Four years ago today an explosion shattered the morning sky over the Chelyabinsk region in southwestern Russia, the result of a 60-foot-wide fragment of an asteroid entering Earth’s atmosphere at over 40,000 mph and brilliantly blowing itself to smithereens at 97,000 feet up. Even at that altitude, the resulting flash of light and air blast was powerful enough to cause extensive damage on the ground, shattering windows, knocking in doors, and causing injury to nearly 1,500 people across towns in the area—several of them seriously.
This was the largest observed meteor since the famous 1908 Tunguska event, but thanks to the prevalence today of dashboard and CCTV cameras in Russia this one was well-recorded. (I remember seeing the videos online within an hour after it happened!) The footage has allowed scientists to not only determine the energy of the Chelyabinsk meteor explosion—about 500 kilotons—but also the object’s trajectory and origin.
Watch a video below of footage captured from various locations of the Chelyabinsk meteor:
What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a month-by-month (hence the 12) to help recollect some of the amazing stories and sights that 2013 has brought us. And with some of the big headliners we’ve seen this year it’s easy to lose sight of the smaller (but no less fascinating) discoveries — so I’ll be sure to include some of those too. After all, when it comes to learning about the Universe there’s no “little” news!
Ready? Let’s go!
On the morning of February 15, 2013, around 9:26 a.m. local time, the sky above the Siberian town of Chelyabinsk was sliced by a bright streak of light, ending in a flash brighter than the Sun and sending glass-shattering shockwaves thundering across the region several minutes later, breaking windows and injuring over 1,000 people. The culprit was a 10,000-ton chunk of rock and iron that impacted Earth’s atmosphere, exploding 15 miles up with the force of 3o Hiroshima bombs. Not much physically was left of the meteor afterwards, but one thing that has remained is the unnerving question: will this happen again, and where?
That question is what sent scientists scrambling for answers, even traveling halfway around the world to find out more about this brief — but volatile — visitor from outer space. And in a tradition of learning spanning nearly 40 years, PBS’s NOVA series takes you right along with the research in the excellent program “Meteor Strike.”
Find out how you can win a free copy of the DVD below…