwave. Of course, there were reports of hysterical people running around in circles babbling about the end of the world. Only one case of anyone wondering why there was no government warning, so far.


Dont explain physics to wiredmama...she still thinks a semi automatic "assault rifle" shoots faster than an automatic (standard stock) rifle.

In all reality though, seeing as "space" is roughly 220 miles above earths outer layer......and the speed this was traveling.........would of given you about enought time for me to type the letter R to get a "warning out".


Oh, please, stop already with this semi automatic thing. I have heard enough about it to last me a lifetime. Perhaps I should just buy one and be done with it so I can have it handy JUST IN CASE I need it.

As for people not knowing it was coming...we just watched the special on it on the science channel and they did know it was coming as they were watching both it and the astroid. Sorry to disappoint both of you. Perhaps you should be more informed before posting what you do not understand.

The truth was, they were looking at both but decided it better not to call an alert as they did not expect it to hit where it did not did they expect what they got.

The supersonic "boom" was the equivalent of the bomb at Hiroshima just from sheer velocity. Windows broke, walls were toppled and roofs collapsed. People were hurt just from the impact of the BOOM it made, to say nothing of the shaking of the earth alone. It hit further away and shook the earth as well.

People hurt from flying glass and shards of wood and flying debris is what put people in the hospital, to say nothing of being knocked off their feet.

This "meterorite" that hit, was just as dangerous as any bomb going off, but not as dangerous as the meteor that could have hit that would have been life ending.

As for not knowing much about space, speed, or really don't know anything about me, so stop assuming. You know nothing about my educational background, my hobbies, my likes, my dislikes or what I care about. So just stop assuming that you do. I don't make any assumptions about what you know or don't know. I wouldn't be that stupid.

You know what they say about those who assume, don't you?


Ah, yes, the Science Channel, home of such gems as "Cooking with Zombies" and "Meet the Aliens." "They" were watching? "They" knew it was coming? Who, please? And could we please have a more, er, credible source? I'm not saying it ain't possible, but my skepticism is not unreasonable, since the meteor was widely reported as "undetected."

But even if it was expected, what should have been done differently? A panicked evacuation could well have caused more harm than the event itself, and WHERE do you evacuted? - The point or points of impact can't be predicted with a lot of precision.

In your post in the related article,

it's not especially clear what you wanted NASA to do with money you want to divert from health care, but you seem to be sticking to your guns that health care's a waste and attemting to stop meteor inpacts is a good idea. Good luck defending that, because, as I said at the other article, Americans are 160,000 time more likely to die from heart disease than an asteroid impact.


Global warming, the reason we need another carbon tax!!!

Licorice Schtick

It's Obama's fault.


about the size of a bus and it weighed 7000 tons? thats 14 million pounds.


Have you ever seen or held a real meteorite? I have. They are INSANELY heavy, and made nearly entirely of iron and nickel. When you think of a limestone rock that is a cubic foot in size, you figure it weighs maybe a hundred pounds, give or take. Something that is is composed almost entirely or iron is going to weigh much, much, much more than that. Don't confuse volume with mass. (Compare a gallon of water at 8.35 lbs to a gallon of gasoline at 6.07 pounds to a gallon of mercury at 113 pounds).

Amazing (and very humbling) to think about!


A 7000 ton cube of cast iron would be about 31 feet on each side. What you held in your hand was meteorite, I hope, and not a meteor.

Numbers from very recent Reuters report, 4:02pm EST today:

$33 million in damage

1,200 people were injured, mostly by flying glass, 50 still in the hospital

Russian space agency stated entry speed of 19 miles/second (68,400 MPH.)

NASA estimates: 10,000 tons and 55 feet across prior to entry, exploded releasing nearly 500 kilotons of energy or about 30 times the Hiroshima nuke

Darwin's choice

1 ton = 2000 pounds............


and...1 pound = 16 ounces. What's your point?

Darwin's choice

Fri, 02/15/2013 - 9:54pm
about the size of a bus and it weighed 7000 tons? thats 14 million pounds.


I tell ya first the pope quits, and now this.....the end of days!!!!!!


Oh no, end of days will be here if that African is selected Pope! LOL!


Looks like the world may need Harry Stamper sooner than expected.


to the Scientist: I am afraid most of the commenters here will not understand a word that you said. What I am most concerned with is that they cannot accurately predict meteors crashing down on us. Surprise!


According to my info, the "small asteroid" came in from the direction of the Sun making detection difficult.

20 atom bombs? If it hit, it coulda taken out an area of around 400 sq. mis.

Maybe the "bugs" were just testing our defense capabilities? :)

Why all the dash board cameras?

looking around

"video from the many dashboard cameras that Russians mount in their cars, in case of pressure from corrupt traffic police or a dispute after an accident."

looking around

I remember a couple of years back, sitting in my family room looking out the picture window and seeing a meteor, comet or what have you streaking across the sky from the west; I ran out the front door and watched it continue east along with several neighbors. I was in awe, all I could think was what the hell was that! It was seen from several states and reported on in the news and papers. I can't imagine being at ground zero when a big one hits. Can you imagine the size of it before burning up in the atmosphere?


Missed Pyongyang- Too bad.


On a bright note, the industrial hemp bill has passed in Kentucky.


Da, In Russia, space explore you.