Don’t Panic: Meteor Over Russia Injures Hundreds, Is NOT Part Of The Asteroid Passing Today

By: 02.15.13  •  27 Comments

A meteor has “exploded” over the Ural Mountains in the remote region of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Around 400 people are reportedly injured by glass blown out by the shock wave. Interior ministry spokesman Vadim Kolesnikov says a 6,500 square foot roof at a zinc factory has also collapsed.

As seen in the videos below, the fireball was incredibly loud. We’re not yet sure if the meteor actually exploded (a “bolide” or “asteroid airburst”) or if the loud noise is a sonic boom. You’ll also see several news agencies rushing to fearmonger about the asteroid 2012 DA14 that is passing close-by today. So let’s be responsible and make something perfectly clear: This is very unlikely to be related to asteroid 2012 DA14. Don’t panic. (And remember to bring a towel.)

This occurred about 16 hours before DA14 passes. At 8 kilometers per second that’s nearly half a million kilometers away from DA14. That puts it on a totally different orbit. For another, from the lighting, time of day, and videos showing the rising Sun, it looks like this was moving mostly east-to-west. I may be off, but that’s how it looks. DA14 is approaching Earth from the south, so any fragment of that rock would also appear to move south-to-north. [Phil Plait]

Asteroid 2012 DA14 is 150 feet wide and expected to pass 17,200 miles from Earth today. Just for the hell of it, let’s discuss what really would happen if an asteroid of this size and composition hit Earth. Robert Marcus, H. Jay Melosh, and Gareth Collins calculated just this scenario. They estimated the asteroid would have 3.3 Megatons of kinetic energy at entry, with an airburst energy of 2.9 Megatons when it reached the same height as the cruise altitude of passenger jets.

If asteroid 2012 DA14 entered Earth’s atmosphere, it would likely explode midair, releasing energy similar to 138 of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. As Gizmodo sums up, “Civilization would not be destroyed. No global nuclear winter, no collapse of the ecosystem, nothing. Destruction would be entirely localized to wherever the asteroid hit.”

In other words, don’t panic. And don’t watch 24/7 TV news coverage either, for the sake of your sanity. They’re a bunch of douche canoes.

Now that the fact-checking is out of the way, let’s check out this meteor.

Here’s a dashcam video of it possibly exploding:

Here’s one with audio of the shock wave and glass breaking.

Another of the shock wave and glass breaking.

The shock wave hits at 0:27 into this one:

Pictures of damage from the shock wave:

Or this might be a normal day in Russia.

Numerous pictures and videos are also available at Zyalt and Chelyabinsk.

[Sources: Phil Plait, The Guardian, Gizmodo, Nerdcore, Zyalt, and Chelyabinsk]

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