Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Russian meteor shows 20,000,000 space rocks threaten Earth
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Nov 11, 2013

File image.

The meteor that shocked Russia in February when it exploded in the skies above Chelyabinsk shows us that the danger from space rocks smashing into Earth is much bigger than previously thought, an international group of scientists has concluded.

The 20-meter-wide meteor, which streaked across the sky and exploded into small pieces on Feb. 15, smashing windows, damaging buildings and damaging residents' eyesight, could have caused much more damage if it had been more solid, three studies published in US journals Nature and Science on Wednesday found.

After studying the area around the explosion and a wealth of video and other evidence over the last few months, NASA scientist Paul Chodas said the meteor blast showed that there were about 20 million space rocks whizzing around the solar system that could do serious damage to Earth - not the 3 million previously thought. That's because it was considered that meteors had to be 30 meters and wider to cause huge devastation, but Chelyabinsk was actually a nearer miss than it seemed at the time, the scientists said.

Hundreds of videos recorded by car dashboard cameras were analyzed, which helped a great deal to verify the exact trajectory, speed and the energy of the meteor explosion that shattered windows in more than 3,600 apartment blocks, broke in doors and gates, in some cases collapsing roofs and knocking many pedestrians off their feet.

Over 1,200 people in the Chelyabinsk region were hospitalized that day because of the nuclear-like explosion.

According to the data now available, the Chelyabinsk meteor was traveling at a speed of 19 kilometers per second (68,400 kilometers an hour), was about a little bit less than 20 meters in diameter and weighed about 13,000 tons. Most of it burned up in the atmosphere and the huge emission of energy at the moment of the explosion, with no more than 0.05 percent (4-6 tons) of the debris of the space object reaching the surface of the planet.

Two groups of scientists published their studies in Nature, one led by Jiri Borovicka, of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the second led by Peter Brown, at the University of Western Ontario. Both calculated that the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion was equivalent to about 500 kilotons of TNT.

It has also been established that it is highly probable that the Chelyabinsk meteor was previously a part of a bigger space rock, two kilometers in diameters - an asteroid identified as (86039) 1999 NC43 that will pass several millions kilometers away from Earth in March 2014.

Brown's group estimated the peak brightness of the explosion as 30 times brighter than the sun, which led to many, sometimes severe, cases of skin burns and eye retinas being damaged, as an estimated 70 people temporarily lost their sight because of the bright explosion.

The scientists also concluded that the existing models of atmosphere meteor explosions, based on nuclear warhead test data, were not correct, leading scientists to increase the estimated number of space rocks dangerous for Earth flying around the sun.

NASA previously considered meteorites dangerous if they were more than 30 meters in diameter on impact with Earth. After the Chelyabinsk 20-meter meteor exploded with a force of 40 Hiroshima atomic bombs, it became evident that instead of an estimated 3 million potentially dangerous objects in the solar system, scientists should keep tabs on 20 million asteroids.

And while such events were expected to occur only once every 150 years, now 30 years looks more likely to be the frequency of such catastrophes.

The research was based on the work of an international team of 59 researchers from nine countries, led by Olga Popova of the Russian Academy of Sciences. They collected data from multiple sources, including data from a world net of subsonic sonars used by inspectors of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the US military satellites monitoring missile launches and tests, reported.

The scientists calculated the kinetic power of the meteor more accurately at 590 kilotons, nearly twice the power of a W87 American 300-kiloton thermonuclear warhead.

The scientists visited 50 villages around Chelyabinsk within weeks after the event, mapping the meteor's destructive consequences.

They found out that the impact zone spread out as wide as 90 kilometers, resembling a butterfly, making it similar to the impact zone of another famous meteorite explosion, the Tunguska meteor that struck on June 30, 1908 above the Siberian taiga. The Tunguska meteor (a small comet) was up to 150 meters in diameter and the estimated explosion that happened about 10 kilometers above the surface was estimated of up to 30 megatons of TNT equivalent, 100 times more powerful than the Chelyabinsk meteor.

Popova's group collected answer to over 1,700 questionnaires of eyewitnesses to the Chelyabinsk phenomenon. People said they could see traces of the meteor from as far away as 700 kilometers.

Some of the eyewitnesses questioned by the scientists told them something like, "Huh, I thought Americans were nuking us!"

Popova said the Chelyabinsk meteor was a "standard" LL-type chondrite, with a relatively small quantity of iron in it. But it is still magnetic, and it can be easily detected by a mine detector and rusts when it comes into contact with water, Popova said.

As a rule meteors lose about 90 percent of their mass while they travel through Earth's atmosphere, but the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk practically disappeared, Popova said. The largest peace of space rock retrieved from Lake Chebarkul in October weighs 570 kilograms, compared to the meteor's originally estimated 18,000 tons.

"That's why we still don't know what destructive forces space bodies are exposed to when they enter the atmosphere," Olga Popova told


Related Links
Asteroid and Comet Impact Danger To Earth - News and Science

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

'Crimean' asteroid not Earth-threatening
Moscow (Voice of Russia) Nov 05, 2013
The American space agency NASA has reassessed the risk of Asteroid 2013 TV135 hitting the Earth in 2032 from one chance in 6,000 to one chance in 345,000. The risk of its collision with the Earth in 2047 has been estimated at one chance in 12mln. The asteroid is now off the international watchlist of space objects that are feared to be on an Earth collision course. Asteroid 201 ... read more

Moon mission yields clues to face of 'man in the moon'

Shanghai-built lunar rover set for lunar landing

Crowdfunded Lunar Spacecraft Reaches Funding Milestone

LADEE Continues To Settle Into Operational Lunar Orbit

Curiosity Team Working To Understand First Fault Related Warm Reset

Multiple Missions Will Get China Moving On Mars

Mythbusting India's Mars Mission

India reaches for Mars on prestige space mission

UCF Lands NASA-Funded Center, Linchpin for Future Space Missions

NASA Selects Research Teams for New Virtual Institute

From North Pole to the stars: Russia's thrill-seeking tycoon

A look at recent tech sector IPOs

China shows off moon rover model before space launch

China providing space training

China launches experimental satellite Shijian-16

China Moon Rover A New Opportunity To Explore Our Nearest Neighbor

Russia launches Sochi Olympic torch into space

Spaceflight Joins with NanoRacks to Deploy Satellites from the ISS

Crew Completes Preparations for Soyuz Move

Mission accomplished for Europe's cargo freighter

ASTRA 5B lands in French Guiana for its upcoming Ariane 5 flight

Kazakhstan say Baikonur launch site may be open to Western countries

ESA Swarm launch postponed

Europe's fifth ATV for launch by Arianespace begins its pre-flight checkout at the Spaceport

NASA Kepler Results Usher in a New Era of Astronomy

Astronomers answer key question: How common are habitable planets?

One in five Sun-like stars may have Earth-like planets

Mystery World Baffles Astronomers

New chemistry: Drawing and writing in liquid with light

Cat's eyes: Designing the perfect mixer

Recycling valuable materials used in TVs, car batteries, cell phones

Highly stable quantum light source for applications in quantum information systems

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement