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The massive explosion, which injured hundreds, was caught on video by numerous shocked onlookers.
GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: METEOR EXPLOSION IN RUSSIA
UPDATE: 2/15/13 5:10 PM ET
The live feed of the asteroid passing by Earth will continue below, but this live blog is now closed. Check here for further developments.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 5:00 PM ET
Asteroid 2012 DA14 from space
NASA posted this picture of Asteroid 2012 DA14's path:
This image shows asteroid 2012 DA14 and the Eta Carinae Nebula, with the white box highlighting the asteroid's path. The image was taken using a 3" refractor equipped with a color CCD camera. The telescope is located at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia and is maintained and owned by iTelescope.net.
Image credit: NASA/MSFC/Aaron Kingery
You can continue watching NASA's live stream of the asteroid as it makes its way across Europe and North America:
UPDATE: 2/15/13 4:10 PM ET
A bird, a plane... a bolide
Russian scientists have identified the object that shattered windows and injured more than a thousand people in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
RT said that the Russian Academy of Sciences identified it as a single 10-ton bolide. A bolide, or bright fireball, is a large meteor that explodes in the lower atmosphere.
The fireball was moving at a speed of about 20 km/s or 44,738 mph. RAN said the object burst into pieces around 20 to 30 miles above the ground, then exploded three more times.
Large fragments moving at high speed caused a powerful flash and a strong blast wave, with most energy released at a height of 5 to 15 km, RAN added.
The impact and the sound of the blast reached the ground minutes after the explosion, causing havoc and panic in Chelyabinsk. While most of the object burned down during the fall, the remaining parts showered over the region, possibly adding to the damage and injuries.
This video from RT shows where one of the fragments smashed into an icy lake:
UPDATE: 2/15/13 3:20 PM ET
Bracing for impact
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House of Representatives' Science, Space and Technology committee, released a statement following today's events.
Today’s events are a stark reminder of the need to invest in space science. Asteroid 2012 DA14 passed just 17,000 miles from Earth, less than the distance of a round trip from New York to Sydney. And this morning, a much smaller meteorite hit near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, damaging buildings and injuring hundreds.
Developing technology and research that enable us to track objects like Asteroid 2012 DA14 is critical to our future. We should continue to invest in systems that identify threatening asteroids and develop contingencies, if needed, to change the course of an asteroid headed toward Earth.
Fifty years ago, we would have had no way of seeing an asteroid like this coming. Now, thanks to the discoveries NASA has made in its short history, we have known about 2012 DA14 for about a year. As the world leader in space exploration, America has made great progress for mankind. But our work is not done. We should continue to study, research, and explore space to better understand our universe and better protect our planet.
Nicholas Moskovitz, a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Department of Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences, told GlobalPost about the ways we could potentially chance the course of an asteroid, including methods like solar sails and gravity tractors. Check out the full Q & A here.
The Associated Press posted this report of the meteorite in Russia:
UPDATE: 2/15/13 2:50 PM ET
Act of God?
Dan Peleschuk reported for GlobalPost in Moscow:
The hugely influential Russian Orthodox Church has been increasingly outspoken in recent months on all matters social and political in the country – especially in the wake of the Pussy Riot scandal that grabbed international headlines last summer.
But who knew the church had something to say about the cosmos?
Metropolitan Feofan, the church’s top official in the Chelyabinsk Region, appealed to the faithful after the meteorite strike on Friday in a reminder of mankind’s fragility.
“From the Holy Scripture, we know that the Lord often gives us signs and warnings through the forces of nature,” he said in a statement posted to his website. “I think that the meteor shower is a reminder, not only for the citizens of the Urals but for all mankind, that we live in a fragile and unpredictable world.”
Urging his followers not to panic, Feofan also suggested that God spared the region from more serious consequences.
And perhaps by way of encouragement, he added that it couldn’t hurt to put in a few more prayer hours.
“Do you remember how often you pray, the last time you went to church, or how your life looks in light of God’s commandments?” he asked rhetorically.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 2:40 PM ET
"Phew, that was close"
Did you see it? Asteroid 2012 DA14 will continue making its way around Earth, but it reached its closest point to us at 17,200 miles, according to NASA's live stream.
— Priyanka Boghani (@priyankaboghani) February 15, 2013
Reuters' Matthew Keys tweeted:
CNBC sums up how the Internet feels about DA14 asteroid - twitter.com/TheMatthewKeys…
— Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys) February 15, 2013
In case you're still worried about your chances of meeting your end at the hands of an asteroid, there's a chart for that.
Grumpy Cat reacts to the asteroid fly-by twitter.com/BuzzFeedNews/s…
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 15, 2013
UPDATE: 2/15/13 2:05 PM ET
The sky is falling, the sky is falling!
The meteorite that hit Russia today probably has nothing to do with the asteroid that's also on its way past Earth, scientists have assured us. But that hasn't kept the media or the public from drawing a line between the uncanny confluence of events.
Can you blame us? After all, we've been eagerly waiting for weeks for a fly-by from Asteroid 2012 DA14. Scientists even told us when to expect a close shave with the space rock: Feb. 15.
For more on Asteroid 2012 DA14, read our Q & A with an MIT asteroid expert.
So now that this morning's meteor-shock has begun to fade, here's live footage of the rock we were all really waiting for:
UPDATE: 2/15/13 1:50 PM ET
Meteor vs. meteorite: What's the difference?
And why does it matter?
Well, for starters, when a giant space rock punctures the Earth's atmosphere and wreaks havoc on infrastrusture and injures nearly 1,000 people, we think it's important to know exactly what the culprit is. And frankly, it looks like there have been conflicting reports.
For the record, here is how NASA defines spacial bodies:
UPDATE: 2/15/13 1:40 PM ET
Meteor explosition packed punch comparable to a nuclear blast
The meteorite that hit Russia today was, according to scientists, the "largest recorded object to strike the Earth in more than a century," Nature reported.
The science journal added that the explosion sent "hundreds of kilotonnes of energy" into the atmosphere:
"That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago and the largest rock crashing on the planet since a meteor broke up over Siberia's Tunguska river in 1908."
The blast knocked out windows and damaged several hundred buildings. Many of the injuries suffered were from shards of broken glass.
— Comet ISON (@CometISONnews) February 15, 2013
UPDATE: 2/15/13 1:00 PM ET
UPDATE: 2/15/13 12:50 PM ET
"You're on Dashboard Camera"
By now, you've probably seen the stunning videos of the meteor flashing across the sky as it hurtled toward the Russian terrain. How did we get so many videos focused on the meteor? Why do so many Russians have cameras on their dashboards?
Mashable dug up the answer: corruption.
According to a report by Al Jazeera last year, an estimated one million Russian motorists have installed video cameras in their cars to help record instances of police corruption.
Marina Galperina, a New York blogger who is originally from Russia, wrote last year:
The Russian Highway Patrol is known throughout their land for brutality, corruption, extortion and making an income on bribes. Dash-cams won’t protect you from being extorted for cash, because your ass shouldn’t have been speeding. It will however keep you safer from drunks in uniform, false accusations and unreasonable bribe hikes.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 12:30 PM ET
More than 20,000 people are searching for parts of the meteorite, Russian Institute of Astronomy scholar Vladimir Surdin told Ekho Moscow Radio. Experts said the meteorite weighed about 10 tons and broke up in the earth's atmosphere, the radio reported. It said most of the meteorite had burned up, but that army soldiers had already found a six-meter crater made by one of its parts.
PHOTO: The meteor blast collapsed 6,000 square feet of a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk, Russia. twitter.com/BuzzFeedNews/s…
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 15, 2013
UPDATE: 2/15/13 12:10 PM ET
Asteroids, meteors and comets, oh my
The object that we have been anticipating doing a flyby of Earth for many months is an asteroid. The object from space that exploded into a fireball over Russia is thought to be a meteorite, though reports are still unclear.
NASA's asteroid expert, Don Yeomans, of the Near-Earth Object Program Office, told Space.com that the object could also be a bolide.
So what's the difference?
NASA's definitions are as follows:
Asteroid - A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
Comet - A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
Meteoroid - A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
Meteor - The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
Meteorite - A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface.
Bolide - An exploding meteoric fireball.
The Associated Press said of the event in Russia today:
Alan Harris, a senior scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, said most of the damage would have been caused by the blast — or blasts — as the meteor broke up in the atmosphere. The rapid deceleration of the meteor released a huge amount of energy that would have been heard and felt many miles away. Witnesses say it shattered windows and sent loose objects flying through the air.
The Daily Telegraph has a great graphic with all the information and statistics from the event in Chelyabinsk, Russia.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 11:50 AM ET
A taste of Russian humor
UPDATE: 2/15/13 11:40 AM ET
Impact did not damage nuclear facilities
Dan Peleschuk reported for GlobalPost from Moscow:
Nearly 1,000 people were reported injured in the event, the Chelyabinsk branch of Russia’s Interior Ministry said late Friday, including more than 200 children. The ministry also said 44 people had been hospitalized.
Trauma surgeon Oleg Gromov told local news portal Chelyabinsk.ru that most of the injuries were minor. “The victims began arriving around 10 a.m.,” he said. “The injuries were mostly on the head, arms, legs and back.”
Chelyabinsk Mayor Sergei Davydov, meanwhile, reported that nearly 3,000 buildings were damaged to varying degrees from the impact, according to the city administration’s website.
Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov assured President Vladimir Putin in a meeting on Friday the impact caused no radioactive damage in the region, which is home to several nuclear facilities, according to a ministry statement.
Puchkov later flew to the region on Putin's orders as part of a governmental commission.
But while most officials were scrambling to assess the damages, some – like nationalist firebrand politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky – had different ideas.
Zhirinovsky, notorious for outlandish and often absurd commentary, claimed the incident was actually the result of a US weapons test over Russian soil.
Secretary of State John “Kerry was searching for [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov to warn him, but Lavrov was on a trip somewhere in Africa,” Zhirinovsky said, according to Russian network Russia 24. “He wanted to warn him that there would be this kind of provocation, and that it could involve Russia.”
Ordinary Russians, meanwhile, appeared willing to cash in on a rare piece of history.
Several ads on a Russian classified website were advertising by Friday evening what they claimed to be pieces of the meteor.
One user from Chelyabinsk, Ekaterina, placed what she says is a 1.2-kilogram piece of the meteor up for sale on the website Avito.ru – for around $2,000.
“P.S.,” she wrote, “It’s still warm;)”
UPDATE: 2/15/13 11:20 AM ET
The Russian meteor is not connected to the asteroid flyby
An asteroid will do a harmless flyby near Earth today. The event has been anticipated for months. However, when the meteor exploded over Russia, there was speculation as to whether the two events were connected.
Richard Binzel, a professor of Planetary Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, cleared things up for GlobalPost:
The Russian event, surprisingly, appears totally unrelated. The Russian meteor was from a mostly north-to-south trajectory. Asteroid 2012 DA14 passes by today, moving the exact opposite way; South-to-North. Orbital physics (orbital angular momentum) simply cannot have two objects in opposite directions being related.
The Russian object was probably about 2 meters across, about the size of an SUV. 2012 DA14 is 50 meters across, or about half the size of a football pitch.
NASA released this statement on the Russian meteor:
According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object. Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite and analysis is preliminary at this point. 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.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 11:00 AM ET
Millions of dollars in damage
Chelyabinsk Governor Mikhail Yurievich said damage from the meteorite will amount to more than $33 million, Interfax news agency reported. Reports also say some locals have broken their own windows in hope of compensation from the government.
Russia's Emergencies Ministry will fire a local official who told reporters the ministry had warned Chelyabinsk residents by SMS before the meteorite fell, the Itar-Tass news agency reported spokeswoman Irina Rossius as saying. Ministry official Victor Rakatin earlier denied the SMS service had been used.
"The event happened very quickly and it was unexpected," Interfax quoted him as saying.
UPDATE: 2/15/13 10:00 AM ET
Meteorite explosion leaves hundreds injured, many buildings damaged
What was initially reported as a meteorite shower passed over a remote region of Russia in the Ural Mountains, causing a massive explosion that shattered windows and left hundreds of people with injuries in several cities.
It is now disputed, as the Guardian points out, whether a single meteor or a shower caused the impact. A NASA asteroid expert speaking to Space.com said the flying object was most likely a bolide, which the website described as an "exploding fireball."
The same expert said it's unlikely the meteorite impact was connected to the asteroid whizzing by Earth today.
More from GlobalPost: Is Asteroid 2012 DA14 a threat to Earth? Q&A (VIDEO)
Russian military representatives found three craters from the above-ground meteorite explosion on Feb. 15, according to RT, including one crater measuring 6 meters (19 feet) across. Radiation levels at the site were normal.
"There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people's houses to check if they were OK," Sergey Hametov, a local resident of local resident Chelyabinsk, told the Associated Press.
A local governor told Russia Today that 950 people were injured by the blast. The outlet had earlier noted that 112 people were hospitalized, while 725 residents of Chelyabinsk had sought medical attention. According to the Emergency Ministry, RT reported, 159 of the injured are children.
Nearly 300 apartment buildings were damaged by the impact, RT added.
More from GlobalPost: Tunguska, 1908: Russia's greatest cosmic mystery
Numerous residents of the town of Chelyabinsk managed to document the fiery descent of one meteorite on video, some captured by Russia's popular car dashboard cameras.
Here's various shots of the meteorite's descent over Chelyabinsk, posted by Russia Today — some portraying an eerie change in light as the flaming rock passes over residential areas.
What does it sound like when an enormous meteorite explodes very close to one's home? This video captures the sheer magnitude of the sound, which reportedly shattered windows and caused damage to buildings.
Is the Russian meteorite incident related to the impending Friday "fly-over" by the asteroid 2012 DA14?
Doubtful, scientists from the European Space Agency said to CBS News, an opinion backed up by Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast, who described it to the BBC as "literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one."
There's also the ESA's Twitter feed:
— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) February 15, 2013
NASA will chronicle the asteroid fly by at 2:00 PM US Eastern Standard Time with a television broadcast, and space-watchers can tune in at 9:00 PM for a live Ustream feed.