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Huge Meteor Blazes Across Sky Over Russia; Hundreds Injured 409

Posted by Soulskill
from the hope-your-meteor-insurance-is-paid-up dept.
New submitter dovf writes "The Bad Astronomer analyzes incoming reports about the apparent meteoric fireball over Russia: 'Apparently, at about 09:30 local time, a very big meteor burned up over Chelyabinsk, a city in Russia just east of the Ural mountains, and about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The fireball was incredibly bright, rivaling the Sun! There was a pretty big sonic boom from the fireball, which set off car alarms and shattered windows. I'm seeing some reports of many people injured (by shattered glass blown out by the shock wave). I'm also seeing reports that some pieces have fallen to the ground, but again as I write this those are unconfirmed." This is the best summary I've found so far, and links to lots of videos and images. He also clarifies something I've been wondering about: 'This is almost certainly unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass on Friday.'"

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Huge Meteor Blazes Across Sky Over Russia; Hundreds Injured

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  • Almost? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by willcutaflip (2822571) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:42AM (#42908771)
    Could that have just been a smaller chunk that broke off of the DA14? I mean that is tomorrow. Sounds possible to me.
    • Re:Almost? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Megane (129182) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:46AM (#42908799) Homepage

      Not likely. DA14 is a few hours away and moving very fast... which means that it's still very far away.

      I think the most interesting part of this incident is that there are reports a missile was sent up to intercept it, and hit it. I'm still not convinced that it wasn't just the meteor breaking up like so many of them do, but it would be amusing if that somehow made the ground damage worse.

      And in Soviet Russia, dashcam watch meteor hit YOU!

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by SerpentMage (13390)

        If a missile did try to intercept, that makes me a WHOLE BUNCH more confident. I mean if a missile system can't tell the difference between a meteor and an actual missile we are essentially SOL. Forget about itchy fingers, watch out on Mother Nature.

        • Re:Almost? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by azalin (67640) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:30AM (#42909191)
          Well how's a interceptor missile supposed to know the difference and why should it even care? A fast moving, unidentified object enters your airspace, why shouldn't you try to shoot it down, even automatically?
          A large scale response needs to be done through humans and should require several safety features. But a single automated air defense missile? Does it move faster than an airplane? Has it been announced? Then shoot it down.
          • ballistics (Score:5, Interesting)

            by v1 (525388) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:58AM (#42909465) Homepage Journal

            Meteors and ICMBs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) both travel on "ballistic" trajectories. I.E. when they're coming down, they don't change speed or course under their own power. This makes it very easy (relatively, for people that do it for a living) to track their point of origin. This would clearly be coming from space, not from another continent.

            What interests me the most here is why wasn't this all over the news? We see posts about twice a year talking about the next "near miss" we're going to have. So what happened with this one? Didn't they catch it? Or did they catch it, realize it was going to hit, and decide not to tell anybody? It would be a lot more interesting to find out details on it being known, covered up, and an intercept attempted. (and possibly successfully)

            Continuing on that tangent, hollywood tells us from Independence Day "and turn one dangerous falling object into many?" In other words, blowing it up doesn't immediately lower it's total combined mass, so is it a good idea or a bad idea? I suppose if you start with something massive enough to get through the atmosphere and hit dirt, if you have a chance to blow it up into say a dozen smaller pieces that have a good chance of burning up in the atmosphere, that'd be a good option. Even if you busted it up it up into say four smaller pieces, their surface area to mass ratio goes way up and the four that make it to the ground should have burned off more mass and impact with less energy than the original one would have.

            But rather than trying to play an armchair quarterback, I'm just askin' the questions, I'll leave answering those questions to the "rocket scientists".

            • Re:ballistics (Score:4, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @10:42AM (#42909951)

              Meteors like this are a lot smaller than the near-misses that end up in the news. Being able to find, track and see where smaller meteors that result in fireballs but don't reach the ground with any significant force (or at all) is much harder. It was done recently for one that fell over Africa, and that was treated as a big deal as it was by far the smallest one tracked and the first tracked before it hit. But that is more the exception than the rule at the moment for rather small ones. Additionally, predicting where it will go once it hits the air is much more difficult than tracking it in space (not impossible... but does result in some large landing ellipses for shallow angle ones with unknown shapes).

            • Re:ballistics (Score:5, Informative)

              by goodmanj (234846) on Friday February 15, 2013 @10:47AM (#42910001)

              We see posts about twice a year talking about the next "near miss" we're going to have. So what happened with this one? Didn't they catch it? Or did they catch it, realize it was going to hit, and decide not to tell anybody? It

              We don't spot 'em all. We've got several active asteroid search programs going, which have discovered thousands of near-earth asteroids, but there are many thousands more. One of the triumphs of 21st-century science is that we now know where almost all of the "end of the world" and "destroy a large country" km-sized near-earth asteroids are. But we think we've only found about half of the "annihilate a city" 300-m sized ones, and most of the mere "hydrogen-bomb" 100-m sized ones remain unknown. This meteor was *much* smaller than that -- I'd guess only a couple meters across. There are probably *millions* of those out there, and they're too small to see at all unless they make a close pass of the EArth.

              http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/WISE/multimedia/gallery/neowise/pia14734.html [nasa.gov]
              http://www.purdue.edu/impactearth/ [purdue.edu]

              • Re:ballistics (Score:4, Insightful)

                by cusco (717999) <brian@bixby.gmail@com> on Friday February 15, 2013 @03:50PM (#42914563)
                Trillion dollar military "defense" budget, and not a penny of that goes to defending us against something like this. Imagine if this had happened during the Cold War, the first assumption would have been a failed nuclear strike. For that matter, if it had blown up over Kashmir the Pakistani and Indian militaries would probably assume the same thing today.
            • by niado (1650369)

              What interests me the most here is why wasn't this all over the news? We see posts about twice a year talking about the next "near miss" we're going to have. So what happened with this one? Didn't they catch it? Or did they catch it, realize it was going to hit, and decide not to tell anybody? It would be a lot more interesting to find out details on it being known, covered up, and an intercept attempted. (and possibly successfully)

              Well, this one likely went un-detected a least until it entered atmosphere, since it is really very small (I read an estimate of 10 tons [wikipedia.org], and the 2012 DA14 [wikipedia.org] asteroid is somewhere around 190,000 metric tons, for comparison).

            • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @11:17AM (#42910439)

              Yep. My favorite scene in Independence Day was when they got to the asteroid and Denzel Washington killed those two aliens and was all like "Welcome to Mars, man! Would you like to know more?"

            • by Sperbels (1008585)

              What interests me the most here is why wasn't this all over the news? We see posts about twice a year talking about the next "near miss" we're going to have. So what happened with this one? Didn't they catch it? Or did they catch it, realize it was going to hit, and decide not to tell anybody?

              Because these incidents are fairly common and don't cause any harm. Objects this small are too small to track, and not worth tracking either. This object was probably no bigger than a car. The dangerous ones are as big as mountains...and bigger

              And Jesus...for the last time...there's no conspiracy to hide asteroids on collision courses with the earth. The information regarding asteroid orbits is totally public well before we have gathered enough information to make an assessment on whether they'll hi

              • by isorox (205688)

                What interests me the most here is why wasn't this all over the news? We see posts about twice a year talking about the next "near miss" we're going to have. So what happened with this one? Didn't they catch it? Or did they catch it, realize it was going to hit, and decide not to tell anybody?

                Because these incidents are fairly common and don't cause any harm. Objects this small are too small to track, and not worth tracking either. This object was probably no bigger than a car. The dangerous ones are as big as mountains...and bigger

                Obviously the mountain sized ones (or even swimming pool sized ones) are terrible, but this one wasn't exactly a flash bang - look at Images 3, 4, 6 and 8 [bbc.co.uk]

            • Re:ballistics (Score:5, Informative)

              by celtic_hackr (579828) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:08PM (#42911153) Journal

              You do realize you are speaking of a rock roughly the size of a large van or small delivery truck travelling in space at extreme speeds that once they hit the atmosphere are hypersonic speeds. There aren't any designated travel lanes to look out for in space, and tryin to spot a rock the size of a truck in a 360 degree spherical space of infinite size is a lot harder than finding a sewing needle in a haystack. So, you know it'd be really freaking amazing if they actually did know about this.

              On another note Independence day was about an Alien invasion. I think you might be thinking along the lines of the Armegeddon film and it's ilk. There are many issues with blow it up into littler pieces. But that idea is mostly bad for a rock of any considerable size. This meteorite is estimated to be only a few meters in size, maybe 10 tons. The football field size DA14 headed for a "safe" flyby (I'm still waiting to see if it happens to hits a satellite or two on it's way by), would produce hundreds or maybe thousands of rocks this size. While they would be unlikely to do much "surface" damage, if it passed over any metropolitan area you could probably expecte 10s or 100s of thousands injuries and possibly some fatalities and 10s to 100s of millions in property damage.

              A better course is to shove to a different trajectory. Like a game of billiards. Although, I'm not happy about that idea much either. Too many variables on unwanted side affects.

            • by asylumx (881307)

              What interests me the most here is why wasn't this all over the news?

              It is. Seriously, everyone is talking about it. What the hell are you looking at? It's on the front page on every news org's site I can think of.

          • Re:Almost? (Score:5, Informative)

            by goodmanj (234846) on Friday February 15, 2013 @12:11PM (#42911207)

            Well how's a interceptor missile supposed to know the difference?

            Velocity. An ICBM arrives at about 5-7 km/s. An asteroid arrives at a *minimum* of 11 km/s.

            why should it even care?

            Lots of reasons. Among them: asteroids as big as an ICBM enter Earth's atmosphere several times a year. If you tried to shoot them all down, you'd run out of missiles and money pretty quick. Also, if there's a miscommunication between someone's space program and someone's missile defense program, you end up killing a lot of astronauts.

            In practice, any radar that can detect an incoming ICBM comes with enough computer power to instantaneously compute an orbital trajectory for it, and see immediately whether it's an asteroid, a spacecraft, or a suborbital missile.

    • Re:Almost? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hcs_$reboot (1536101) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:46AM (#42908801)
      According to some sources, the directions of the Russian meteor and DA14 are different, making the two events unlikely to be related.
    • Haven't you RTFA? It is pretty well explained why it is very unlikely to be related to DA14.
    • Is it just me or does Siberia seem to attract large meteors? :)
    • Re:Almost? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:28AM (#42909169)
      Its ok its just the real Iranian monkey coming home :)
    • Nah, its God retribution for those gays and people enjoying sex outside marriage although its not precision bombing so there is a lot of collateral victims (as usual - maybe God should invest in laser sights)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fatphil (181876)
      It sounds possible only because you were too lazy to read the BadAstronomer's write-up, the first link in the summary. It's millions of miles away from the asteroid, on a different orbit, and apparently coming from a different direction.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Most likely just one of those tiny little things, the ones which we can't detect until they are nearly upon us.

      Space is better armed and far sneakier than we'll ever be.

  • Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by GregC63 (1564363) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:42AM (#42908775)

    Awesome video, a lot of freaked out people over there! The flash of light and the shock wave had a bunch of folks crapping their pants. Also reports of about 500 being injured.

  • by ACS Solver (1068112) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:44AM (#42908781)

    As of right now, English-language sources seem to be a bit behind on the injury/damage reports.

    The current reports from the city government say that 725 people have received medical attention, with 31 being hospitalized. Infrastructural damage amounts to problems in the centralized building heating system, and blown out windows in about 3000 apartment buildings, 34 hospitals and clinics, and 361 schools/daycares. I should note that, this being Russia, blown out windows are a serious matter because they render the buildings cold, especially coupled with heating system problems. Gas supply has been turned off in parts of the city as a precaution.

    Overall, though, there appears to be no serious damage - though emergency repairs and lots of new windows are needed.

    • by BlackPignouf (1017012) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:01AM (#42908919)

      Overall, though, there appears to be no serious damage - though emergency repairs and lots of new windows are needed.

      No serious damage? Yeah, what could possibly go wrong in a city with 1M people, that has no gas supply and frozen hospitals?
      Minimum temperatures are -4F/-20C at night right now, and maximum aren't much higher.

      • by ACS Solver (1068112) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:10AM (#42908979)

        For all the problems of the Russian government, the emergency services are well-prepared, given the not uncommon occurence of various emergencies. The city has its own glass factory even, and they'd be able to replace most of the windows within a couple of days. Emergency repairs should restore much of the heating quickly, and very importantly, the hospitals are not being overwhelmed - the amount of people who need hospitalization is fairly low. The authorities apparently intend to fix windows today where it's most critical.

        Just to be clear, it is of course a serious situation, but by no serious damage I mean there is nothing like a need to evacuate hundreds of people to other cities for medical treatment, there are no deaths fortunately, and there are no buildings that have fully collapsed.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:17AM (#42909059) Homepage Journal

        Overall, though, there appears to be no serious damage - though emergency repairs and lots of new windows are needed.

        No serious damage? Yeah, what could possibly go wrong in a city with 1M people, that has no gas supply and frozen hospitals?
        Minimum temperatures are -4F/-20C at night right now, and maximum aren't much higher.

        hate to be a dick about this, but they're russians, so they can handle the state failing for couple of days.

    • I've got RT on right now, that's why I checked/. to see what others were thinking. (everyone else sleeps 'til dawn around here.)
      Full coverage.

    • by SMoynihan (1647997) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:18AM (#42909075)

      I'd guess that most of the direct injuries happened when people ran to their windows to watch the flare and contrail. Looking at the videos, the sonic boom happened at least 27 seconds later: right when people would be clustered in front of the glass.

      It is similar to Tsunamis, where a lot of the fatalities happen to people who chase the receding sea...

    • by Luckyo (1726890) on Friday February 15, 2013 @10:02AM (#42909511)

      Update on lenta.ru 30 minutes ago:
      http://lenta.ru/news/2013/02/15/muchmore/ [lenta.ru]

      According to RIA novosti news agency:
      950 people wounded to some degree. Of these:
      524 needed medical assistance
      34 adults and 12 children hospitalized
      2 people had to be put in intensive care

      Most damage apparently came from shards of shattered glass wounding people.

      Other set of figures is from federal government and that one specifies:
      571 wounded to some degree
      758 asked for medical assistance

      It's also stated that they already found remains of one of the pieces in a local lake where meteorite punched through the ice and left shards on the site.

  • by azalin (67640) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:46AM (#42908793)
    ... hows your space program going.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    And another one will smash in to another country somewhere, and another, and another, then Paris gets wiped off the face of the Earth.

    Damn you Hollywoooooood!

  • Some not so credible newspapers report unconfirmed military sources stating that Russian air defence shot down this bad boy.
  • Space Jump (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jedi Holocron (225191) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:52AM (#42908843) Homepage Journal

    Pfffft.

    That was Putin skydiving from space.

    Shirtless, because he's Putin.

  • Alternative videos (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:52AM (#42908851)

    http://www.standartnews.com/videos/watch/meteorit_padna_i_rani_desetki_v_rusiya-276.html
    Here's a link with video from more places. (Best i've found so far)

    • by Maow (620678)

      http://www.standartnews.com/videos/watch/meteorit_padna_i_rani_desetki_v_rusiya-276.html
      Here's a link with video from more places. (Best i've found so far)

      Here's another good aggregation:

      http://say26.com/meteorite-in-russia-all-videos-in-one-place [say26.com].

      I like the apparent "crater" in an ice covered lake. It's a hole punched through the ice. I'm hoping that someone will be able to recover a significant part or parts of the thing from the lake bottom eventually.

  • Any pictures of the crash site? How far away was it from the city?

  • by zrbyte (1666979) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:55AM (#42908867)

    Zombies spotted in Chelyabinsk

  • by Zorpheus (857617)
    As I understood this asteroid came from a different direction than 2012 DA14, so that is why it is said that it is probably unrelated.
    Still, I can't believe this. There is an asteroid passing very close to Earth, and on the same day we have this impact with hundreds of injuries. These are both very rare events, so it seems unlikely that they are unrelated. Maybe the orbits of both asteroids were linked somehow?
    • by mapkinase (958129)

      >As I understood this asteroid came from a different direction than 2012 DA14

      Any references?

    • by Eraesr (1629799) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:37AM (#42909255) Homepage
      Actually, meteors hitting the earth's atmosphere is a very common event. It happens almost every night. The only difference is that this time the meteor was large enough to be visible and have this result. The big 45m piece of asteroid passing by isn't that uncommon either, it's just passing by relatively close compared to other asteroids.
      In short: we're not talking about two uncommon events (certainly not "very rare"). You're falling for the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy here.
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Friday February 15, 2013 @08:57AM (#42908883)

    The meteorite was several times larger than the last (and first ever) predicted impact in 2008 [wikipedia.org].

    It is trivially possible these days, to do several complete surveys of the sky each day and ensure that such asteroids are discovered several days ahead of time. Computers allow us do evaluate the data more or less in real time. The problem is: You need funding for the telescopes around the world and staff to run them.

    While all the observatories would do, is to give warning to people in the area to stay indoors and away from windows - or leave the area alltogether if the rock is a bit larger - that's still better than "oups" and a couple videos from dashboard cameras. It would also provide a viable basis for sending up a rocket with a few tons of mass to break up an asteroid into harmless chunks. Possibly a combination of high and low density materials, like concrete and lead, to achieve a good distribution of the momentum through the whole asteroid.

    I'm not kidding. A single ton mass in a head-on collision with 10-15km/s has as much kinetic energy as 15-30 tons of high explosives. Which should be enough to break up a 30m asteroid into very small chunks (this one in russia was probably around 10m), although some preparation is certainly in order.

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:19AM (#42909083)

      I'm not sure how it follows from discovering a solitary asteroid with a twenty hour lead time that we can "trivially" perform a sky sweep with enough comprehensiveness and detail to give a "several days" lead time. Yes, we could do it, but it's not at all obvious that it would be easy.

      Turning a single impactor with a known trajectory into an unknown number of impactors of unknown size and unknown trajectory does not strike me as a great response to detecting such an object either.

    • by tom17 (659054)

      The problem with this is that the world is so litigation happy right now, that when a meteorite 'slips through the net' and kills one person, the workers at the observatories might get sued into oblivion.

      Likewise, if they call a city-wide evacuation and it plops into a nearby forest/lake instead, the businesses will be suing them for lost revenue.

      These early warning systems (like the earthquake ones) can only be feasible if there is a litigation safety net over the institutions in question.

      • The problem with this is that the world is so litigation happy right now, that when a meteorite 'slips through the net' and kills one person, the workers at the observatories might get sued into oblivion.

        Likewise, if they call a city-wide evacuation and it plops into a nearby forest/lake instead, the businesses will be suing them for lost revenue.

        These early warning systems (like the earthquake ones) can only be feasible if there is a litigation safety net over the institutions in question.

        This is why we'll end up buying the data from asteroid mining company's orbital survey telescopes. Some thing's capitalism solves ridiculously well (see also: black out military installations by just undercutting commercial mapping providers).

      • by azalin (67640) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:42AM (#42909293)
        A few years ago I would have said "only in America", but then Italy dragged geologists to court for not predicting an earthquake.
    • It would also provide a viable basis for sending up a rocket with a few tons of mass to break up an asteroid into.... That would like firing a gun into the sky, hoping to hit a bullet that was also fired into the sky moments before someone else a mile away, except much harder. At the distance at which you would need to intercept these projectiles they give off no heat, so you can't even use heat seeking space rockets (which don't exist anyway). Real life isn't a Bruce Willis movie.
      • by tp1024 (2409684)

        Real live has radar.

        And real live Americans and Chinese have shot down satellites using ballistic missles - delta v about 8km/s, accuracy had to be at least ~1-2m.

  • I wonder how many stared at that thing and were waiting for the giant mushroom cloud to appear. Like Sarah Connor at the playground.
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/eumetsat/8474853633/ [flickr.com]

    "An image from the SEVIRI instrument aboard our Meteosat-10 geostationary satellite. The vapour trail left by the meteor that was seen near Chelyabinsk in Russia on 15th February 2013 is visible in the centre of the image."

  • by Kopcap (852126) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:16AM (#42909045)
  • Woot!
    First Tunguska, now this. Some folks are just lucky.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:38AM (#42909259) Homepage

    If I learned anything from watching Stargate SG-1, it's that everything that happens in space is explained as "a meteor."

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday February 15, 2013 @09:45AM (#42909313) Homepage

    In Soviet Russia, asteroids play YOU!

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