Meteorite explodes over Russia, more than 1,000 injured

Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:40pm EST
 

By Andrey Kuzmin

CHELYABINSK, Russia (Reuters) - A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, raining fireballs over a vast area and causing a shock wave that smashed windows, damaged buildings and injured 1,200 people.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt the shock wave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.

The fireball, travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, had blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail that could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away.

Car alarms went off, thousands of windows shattered and mobile phone networks were disrupted. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion, a very rare spectacle, also unleashed a sonic boom.

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it were day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights."

The meteorite, which weighed about 10 metric tons and may have been made of iron, entered Earth's atmosphere and broke apart 30-50 km (19-31 miles) above ground, according to Russia's Academy of Sciences.

The energy released when it entered the Earth's atmosphere was equivalent to a few kilotonnes, the academy said, the power of a small atomic weapon exploding.   Continued...

 
Trail of a meteorite crossing the early morning sky above the city of Kamensk-Uralsky February 15, 2013, is seen in this still image taken from video footage from a dashboard journey recorder and obtained by REUTERS TV. REUTERS/Amateur video via Reuters TV