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Monday, February 18, 2013

Russian "Meteor" 16 February 2013: Frequently Asked Questions- Answered!

Below are FAQs on the Russian "Meteor" that hit  about 930 miles east of Moscow in remote Chelyabinsk,16 February 2013- ANSWERED by Dr Stuart Clark in his Across the Universe blog. I took the liberty of editing the answers for brevity.

What hit Russia on Friday morning?
space rock weighing about 10 tons seen as a bright trail streaking through the sky as it burned when it entered the Earth's atmosphere with a speed of at least 54,000km/h (33,000mph). The sharp compression of the air created a shock wave heard as a sonic boom.

Was it one meteor or a shower?
It was a single object which shattered 18-32 miles (30-50km) above ground showing  a sudden brightening as the body fragmented during its passage through the atmosphere.

How rare is this sort of event?
Around 40,000 tons of space rocks fall to Earth every year mostly in the form of dust and relatively small meteorites. The last major one struck the Earth in 1908 when an asteroid about 50 meters exploded in the air above Tunguska of Siberia where it flattened forests over an area of hundreds of square miles
Trees knocked over by the Tunguska blast. Photograph from the
Soviet Academy of Science 1927 expedition led by Leonid Kulik

This happens every decade but usually takes place over unpopulated areas.

Has anyone ever been killed by a meteorite?
No one has been  recorded to have been killed by a meteorite falling from the sky. Most of the Earth's surface is uninhabited by humans, so meteorites usually fall over desolate areas or the oceans.

What's the difference between an asteroid, a meteor, a meteorite and a meteoroid?
from dendroica.tumblr.com/
A meteoroid is anything in orbit around the sun smaller than 10 meters. An asteroid is above 10 meters up to about 1,000 kilometers  A meteor is a speck of dust that burns up in the atmosphere creating a shooting star. A meteorite is a larger fragment, from pebble to boulder-sized, that survives to strike the surface of the Earth.
Is it connected with the asteroid space rock 2012 DA14 also on Friday night?
This could be the last close pass of Earth by asteroid 2012 DA14. Photograph: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/EPA
No. The approach of Friday morning's strike is unrelated to the approach of space rock 2012 DA14 according to the Royal Astronomical Society in London and the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany

What do we do if we spot something big heading for Earth?
The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (the space mission planning advisory group of scientists from NASA,  European Space Agency and the world's other space agencies) would be called into session to advise on the best strategy for dealing with the asteroid, on who would build the necessary spacecraft, the funding source and would pass the decision making to politicians. 

Are any regions of Earth more at risk than others?
No. Incoming asteroids and meteoroids can come from any direction. Additionally, the Earth rotates once a day, presenting every hemisphere to the different directions of space.

Will the Russian "Meteor"  impact have any after-effect?
This impact was not enough to knock the Earth off its axis nor imperil telecommunications networks. The shock wave was NOT an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) similar to what is created by nuclear weapons and solar flares. There is no real risk of alien death viruses although there are theories that microbes could hitch rides on space rocks, there is no incontrovertible evidence that this is a widespread phenomenon.

See Related post:

Russian "meteor" Explodes into Cyberspace Social Media: Jokes, Memes, Twitter posts!

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