At 03:25 UTC on February 15, 2013, a meteor was seen streaking through the early morning sky in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, accompanied by a powerful shockwave which shattered windows and injured hundreds of people.
Russians in the area have uploaded many cell phone videos and dashboard cam views of the meteor to the Internet early this morning. Most all of them show a series of bright flashes momentarily more luminous than the rising sun, a spectacular contrail stretching across the sky and an epic series of shockwaves that set off car alarms and shattered windows over an unknown swath of the Chelyabinsk region. Reports from Russia indicate hundreds are seeking medical attention for minor cuts and abrasions, mostly from the falling glass of thousands of shattered windows (see news service Russia Today’s continually updated page).
In a statement released by NASA, officials indicate there is no apparent connection between the Chelyabinsk meteor and Asteroid 2012 DA14, which will be passing very close to the Earth in a small handful of hours. From NASA:
“The trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. 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.”
Reports are stilling coming in and officials in Russia and around the world are starting to look at the information with some scrutiny today. Undoubtedly, we will have a much better analysis of this meteor event as the day continues. Until then, you can use the following links to get a handle on this once-in-a-decade event:
- Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has a very serious summary of details and collection of videos and images over at his blog on Slate.
- Aliceastroinfo.com has a handy graphic illustrating how the Chelyabinsk meteor and Asteroid DA14 are NOT RELATED.
- Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has an excellent collection of online resources, including many eyewitness videos and links to news sources.
- Universe Today has some images of the meteor’s trail through the sky captured by weather satellites in orbit.
- Alan Boyle, NBC News digital science editor, has a terrific overview of what is known concerning this event, including video from the Today Show’s interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson this morning.
- Even the US geological Survey picked up the meteor using seismographs!
- News service Russia Today has a continually updated page with new information being uploaded regularly.
- Additionally, here is a LiveJournal page that has probably some of the best video accounts of the early morning meteor, and it is definitely a must-see.
We would like to take this moment to remind everyone that asteroids are not a case of if, but a case of when. NASA has a Near Earth Object program, where they take the defense of the planet very seriously. Supporting NASA means supporting programs like this and protecting the lives of people here on Earth. Consider writing your members of Congress and telling them you support initiatives like this. Meanwhile, here is an excellent graphic from NASA of which space rocks we know about and how many we estimate that we are yet to discover.