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Russian Meteor and Falling Debris Injures 1,000+

A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s Urals region Friday morning, before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left hundreds of people hurt.

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Russian meteor caught on tape

A meteor streaking over the Russian sky is caught on tape

CHELYABINSK, Russia (CNN) -

A day after a spectacular meteor blast shook Russia’s Urals region, the cleanup operation got under way Saturday in the hard-hit Russian city of Chelyabinsk.

Although some buildings were unscathed when sonic waves from the Friday morning explosion reverberated through the region, others lost some or most windows or had walls come tumbling down.

More than 1,000 people were injured, including more than 200 children, according to news reports. Many of them were hit by flying glass.

Most of those hurt were in the Chelyabinsk region; the majority of injuries are not thought to be serious.

However, one woman was flown to Moscow to be treated for a spinal injury resulting from the shock wave from the blast, state media reported. About 50 people were still hospitalized Saturday.

Altogether, more than 4,000 buildings, mostly apartment blocks, were damaged and 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles) of glass were broken, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited the Chelyabinsk regional emergencies ministry as saying Saturday.

Local officials have estimated the damage at more than 1 billion rubles (more than $33 million), RIA Novosti said. Chelyabinsk Gov. Mikhail Yurevich promised compensation to all those affected, the official Itar-Tass news agency said.

With temperatures dipping well below freezing at night, the need to fix windows left gaping by the blast is urgent.

The city of Chelyabinsk was functioning normally Saturday as the repair work began.

Workers swept up broken glass, boarded up holes and began fitting new panes of glass in some buildings.

“This is no exaggeration”

Residents told CNN of their shock as they saw, heard and felt the awesome blast, and the chaos and confusion they witnessed in the moments afterward, when no one knew what had happened.

Many were relieved nothing worse came to pass and believe the city had a lucky escape as fragments of the meteor came raining down.

Denis Kuznetsov, a 23-year-old historian from Chelyabinsk, told CNN via e-mail that he had heard and felt the shock wave despite being far from the center of the city.

At first there was a blinding flash lasting several seconds, which made him want to shut his eyes. The light shone “like 10 suns,” he said. “This is no exaggeration.”

Kuznetsov said he experienced what felt like “a push,” as a sound wave passed through his body. “For some seconds I simply stood,” amid the sound of breaking glass, he said.

After calming his parents, Kuznetsov tried to call friends, but all cellphone coverage was down. The Internet still worked, however, and he managed to reach a friend in the city center who told of emergency responders heading into the streets.

At first, confusion was widespread, he said, with many people believing the boom had to do with a satellite or plane. But within an hour or so, news broadcasts declared it was a meteorite.

“There was no panic. All behaved quietly,” he said.

Schools and many offices closed. Kuznetsov monitored the news, as the reported number of victims “grew hour by hour,” he said. “Thank God no one died.”

CNN iReporter Max Chuykov saw the meteor trail from the city of Yekaterinburg. He shared on Instagram that it was close to the ground.

Ekaterina Shlygina posted to CNN iReport and wrote on Instagram: “Upon Chelyabinsk a huge fireball has exploded. It wasn’t an aircraft.”

“Tiny asteroid” packs a big punch

About 24,000 emergency response workers were mobilized across the Chelyabinsk region Saturday, Itar-Tass cited the governor’s office as saying.

Hospitals, kindergartens and schools were among the buildings affected by the blast, said Vladimir Stepanov of the National Center for Emergency Situations at the Russian Interior Ministry.

West of the city, authorities sealed off a section of a frozen lake where it was believed a sizable meteorite crashed through the ice.

But a team of divers has found no trace of any meteorite in the lake, an emergencies ministry spokeswoman told state media on Saturday.

The meteor was a once-in-a-century event, NASA officials said, describing it as a “tiny asteroid.”

The space agency revised its estimate of the meteor’s size upward late Friday from 49 feet (15 meters) to 55 feet (17 meters), and its estimated mass from 7,000 tons to 10,000 tons.

The space agency also increased the estimated amount of energy released in the meteor’s explosion from about 300 to nearly 500 kilotons. By comparison, the nuclear bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 released an estimated 15 kilotons of energy.

The whole event, from the meteor’s atmospheric entry to its disintegration in the air above central Russia, took 32.5 seconds, NASA said.

The national space agency, Roscosmos, said scientists believe one meteoroid entered the atmosphere, where it burned and disintegrated into fragments.

Amateur video footage showed a bright white streak moving rapidly across the sky before exploding with an even brighter flash and a deafening bang.

The explosion occurred about 9:20 a.m. local time, as many people were out and about.

A once in a lifetime event

Russians captured vivid images, many using dash cameras inside their vehicles.

Dash cameras are popular in Russia for several reasons, including possible disputes over traffic accidents and the corrupt reputations of police in many areas. Drivers install the cameras for their own protection and to document incidents they could be caught in.

Five regions of Russia, one of them Chelyabinsk, are thought to have been affected, Itar-Tass said. RIA Novosti cited emergencies ministry officials as saying three regions and Kazakhstan were involved.

NASA said on its website that the meteor was the largest reported since 1908, when the famous Tunguska event took place in remote Siberia.

In that incident, an asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling about 80 million trees over an area of 820 square miles — about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island — but leaving no crater.

“We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

“When you have a fireball of this size, we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface, and in this case there were probably some large ones.”

In what astronomers said was an unrelated coincidence, a larger asteroid, called 2012 DA14, passed relatively close to Earth around 2:24 p.m. ET Friday.

Stargazers in Australia, Asia and Eastern Europe could see the asteroid with the aid of a telescope or binoculars, but it never got closer than 17,100 miles to the planet’s surface.

The Russian meteor was about one-third the size of the asteroid. The two bodies were on very different trajectories, scientists said.

By Phil Black and Laura Smith-Spark

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Local News
02/15/13

Meteor in Russia Could Have Been Much Worse

A physics and astronomy expert Chris Taylor at Sacramento State says the meteor that exploded above Russia could have been much worse. Mark Demsky reports.

Asteroids Near Earth – Asteroid 2012 DA14

This graphic shows Asteroid 2012 DA14′s predicted path as it passes closest to Earth on February 15 at 2:24 p.m. ET. The asteroid is about 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter. It’s heading toward Earth at 17,450 miles per hour.
Courtesy: CNN

(CNN)-

At least 1,000 people are injured in Russia as the result of a meteor exploding in the air. The energy of the detonation appears to be equivalent to about 300 kilotons of TNT, said Margaret Campbell-Brown of the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario.

Meanwhile, an asteroid is set to to speed by Earth but not hit it, coming closest at about 2:25 p.m. ET.

You probably have some questions about that, so here’s a brief overview:

1. Are these events connected?

The meteor in Russia and the asteroid approaching this afternoon are “completely unrelated,” according to NASA. The trajectory of the meteor differs substantially from that of asteroid 2012 DA14.

“Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite, and analysis is preliminary at this point,” according to the NASA website. “In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14′s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”

2. What’s the difference between an asteroid and a meteorite and other space rocks?

According to NASA, here’s how you tell what kind of object is falling from the sky:

Asteroids are relatively small, inactive rocky bodies that orbit the sun.

Comets are also relatively small and have ice on them that can vaporize in sunlight. This process forms an atmosphere and dust and gas; you might also see a “tail’ of dust or gas.

Meteoroids are small particles from comets or asteroids, orbiting the sun.

Meteors are meteoroids that enter the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize, also known as shooting stars. When we talk about what happened in Russia, and the images and sounds associated with it, those come from a meteor.

Meteorites are meteoroids that actually land on the Earth’s surface. The pieces of the meteor that exploded in Russia are meteorites.

Generally meteorites are smaller than grains of sand and vaporize on passage through the atmosphere. But there are also larger meteorites.

Comets and asteroids are left over from when the solar system formed. There used to be more of them, but over time they’ve collided to form major planets, or they’ve got booted from the inner solar system to the Oort cloud or have been ejected from the solar system entirely.

3. Why didn’t we see the Russian meteor coming?

Only one space rock that impacted the planet has ever been observed before it hit the Earth, Campbell-Brown said.

That’s because objects that do hit the Earth tend to be smaller, and it’s too hard to see them. The one sighting before impact happened in 2008, a day before a meteor exploded over Sudan.

Current estimates suggest that the Russian meteor was about 15 meters (49 feet) across, which is too small for telescopic surveys.

“Unfortunately the objects of this size have to be very close to Earth for us to be able to see them at all,” Campbell-Brown said.

The asteroid approaching Earth today, which NASA has been tracking, is about 45 meters long, which is relatively small for an asteroid.

4. How does this compare to other Earth impacts?

The Earth picks up tons of meteoric debris every day, but big pieces are fairly uncommon, said David Dundee, astronomer at Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia.

An object the size of the Russian meteor comes in about once every 50 years, but none has been recorded since 1908, when an asteroid exploded and leveled trees over an area of 820 square miles – about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island – in Tunguska, Russia.

“This is the largest event that we know of that’s happened since Tunguska,” Campbell-Brown said.

The Tunguska event did not leave a crater. If there are craters as a result of Friday’s meteor, they would be very small, resulting from the debris from the mid-air explosion.

“It’s unfortunate that this occurred over a populated area,” Campbell-Brown said. Over a desert or ocean, it would have done very little damage.

This is much smaller than the event thought to have wiped out the dinosaur population, she said.

The meteor was moving through space at about 33,000 miles per hour. When it suddenly decelerated above Russia, the energy was converted into heat and sound, which resulted in a shock wave of energy and a sonic boom, Dundee said.

About three years ago, a woman in Cartersville, Georgia, discovered a baseball-sized meteorite in her home, which had flown straight through the roof. It is now at the Tellus Museum, Dundee said.

5. Why shouldn’t you touch a meteorite?

As a meteor comes through the atmosphere, it gets very hot, but this thin hot layer quickly cools off. When you find it on the ground, a meteorite is generally acclimated to ambient temperature.

“We advise people not to touch things with their hands because we like to look for trace elements in the meteorites, and if you touch it in your hand, you’ve contaminated it,” Campbell-Brown said.

Meteorites are probably not more radioactive than Earth rocks, and the minerals inside aren’t toxic, she said. The biggest reason to not touch them is to preserve the scientific status.

By Elizabeth Landau

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BreakingNewsMOSCOW (CNN) – A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s Urals region Friday morning, before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left hundreds of people hurt.

The number of injured continues to rise as new reports come in from across a wide area.

As of noon Moscow time, as many as 725 people had sought medical help, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Deputy Health Minister Igor Kagramanyan said 571 people had sought medical help, with 34 of them hospitalized, according to state-news agency Itar-Tass.

The vast majority of injuries are not thought to be serious.

About 270 buildings have sustained damage — mostly broken glass — as a result of the shock waves caused by the blast, said Vladimir Stepanov, of the National Center for Emergency Situations at the Russian Interior Ministry.

Hospitals, kindergartens and schools are among those affected, he said.

About 20,000 emergency response workers have been mobilized, RIA Novosti reported.

Amateur video footage showed a bright white streak moving rapidly across the sky, before exploding with an even brighter flash and a deafening bang.

The explosion occurred about 9:20 a.m. local time, as many people were out and about.

The national space agency, Roscosmos, said scientists believed one meteoroid had entered the atmosphere, where it burned and disintegrated into fragments, according to RIA Novosti.

The resulting meteorites are believed to be scattered across three regions of Russia, one of them Chelyabinsk, as well as neighboring Kazakhstan, the news agency said.

One large chunk was discovered in a lake in the Chelyabinsk region, RIA Novosti cited the Chelyabinsk governor as saying.

A spokesman for the Emergency Ministry for the Chelyabinsk region told CNN that the latest information it had was that 524 people there were injured and 34 hospitalized.

For sky watchers, the reports bring to mind the famous Tunguska event of 1908 in remote Siberia, in which an asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees over an area of 820 square miles — about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island.

About 80 million trees were felled, radiating out from the center of the blast, but no crater was left.

Friday’s Chelyabinsk meteor comes on the same day that a hefty asteroid is due to charge past Earth at a pretty close range, in space terms.

Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is thought to be 45 meters long, about half the length of a football field.

But scientists say it will come no closer than 17,100 miles from our planet’s surface.

“No Earth impact is possible,” according to Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Those in Eastern Europe, Asia or Australia will get the best telescope-aided view, scientists said. The asteroid won’t be visible to the naked eye.

NASA spokesman Steve Cole told CNN that scientists had determined that the Russian meteor was on a very different trajectory from the asteroid.

“They are completely unrelated objects — it’s a strange coincidence they are happening at the same time,” he said.

“This kind of object does fall fairly frequently, but when they fall into the ocean or desert, there is no impact on people — so this one is unusual in the sense that it’s come over a populated area.”

Cole said he wasn’t aware if scientists had foreseen the meteor’s entry into the atmosphere.

Because meteoroids are smaller than asteroids or comets, they are hard to spot and there is often little warning that they are heading toward Earth, he said.

Colin Stuart, an astronomer at the Royal Observatory in London, said the asteroid’s flyby Friday was a chance for experts to get an unusually close-up look and learn more.

“Scientists are going to fire radar beams off of the asteroid, trying to get an idea what it’s made of and the how it’s moving, so that in the future, if there’s something that’s a bit more of a threat to us, we have the best knowledge of what we are dealing with,” Stuart said.

The asteroid, which is not connected to the Russian meteor, is not expected to hit any of the communications satellites it will pass on its trajectory, he said.

CNN’s Phil Black, Boriana Milanova and Alla Eshchenko reported from Moscow, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN’s Elizabeth Landau also contributed to this report.

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CHELYABINSK, Russia-

An incredible collection of images and videos began popping up on the internet Thursday evening of a reported meteor exploding above the Urals region of Russia.

News website RT.com reported, citing a source in the Russian military, that the meteor was intercepted by the military and shot down.

Above, you can watch a quick video of the apparent explosion that set off car alarms and shattered windows.

Here is a link to a video of the bright flash seen from a driver’s in-car camera.

Here is another video of the smoke trail left in the air.

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