Meteor Spectacularly Enters Earth's Atmosphere Above Russia
    By Bente Lilja Bye | February 15th 2013 10:14 AM | 15 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    What a spectacular coincidence! A meteor hitting Earth on the day the asteroid 2012 DA14 is passing close by!

    When I was contemplating what kind of natural disasters I should throw in the scenarios for my Planet Earth: Extreme Beauty - Extreme Danger I was considering a big asteroid NOT missing the target for once. I chose a major blast from the Sun instead as that is something that happens more frequently anyhow, at least at certain points in time of the Sun spot cycle.

    Meteor above Russia feb 2013
    The meteor as seen by one of the car cameras that seems so popular in Russia. From the video below.

    Today, we've all hear about the meteorite hitting Russia, exploding into several smaller but still somewhat damaging pieces. It is an amazing view and luckily nobody seems to have been killed but hundreds were injured. Both Phil Plait at Bad Astronomer and Universe Today showcase several videos that of course were recorded (I never stop being amazed by how quickly video recordings surface in media, just amazing). Reportedly, some mobile phones ceased to work, ref the above mentioned scenarios. What most likely was the shock-wave created by the meteor raging through our atmosphere, made a huge blast blowing objects into pieces (windows, garage doors and other parts of buildings).

    Here you go, check it out for yourself: Check out the blast in the beginning of this video:

    Wonderful light in this one (starts at around 15s):

    The BBC has a good article about the meteor incident here.

    A quick reminder of the differences between asteroid, meteor and meteorite:

    Asteroids: Small bodies orbiting the Sun along with the planets
    Meteors: An asteroid entering Earth's atmosphere
    Meteorites: Fragments of meteors that hits the surface of the planet.


    Question: Is this a coincidence, or is it likely this was a piece of the asteroid?

    It is an independent incident. See the directional explanations below.

    We are bombarded with all kinds of stuff from space all the time (radiation included :-)) Yet, we are doing just fine. The meteor resulted in close to a 1000 injured, but nobody died and the material damage is also limited.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    So much stuff, it collects on your roof, and gets washed down your gutters.

    You can collect these very course sand sized meteorites with a magnet stuck at the top of your downspout.

    I'd heard this on tv, and after a particularly hard rain there was a large amount of black gravel where the downspout drains, I stuck a magnet in it, and picked up a fingernail sized patch of meteorites.
    Never is a long time.
    What a headfake! We spent so much time daring doomsday prophets to hype up 2012 DA14 that they all instead said they knew nothing would go wrong - and then nature slips this one in on the same day. Now they will really be off and running.
    I find this coincidence extremely amusing, taken that we are being just missed by another astroid. Life is full of randomness....:-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Johannes Koelman
    The large one we saw coming, the smaller one came from an entirely different angle and didn't give an advance warning. Yet this was a sizable pebble. Nature estimates it at several 100 kiloton explosive power. That is more than 10 times Hiroshima, and suggests a rock about 15 m (50 ft) diameter prior to entering the atmosphere.
    I believe that a random atmosphere entry angle is still consistent with the orbit of the Russian meteor being related to the larger asteroid's orbit. Meteor swarms sometimes do emerge from a radiant, but many will be dragged around the Earth by gravity and enter at shallow random angles relative to what would be predicted by a simple direct impact. I have seen meteors during meteor showers that do just this. In addition, we only came to learn of the Russian meteor this morning. How is the orbit track is determined so quickly that the association is deemed a coincidence?

    Johannes Koelman
    If the directions argument doesn't convince you, you might want to estimate the separation between both objects based on speeds of many kilometers per second and difference in timings of many hours.
    I think the physics is convincing with respect to regarding this as two separate incidents.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Very understated.  :)  Well done!
    Orbital dynamics are sufficiently deterministic that there'd be nothing random about where the body entered the upper-atmosphere. There are enough data in the form of bystanders' videos to piece together a narrow corridor of possible recent histories for the meteor. No doubt there are astronomers, both pros and amateurs, getting on this even as we type on our keyboards.

    Yeah, I think you are right. And we should all be aware of the pebbles from space! :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Yes, I saw a subsequent news report in which anastrophysicist said these were unrelated. Thanks, all.

    Great article.  
    What strikes me about the news on this event is how the blast keeps getting bigger and bigger.  When I woke up it was a relatively small blast that broke some glass and injured dozens.  Today it was 30 Hiroshima's and injured 11,000.  Tomorrow perhaps it will have been 50 MT of TNT and actually did incinerate some natives of Siberia (or at least that's what the sensational press will say). 
    Science advances as much by mistakes as by plans.
    Thank you Hontas Farmer!

    I think 30 Hiroshimas is about right, but I didn't read about more than 1200 injured. Johannes here has done some research and calculations on the powers at play. Check it out if you haven't already here.
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth