“It was a meteor strike–the most powerful since the Tunguska event of 1908”

ScienceAtNasa has a sobering video on the latest information about the visitation by the god Ogdy unexpected meteor strike in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia on 15 February.  Video credit: ScienceAtNasa.

From the accompanying ScienceAtNasa press release

The Russian meteor’s infrasound signal was was the strongest ever detected by the CTBTO network. The furthest station to record the sub-audible sound was 15,000km away in Antarctica.

Western Ontario Professor of Physics Peter Brown analyzed the data: “The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons,” he reports. “It struck Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth’s surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT.” For comparison, the first atomic bombs produced only 15 to 20 kilotons.

Based on the trajectory of the fireball, analysts have also plotted its orbit. “It came from the asteroid belt, about 2.5 times farther from the sun than Earth,” says Cooke.

Comparing the orbit of the Russian meteor to that of 2012 DA14, Cooke has shown that there is no connection between the two. “These are independent objects,” he says. “The fact that they reached Earth on the same day, one just a little closer than the other, appears to be a complete coincidence.” [orbit diagram]

Infrasound records confirm that the meteor entered the atmosphere at a shallow angle of about 20 degrees and lasted more than 30 seconds before it exploded. The loud report, which was heard and felt for hundreds of miles, marked the beginning of a scientific scavenger hunt. Thousands of fragments of the meteor are now scattered across the Ural countryside, and a small fraction have already been found.

Preliminary reports, mainly communicated through the media, suggest that the asteroid was made mostly of stone with a bit of iron–“in other words, a typical asteroid from beyond the orbit of Mars,” says Cooke. “There are millions more just like it.”

And that is something to think about as the cleanup in Chelyabinsk continues.


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  • mollymooly

    “The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT. For comparison, the first atomic bombs produced only 15 to 20 kilotons.”

    OTOH the biggest nuclear bomb exploded was 57000 kilotons.

  • Kevsterino

    Poor Russia. That’s 2 in a row for them.

  • IJP


    That’s what you get for being so unnecessarily huge.

  • Pete Baker


    Indeed. But for a few minutes either way…

  • 1.9 million years ago, the believed 2nd largest meteorite impact on earth occurred in an area of Canada called the Sudbury Basin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudbury_Basin). For decades now, it has been one of the earth’s largest nickel mining area. Who knows what impact it had on life on earth.

  • Sorry, 1.9 billion years ago.

  • Greenflag

    Thanks Pete for bringing us another nerve wracking assault from the cosmos 🙁

    There are tens of thousands of these small asteroids in the belt between Jupiter and Mars and this kind of event can happen anytime . Eventually one or other of these asteroids breaks loose from Jove’s grip -perhaps on a day when the orbit of some other planet distracts or disturbs Jove’s all controlling gravitas ?

    We’ve no idea how many of these have come down in the oceans over millenia or over Russia , Canada etc .

    The Cosmos is a dangerous place.We’re all very lucky to be here in a relatively quiet out of the way spiral outback of the galaxy .

  • David Crookes

    Thanks again, Pete.

    A lot of “Chelyabinsk meteorite fragments” are being sold on e-bay.

    Someone remind me. How was Lough Neagh formed?

  • Pete Baker


    “Someone remind me. How was Lough Neagh formed?”

    Let’s not confuse the issue.

    Scientists tell us that the Lough was formed in the early Tertiary period when a fault line occurred and an area of land sunk thus allowing it to fill with water and create Lough Neagh.

    On the other hand, there are actual impact sites still visible on Earth…

  • I visited Barringer (Meteor) Crater near Flagstaff in Arizona. It was a humbling experience. While there I bought fossilized dinosaur dung. Freaked my nephews/nieces out by licking it; very salty.

  • David Crookes

    Joe, you are the first openly coprophagous Sluggerite.

    Pete, thanks a lot for those links. The world remains a very dangerous place.