Remaining trail of meteor re-entering Earth's atmosphere (From RIA Novosti)
While most of us slept in America, on the other side of the world Russia came close to a tragedy. Unexpectedly hurtling out of the sky, a piece of the solar system weighing perhaps 10 tons came burning through the air and then exploded above the ground. Traffic cameras recorded the brighter-than-day flashes of the meteor as pieces came off and then a blinding burst of light as the meteor exploded and showered the area with fragments.
Closer view of smokey trail over Chelyabinsk. (from RIA Novosti)
RIA Novosti reports that children skating in the covered ice rinks grabbed their skates and ran from the building when the ceiling girders were shaking. Shockwaves from the supersonic booms and final explosion shook the ground, buildings, and burst windows. Russia is reporting that about 500 people were injured, many from shattering glass, and that about three dozen people were hospitalized. Initial reports said that the object exploded as close as 18 miles up, but when you see the video on TV it's obvious it came much closer to the surface before exploding.
Window shattered by sonic booms. (RIA Novosti)
It's also reported that fragments have been seen about 20 centimeters across. No doubt meteorite experts and hunters will be swarming the area with scientists and reporters as this remarkable event is investigated and documented. It will be very interesting to see what information we gain from this close call.
It was obvious to me right from the start of reporting that this was in NOW WAY related to the close pass of asteroid 2012 DA14 coming around noon Mountain Standard Time today. THAT asteroid is coming from a completely different direction, and neither it nor pieces of it could possibly hit Russia. Yet we've already had some reporters and commenters asking if this is the same event.
And now a word from the Bunker...
Just What Does IT Take to wake up our civilization to the idea that we could actual experience an asteroid collision in our lifetime? Not long ago we have TWICE seen comets smack into Jupiter with incredible destructive effects that disrupted regions the SIZE OF THE EARTH! We know from geologic records that asteroids occasionally hit the Earth, and sometimes they have been BIG ones that destroyed some species and caused terrible climate change on the Earth. Forget the "Anthropogenic Global Warming" schtick. This kind of change will happen without warning, unless we spend the resources necessary to develop better space radar, targeting systems, and defenses to protect from small (and enormous) strikes. What if this rock had been a bit bigger? What if it had survived re-entry to actually smack into the ground, or more likely burst above a city close enough to kill people and cause city-wide damage? Not long ago a near-hit exploding in the atmosphere triggered nuclear attack alarms in Russia, and could have led to an accidental nuclear retaliation! (Of course, it wouldn't hurt that building a defensive system would be cool, put more humans in space, sorry, my humans-in-space bias coming through now) In this war against the real Comet Empire, score one for the enemy which hurtles giant rocks at us...