Like a scene out of Armageddon, an estimated 11-ton meteor streaked across the Russian sky over the city of Chelyabinsk Friday morning. The meteor is reported to have entered the earth’s atmosphere at a speed of 33,000 mph.
This meteor shattered between 18-32 miles above ground, according to the Russian Academy of Science. The blast from the sonic boom from the meteor caused explosions on the ground that shattered glass and injured some 500 people, with 34 having to be hospitalized.
“There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people’s houses to check if they were okay. We saw a big burst of light then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound,” said Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk. Chelyabinsk is 930 miles east of Moscow, in the Ural Mountains region.
Reports say that Chelyabinsk women were crying and yelling that the world was over.
Meteors typically create sonic booms as they enter the earths atmosphere from the sheer speed they are traveling. Yet it is extremely rare for a sonic boom of this magnitude to occur.
After the meteor shattered, fragments were found in a reservoir outside Chelyabinsk. Also, a 20-foot-wide crater was found in the same area and could have been caused by the falling fragments, according to military spokesman Yarslavl Roshupkin.
If the reports of ground damage can be verified, it might suggest an object whose original size was several meters in extent before entering the atmosphere, fragmenting and exploding due to the unequal pressure on the leading side vs. the trailing side (it pancaked and exploded),” Donald Yeomans, manager of U.S. Near Earth Object Program said in an email to The Associated Press. Yeomans added,”It is far too early to provide estimates of the energy released or provide a reliable estimate of the original size.”
A 6.000 square foot roof at a zinc factory collapsed as result of the meteor. It is not yet clear if the roof collapsed from being struck by fragments or by the shock wave.
The meteor hit less than a day before the asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid — about 17,150 miles, though the European Space Agency said there is no connection between the two.
In true Cold War fashion, the Nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said, “It’s not meteors falling, it’s the test of a new weapon by the Americans.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took a different approach. Medvedev who was speaking at the economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk said, “not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet.” By Steve Kish