February 15, 2013

Meteor explodes over Russia, 1,100 injured

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

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The meteor contrail is seen in this frame grab made from a video shot with a dashboard camera from a highway in Kazakhstan, Russia.

AP

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Municipal workers repair a damaged power circuit outside a zinc factory where a section of the roof collapsed when a meteorite exploded over the Chelyabinsk region on Friday.

AP / Oleg Kargapolov, Chelyabinsk.ru

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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.

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Additional Photos

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In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday.

AP

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A local resident assesses damage to a window broken by a shock wave from a meteor explosion in Chelyabinsk, about 930 miles east of Moscow, on Friday.

AP

 


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