I’ve spent hours reading reports and interviews of folks from various arms of NASA, including the Marshall Space Flight Center and experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Here Are Ten Incredible Facts About The Meteor That Exploded Over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
- Russian Meteor Fact #1: NASA has upgraded the estimated size of this meteor: apparently it was a 55 foot space rock (17 meters).
- Russian Meteor Fact #2: It entered the atmosphere above Russia traveling about 40,000 miles per hour. (Source: NASA’s Meteoroid Environments Office)
- Russian Meteor Fact #3: The meteor was in the atmosphere a mere 32.5 seconds before it exploded. (Source: University of Western Ontario, Canada)
- Russian Meteor Fact #4: The meteor weighed an estimated 10,000 tons; that’s 20-million pounds! Wow. (Source: NASA.gov)
- Russian Meteor Fact #5: The meteor’s explosion was more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. Lead NASA researcher Bill Cooke told CBS News the blast was the equivalent of 300,000 tons of TNT. That’s at least 20 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
- Russian Meteor Fact #6: The meteor exploded 12 to 15 miles – 20 to 25km – above the earth’s surface. Source: NASA
- Russian Meteor Fact #7: Here is how an explosion at least 12 miles up blows out windows on earth. Bill Cooke of NASA told CBS News: “When it broke apart, this produced a violent explosion. In the vicinity of 300 kilotons of energy (now revised to 500 kilotons), which produced a shock wave that propagated down as well as through the atmosphere. And when it propagated down, this shock wave struck the city below causing large numbers of windows to be broken, some walls to collapse and minor damage throughout the city.”
- Russian Meteor Fact #7: Thank nuclear weapons for scientists’ ability to figure out how powerful the explosion was. Uh, say what? Well, this is what Bill Cooke of NASA says: “There are nuclear test ban treaties forbidding nuclear tests. So international agencies established a network of infrasound stations all over the globe designed to detect big explosions in the atmosphere. As you can guess, with an energy of 300 kilotons this is similar to a nuclear explosion in magnitude.”
- Russian Meteor Fact #8: The first infrasound station to detect this explosion was in Alaska, 4,000 miles (6,500km) away from the actual blast.
- Russian Meteor Fact #9: This was a 100 year event. Paul Chodas with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said this: “We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years, on average.”
- Russian Meteor Fact #10: It’s likely some of this meteor hit the ground. If that’s proven, we’ll reclassify this as a ‘meteorite.’ JPL’s Paul Chodas says, “When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case, there were probably some large ones.”
Those meteorites will be worth a lot of money and have high scientific value as well. I’m sure those who hunt meteorites have already booked their flights. Perhaps they’re on the ground in Russia right now.
As I discovered all these amazing facts I was left wondering: what if this thing had exploded over a major city? Above Tokyo, London, Hong Kong, Vancouver B. C., Boston, New York, Los Angeles–or how about Portland or Seattle. Can you imagine the damage?
Well, maybe we won’t have to worry about it in our lifetime. NASA & JPL scientists believe this meteor in Russia had a bigger impact than any since 1908. That’s when a 150 foot chunk of space rock slammed the atmosphere and detonated above Siberia. It’s know as the Tunguska event. The shock wave from that one leveled millions of trees over 800 square miles.
So after reading all this, what are you thinking? Are you re-assured that this is rare? Or worried now that you know what an impact even a ‘small’ meteor can have as it explodes miles up?