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Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor explodes in the sky above Russia, injuring hundreds

The Russian Academy of Sciences is estimating that a meteor, which streaked into the skies over the Ural Mountains and caused shock waves that injured hundreds of people, weighed about 10 tons.

CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA — More than 500 people were injured when a meteorite shot across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to Earth, shattering windows and damaging buildings.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km east of Moscow.

A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 km away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phone networks were interrupted.

“I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day,” said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.
“I felt like I was blinded by headlights,” he said.
No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.
A local ministry official said such incidents were extremely rare.
Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the meteor was travelling at a speed of 30 km per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteor explosion had cased a sonic boom.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were kept in hospital. Search groups were set up to look for the remains of the meteorite.
“There have never been any cases of meteors breaking up at such a low level over Russia before,” said Yuri Burenko, head of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Emergencies Ministry.
Windows were shattered on Chelyabinsk’s central Lenin Street and some of the frames of shop fronts buckled.
A loud noise, resembling an explosion, rang out at around 9:20 a.m. local time. The shockwave could be felt in apartment buildings in the industrial city’s centre.
“I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend,” said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. “Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows.”
A wall was damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said there was no environmental threat.
A meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km in Siberia in 1908, smashing windows as far as 200 km from the point of impact.
The Emergencies Ministry described Friday’s events as a “meteor shower in the form of fireballs” and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.
Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens. They said what sounded like a blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 metres.

Russian meteorite videos

More than 500 people were injured when a meteorite shot across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to Earth, shattering windows and damaging buildings.
The meteorite streaked across the sky in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk (that would be where the letter A is on the map below), in the Ural Mountains.

YouTube videos of the meteorite abound, showing some striking images.
WARNING: These contain strong language.

Why are there so many dash cam videos of the meteorite? Here's one possible reason

Toronto Star 
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