A bright flash was seen in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk regions, Russia’s Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan early morning local time on February 15, 2013, 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.
Numerous YT videos show an unusual trail accompanied by several loud booms. Many reports mention shattered windows. Lifenews tabloid said that 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.
Update: During the morning, Russian military discovered 6 meters deep crater from Urals meteorite, normal background radiation was reported at the crater. Russian Academy of Science said the meteorite weighed about 10 tons before it entered Earth’s atmosphere. Lifenews reported, quoting a source in Emergencies Ministry, that before falling to earth, the meteorite exploded nine times, starting at an altitude of 55 kilometers.
Meteorite fragments have damaged 2 962 buildings including 34 healthcare facilities, 11 social security institutions and 361 school and pre-school educational institutions. The damage from the meteor shower is estimated at more than $13 million.
Nature Magazine said that this fireball was the largest rock to strike the planet since 1908 (Tunguska).
Russian space agency Roskosmos said: "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.”
RT reported that according to unconfirmed reports, the meteorite was intercepted by an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement near Chelyabinsk. A missile salvo reportedly blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers. The military had nothing to do with the aerial meteorite explosion, the Urals Emergency Ministry said: "Russia's defense ministry took no action connected to the incident. No aircraft have been registered in the air at the given period of time."
Residents of the town of Emanzhilinsk, some 50 kilometers 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.
The regional Emergency Ministry said the phenomenon was a meteorite shower, but locals have speculated that it was a military fighter jet crash or a missile explosion.
The first reports came in around 07:55 local time (1:55 UTC).
At 8:03 UTC, RT reported there are up to 250 injured, 3 in critical condition. Some reports mention that up to 400 people asked medical attention. By 13:20 UTC the number of people injured in the meteorite blast has risen to 950, Governor of Chelyabinsk Region Mikhail Yurevitch said.
Nearly 3 000 buildings in Chelyabinsk were damaged to varying extents by the meteor shower, including 34 medical facilities and 361 schools and kindergartens.
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 kilometers 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 a 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 afternoon UTC time on February 15, 2013, people from Cuba apparently witnessed another bright fireball explode over the town in the province of Cienfuegos.
- LIVE RT Updates: http://rt.com/news/russia-meteor-meteorite-asteroid-chelyabinsk-291/
- Videos & Photos: http://rt.com/news/meteorite-crash-urals-chelyabinsk-283/
- How meteor showers emerge - Infographic: http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20100731/160020528.html