Chelyabinsk event – 20m wide asteroid explodes above Russia, damaging 3 000 buildings and injuring over 1 500 people


A very bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria, as well as in northern Kazakhstan, early morning local time on February 15, 2013. The flash was accompanied by a very loud explosion. Officials mention meteor shower and say that it began after a large meteorite disintegrated above the Urals mountain range and partially burned up in the lower atmosphere – resulting in fragments falling earthwards throughout the Chelyabinsk region. 

According to preliminary estimates, this space object is of non-technogenic origin and qualifies as a meteorite. It was moving at a low trajectory with a speed of about 30 km/s,” Russian space agency Roskosmos said.

At least one piece of the fallen object caused damage on the ground in Chelyabinsk. According to preliminary reports, it crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city’s Internet and mobile service.

During the morning, the Russian military discovered 6 m deep crater with normal background radiation. 

Russian Academy of Science said the meteorite weighed about 10 tons before it entered Earth’s atmosphere.  Lifenews reported, quoting a source in the Emergencies Ministry, that before falling to earth, the meteorite exploded nine times, starting at an altitude of 55 km.

2 962 buildings were damaged, including 34 healthcare facilities, 11 social security institutions, and 361 school and pre-school educational institutions. The damage is estimated at more than $13 million.

More than 1 500 people were injured – mostly by broken glass.

This is the biggest asteroid outburst since the 1908 Tunguska event and the only asteroid confirmed to have resulted in a large number of injuries.

Residents of the town of Emanzhilinsk, some 50 km from Chelyabinsk, said they saw a flying object that suddenly burst into flames, broke apart and fell to earth, and that a black cloud had been seen hanging above the town. Witnesses in Chelyabinsk said the city’s air smells like gunpowder.

Oleg Malkov, an aerospace scientist at Moscow State University, told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that the meteorite went undetected by space scanners, likely because it was coming from the direction of the Sun.

“We can only register stones coming from the direction of the night sky,” he explained. Malkov confirmed that the meteor shower in the Urals was not connected to the 2012 DA14 asteroid that will approach Earth in a few hours.

The Mayak nuclear complex near the town of Ozersk was not affected by the incident, according to reports. Mayak, one of the world’s biggest nuclear facilities that used to house plutonium production reactors and a reprocessing plant, is located 72 km northwest of Chelyabinsk.

NASA has also said that today’s fireball over Russia had nothing to do with asteroid 2012 DA14: “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.

What’s also interesting is that another fireball was also reported over the sky of Japan yesterday (February 14, 2013). 

A huge fireball was reported over Belgium, Netherlands and Germany on February 13, 2013, but it appears to be a part of the Soyuz rocket launched on February 11 to ISS.

Late UTC afternoon on February 15, 2013, people from Cuba apparently witnessed another bright fireball exploding over the town in the province of Cienfuegos.

Featured image: Trail left by Chelyabinsk meteor on February 15, 2013

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  1. Those caught in the glare of the Sun are the ones that can sneak up on us, as this one was about one third the size of asteroid 2012 DA14 but travelling in from nearly the opposite direction, thus unrelated to each other.

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