Russian meteor caught on video as it struck over the Ural Mountains,
and video showing the effects of the impact.

Large meteorite hits over the Urals. Nobody hit, but the shockwave blew out windows and that’s what sent over 500 people to hospitals.

CHELYABINSK, Russia — More than 500 people were injured when a meteorite, estimated at about 10 tons by Russia’s Academy of Sciences, shot across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday.  It exploded into about seven large fragments, sending fireballs  crashing to Earth, shattering windows and damaging buildings.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk saw a blaze of light traveling across the sky, heard what sounded like an explosion, and then felt a massive shockwave.  Chelyabinsk is an industrial city about 950 miles east of Moscow. The fireball left a white smoke trail that could be seen as far away as Yekaterinburg, 128 files away.

Nobody actually died – thankfully.

A local ministry official said such incidents were extremely rare and Friday’s events might have been linked to an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool due to pass Earth at a distance of 17,100 miles but this was not confirmed.

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was traveling at a speed of 19 miles per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion had caused a sonic boom.   According to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers, but we’re taking that one with a grain of salt – we have no idea where the statement actually came from, and there doesn’t seem to be any attribution of the statement to any actual Russian authority.


The meteor’s vapor trail hangs in Russian skies.

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 meteorites breaking up at such a low level over Russia before,” said Yuri Burenko, head of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Emergencies Ministry.  But in a statement to their own public, explaining that today’s event (this happened about twelve hours ago, so it was their Friday when it happened, our Friday when we’re reporting it in the pages of SCIFI.radio), they also felt the need to add that “background radiation levels were normal”.  Because background radiation is something they apparently think a lot about in Russia.

That’s not exactly true, though, because in 1908 there was the Tunguska Event that flattened 80 million trees over more than a two thousand square mile area in Siberia. That meteor exploded in mid-air also, and had it come down near a populated area, millions would have died.

There is another asteroid passing well inside the orbit of Earth’s moon at a mere 17,100 miles, but the trajectory of this meteorite and the meteor passing near Earth are very different, and the two are not connected.  To give you some idea, though, the U.S. space agency NASA has said an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 meters in diameter.  The one that exploded over the Ural Mountains today was about 10 tons.  2012 DA14 is about 130,000 tons.

Think truck versus cruise ship.

We missed getting smashed by Meteor 2012 DA14 by about fifteen minutes.  It was that close.  Television, weather and communications satellites fly about 500 miles higher. The moon is 14 times farther away – so 2012 DA14 is passing by close enough to scrape the paint.

Facebook post by Frank Conniff [TV’s Frank from MST3K]: Everyone who shot a video of the Russian meteor has now made a better asteroid-hitting-the-earth movie than Michael Bay.

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