Experts are pondering whether a meteorite shower which caused panic in
Russia, injuring over 900 people, devastating buildings and wiping out
the cell phone network, is linked to today’s fly-by of DA14, the “city
killer” asteroid that NASA has assured will not hit the earth.
The meteor shower, which was dramatically captured by numerous people on cell phone videos, was described by some as “like a scene from the Armageddon
movie,” with YouTube clips showing a trail appearing across the sky
before a dazzling bright object appears followed by loud booms.
The rocks crashed at around 9:20am local time, mainly over the
sparsely populated city of Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow. 20,000
rescue workers have been sent to aid recovery efforts, with the full
extent of the damage not yet known. Windows were smashed and buildings
were devastated, including the 6,000 square feet roof of a zinc factory,
as some residents feared “doomsday” had arrived.
The main chunk of the meteor fell into a frozen lake, creating a huge
hole in the ice. Experts are still undecided whether the event was
caused by a meteor shower or a single meteor, as well as whether the
damage was caused by the shock wave or actual debris, although residents
reported fireballs crashing to the ground.
Space experts are divided on whether the meteor is connected to
today’s fly-by of asteroid DA14, which will pass within 17,200 miles of
the earth’s surface, closer than many orbiting satellites.
The European Space Agency (ESA) put out a message on its official Twitter account claiming that the meteor shower was not debris from the DA14 asteroid.
However, Tatiana Bordovitsina, an astronomy professor at Tomsk State University in western Siberia, told RIA Novosti that the meteor, “could have been debris preceding the asteroid.”
Professor Ian Crawford of Birkbeck University told Sky News that, “it
was too early to tell if this incident was connected to the asteroid
passing by the earth tonight,” but added that if meteorites were
traveling with the asteroid, they would be several hours ahead of it.
Curtin University asteroid expert Phil Bland told an Australian website,
“Is it connected to the flyby? A lot of folks would say “no”.
Personally, I’ve always kind of liked the idea that there are streams of
asteroid debris – so you can have smaller stuff that precede and trail a
bigger object. It seems like an awful big coincidence if it’s not
Simon O’Toole, an astronomer at the Australian Astronomical
Observatory, thinks that there is unlikely to be a connection. “As
pointed out elsewhere, DA14 is still half a million kilometres away,
travelling at 8km per second, for a start! Could it be part of the
asteroid that has broken away and reached earth already? This seems
unlikely to me,” he said.
Dr Stephen Lowry, planetary scientist at the University of Kent,
doubted the connection but remarked that the meteorite shower was “an
“If I had to bet, I would say it’s not related. But it’s not unheard
of for asteroids to have companion bodies with them,” said Mark Ford of
the British and Irish Meteorite Society.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reacted to the incident by
warning that the “whole planet” is vulnerable to near-earth objects,
while nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky even claimed the event was
actually “the test of a new weapon by the Americans,” adding that,
“[Secretary of state John] Kerry warned [foreign minister Sergei] Lavrov
on Monday … that there would be such a provocation and that it might
Officials issued a statement assuring that no nuclear sites had been hit by the meteor and that no radiation leaks had been recorded.
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