Feb 16 2013

Hold Onto Your Hats

Published by at 7:30 am under Weather & Sky

Chelyabinsk meteor trace, 15 February 2013 (photo by Nikita Plekhanov via Wikipedia)

There we were, focusing our attention on an asteroid that was going to miss Earth when Bang!  a real live meteor zipped low over Russia yesterday morning.

The meteor taught me a lot more than the asteroid.  After it lit the sky, made an explosive boom, blew out windows, and injured more than 1,000 people I learned from NASA:

  • Its light was brighter than the sun.
  • Its contrail was 300 miles long. (That's the distance from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia).
  • Eyewitnesses said the sonic boom lagged by three minutes ... just long enough for everyone to go to their windows to watch.
  • The meteor was about the size of a bus (55 feet) but it weighed 10,000 tons --> 1,400 times heavier than a bus.
  • The atmosphere really did help after all.  When the meteor exploded it was still 12-15 miles up.  At least twice as high up as a jetliner.
  • If it was only the size of a bus and 2 to 4 times higher up than a jet, why did it cause such a problem?   Well, it was traveling at 40,000 mph!

So, hold onto your hats.  It's the stuff we aren't worried about that gets us.

Click here for scientific analysis (video) from The Telegraph UK.


(photo of the Chelyabinsk meteor's trace by Nikita Plekhanov via Wikipedia. Click on the image to see the original)

p.s.  The meteor also taught me two things about Russian culture:  (1) Russians have dashboard cameras in their cars to protect against corrupt policemen and disputed traffic accidents, and (2) They have already made a joke about it, quoted from the Houston Chronicle: "The meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21, 2012 — when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world — but was delivered late by Russia's notoriously inefficient postal service."

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Hold Onto Your Hats”

  1. Steve-oon 16 Feb 2013 at 10:11 am

    Awesome. I had heard that it was around 15m in space, but the piece that made the hole in the lake was only 2m by that point.

    The meteorite that made Meteor Crater in Arizona was 20m, but it was Iron and the one yesterday was more like a piece of coke.

  2. John P. Englishon 16 Feb 2013 at 10:45 am

    I saw several videos on Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy.html
    Seriously impressed by the damage the sonic boom caused!

  3. George Bercikon 16 Feb 2013 at 10:52 am

    When we feel”high & mighty”,and “masters of the universe”,an event like this meteor serves to remind us that there are natural forces,in play, that can dwarf us and all our accumulated accomplishments…….. in a heartbeat! A sobering thought and cause for reflection,that we could be so vulnerable. Suppose that bus-size fragment was as large as the city of Pittsburgh. From someone,prone to overlong sentences, my overall reaction is……………..WOW !!

  4. TheWildSowon 17 Feb 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Probably a *good* thing it came in at such a shallow angle; i.e., through many many miles of atmosphere to slow it down. If it had come straight down and hit, it would have done a heckuva lot more damage and left a heckuva crater!

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