Toll from Russia meteor strike 'unprecedented'

Feb 15, 2013
A meteor strike in central Russia on Friday that left hundreds of people injured is the biggest known human toll from a space rock, a British expert said. Russian officials say almost 500 people were injured by flying glass as the meteor shower blew in windows.

A meteor strike in central Russia on Friday that left hundreds of people injured is the biggest known human toll from a space rock, a British expert said.

But the impact has no connection with a flyby by an asteroid later Friday, according to Robert Massey, deputy executive secretary of Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

"I am scratching my head to think of anything in recorded history when that number of people have been indirectly injured by an object like this... it's very, very rare to have human casualties."

Small space debris burns up harmlessly in the sky as it enters the atmosphere, appearing in streaks of light called meteors that can often be seen on a clear night, he said.

But, very rarely, larger objects survive the early stage of descent before exploding in the lower atmosphere, causing a shockwave, which is what happened on Friday, he said.

According to Russia's ministry of emergencies, almost 500 people were injured by flying glass as the windows were blown in.

Very much bigger objects—such as the rock that notoriously ended the reign of the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago—can smash into the Earth, delivering the energy of an arsenal of nuclear weapons, but these again are even rarer.

Massey, basing his estimate on news reports, said Friday's object was in all probability less than 10 metres (30 feet) across before it collided with Earth.

"It's unprecedented to have something like this happen over an inhabited area and cause damage in this way," he said in a phone interview from London.

"Events like this are not common—there were several large falls in the 20th century, at least two of which were over Siberia—but two-thirds of the Earth is ocean, so we tend to miss them."

Massey said there was no need for alarm over the event.

He stressed he saw "absolutely no connection" between the event in the Chelyabinsk region and asteroid 2012 DA 14, which was to skim the Earth on Friday at a distance of around 17,200 miles (27,700 kilometres), the closest known flyby by a space rock.

"It happened 12 hours earlier, and that amounts to half a million kilometres (300,000 miles) of travel, (and) it seems to have been travelling in a different direction—east-west, whereas the asteroid tonight will be travelling south to north," said Massey.

Explore further: Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Asteroid whizzes safely past Earth (Update)

Feb 15, 2013

A closely tracked asteroid, about 150-feet (45-meters) wide, whizzed safely past Earth on Friday, the same day a much smaller, previously undetected meteor hit Russia, injuring nearly 1,000 people.

Bus-sized asteroid shaves by Earth

Jan 28, 2012

An asteroid about the size of a bus shaved by Earth on Friday in what spacewatchers described as a "near-miss," though experts were not concerned about the possibility of an impact.

NASA radar images asteroid 2007 PA8

Nov 06, 2012

(Phys.org)—Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have obtained several radar images depicting near-Earth asteroid 2007 PA8. The images ...

Recommended for you

Astronauts to reveal sobering data on asteroid impacts

18 hours ago

This Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, three former NASA astronauts will present new evidence that our planet has experienced many more large-scale asteroid impacts over the past decade than previously thought… ...

Rosetta instrument commissioning continues

19 hours ago

We're now in week four of six dedicated to commissioning Rosetta's science instruments after the long hibernation period, with the majority now having completed at least a first initial switch on.

Astronaut salary

19 hours ago

Talk about a high-flying career! Being a government astronaut means you have the chance to go into space and take part in some neat projects—such as going on spacewalks, moving robotic arms and doing science ...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

Apr 16, 2014

Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at the National Science Foundation's National Optical ...

User comments : 24

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BSD
1.6 / 5 (14) Feb 15, 2013
Pity it didn't strike the Kremlin. More precisely, PooTin's office, right where he was sitting in his chair.
ScooterG
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2013
An awesome display of Mother Nature's power - but hardly "unprecedented" (as the title states). Just ask the dinosaurs.
kochevnik
3.5 / 5 (11) Feb 15, 2013
Pity it didn't strike the Kremlin. More precisely, PooTin's office, right where he was sitting in his chair.
I work there, you bastard
Sean_W
3 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2013
An awesome display of Mother Nature's power - but hardly "unprecedented" (as the title states). Just ask the dinosaurs.


The damages, along with the number of witnesses and casualties would probably give them licence to call it unprecedented, even if not by size.
Sean_W
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 15, 2013
Pity it didn't strike the Kremlin. More precisely, PooTin's office, right where he was sitting in his chair.
I work there, you bastard

If you really work in the Kremlin, being hit by a meteor wished on you by some Internet guy is the least of your problems.
Sean_W
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2013
Before hearing that it came from a different direction than the big one going by I could have suspected that it was in a similar orbit just ahead of the big one, maybe from being broken off in a collision.

So 2 historic space rock events happen in the same general part of the planet (given the size of Russia it's not that far from Tunguska--not extremely close but by meteor standards it's close enough) and one of those events happens just when an historically close pass by Earth of a third rock is in progress. There's a coincidence for the books.
kochevnik
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2013
Pity it didn't strike the Kremlin. More precisely, PooTin's office, right where he was sitting in his chair.
I work there, you bastard
If you really work in the Kremlin, being hit by a meteor wished on you by some Internet guy is the least of your problems.
Why do you think that is the case?
JRi
5 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2013
I like how many Russians have camcorders in their cars nowadays. Absolutely nice footage about the meteorite from various angles in Youtube.
Q-Star
1 / 5 (4) Feb 15, 2013
'unprecedented' ????

I am quite sure that is the incorrect word to use.

Q-Star
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2013
I like how many Russians have camcorders in their cars nowadays. Absolutely nice footage about the meteorite from various angles in Youtube.


Dash cams are on more autos than not there, it's an insurance requirement.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.2 / 5 (9) Feb 15, 2013
Pity it didn't strike the Kremlin. More precisely, PooTin's office, right where he was sitting in his chair.
I work there, you bastard
:)

Pity it didnt strike the vatican. All sorts of people could have read wildly different things into that event.

Actually it made a pretty small hole in some ice. Too bad.
http://www.youtub...pmKHTSjE

-But I am sure the popish are still taking it as a Sign. Isnt everything?
coryatjohn
4.4 / 5 (8) Feb 15, 2013
One day, the Earth will again be hit by a big enough chunk to take out a large city. Then the politicians will scream why nobody did anything to stop it when it will be the politicians who are holding back the capability to react.
kochevnik
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 15, 2013
One day, the Earth will again be hit by a big enough chunk to take out a large city. Then the politicians will scream why nobody did anything to stop it when it will be the politicians who are holding back the capability to react.
More likely they will ponder if any ruling class are affected, and if not treat it as another New Orleans
verkle
1 / 5 (2) Feb 15, 2013
It just strikes me as too coincidental. The world was watching a large chuck of rock approach the earth, and declaring that we will all be safe and not to worry.

And then suddenly, out of the literal blue, another large chunk strikes on the other side of the world. Hits home the fact that none of us are really safe wherever we are. Our lives could be gone in an instant.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2013
Here is a nice illustration showing the difference between the approach paths of asteroid 2012 DA 14 and the Russian meteor:
http://scienceblo...hUK.jpeg
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2013
It's interesting that Russia got TWO blasts from meteorites or asteroids or comets, remember Tunguska?
dav_daddy
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 16, 2013
It's interesting that Russia got TWO blasts from meteorites or asteroids or comets, remember Tunguska?


Not really considering how big Russia is. Most people from the US don't know how much larger Russia is compared to the US. When you see a world map America is usually not shown to scale the continental US is blown up to show state boundaries and such. It's the same reason many don't know how large Alaska really is.
MandoZink
5 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2013
I had already posted this in a similar story, but for a good reference here is a nice illustration showing the difference between the approach paths of asteroid 2012 DA 14 and the Russian meteor:
http://scienceblo...hUK.jpeg
VendicarE
2 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2013
Right on baby.... Right on...

"Pity it didn't strike the Republican Headquarters." - BDS

VendicarE
1 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2013
There must be a big lump of dark matter in Siberia attracting these things.

But only if they are reasonably small.

New MOND.

"There's a coincidence for the books." - Sean
VendicarE
2 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2013
George Bush and company will go on TV and pronounce that "No one anticipated that rocks could fall from the sky."

Stupid Americans will fall for it of course, and then they will declare war against the moon.

"Then the politicians will scream why nobody did anything to stop it when it will be the politicians who are holding back the capability to react." - corva
MandoZink
4.3 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2013
My apologies. I apparently posted the same comment twice here. I thought it was another meteor article. I just woke up. No caffeine yet.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2013
My apologies. I apparently posted the same comment twice here. I thought it was another meteor article.
Uh it is?

Somebody is throwing things at us. Trying to wake us up. Its like when they ran the titanic into an iceberg, or sank all those obsolete battleships at pearl. This is the Only Way to get human beings to embrace new things. Like aircraft.

People can yell and scream about all the craters and all the rocks flying past us all the time, but until someone actually gets hurt, no one will want to do anything about it.
dschlink
5 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2013
Given the level of insurance fraud in southern California, I'm surprised dash cams aren't required there.
/Not that there's a market for videos of traffic jams and smog.

More news stories

Cosmologists weigh cosmic filaments and voids

(Phys.org) —Cosmologists have established that much of the stuff of the universe is made of dark matter, a mysterious, invisible substance that can't be directly detected but which exerts a gravitational ...

Hubble image: A cross-section of the universe

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the Universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...