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Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Scientist: Russia Meteor Biggest Impact In A Century

In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. (Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)

In this frame grab made from a video done with a dashboard camera, on a highway from Kostanai, Kazakhstan, to Chelyabinsk region, Russia, provided by Nasha Gazeta newspaper, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 a meteorite contrail is seen. (Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)

A meteor streaked through the sky and exploded Friday over Russia’s Ural Mountains with the power of an atomic bomb, its sonic blasts shattering countless windows and injuring around 1,000 people, according to Russia Today.

Sky & Telescope magazine’s Senior Contributing Editor Kelly Beatty told Here & Now that it was the largest impact on Earth since 1908, according to Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at the University of Western Ontario, who has studied data from two infra-sound stations near the impact site.

“We’re lucky that it didn’t hit a little bit lower down or over a truly populated area because the damage could have been much more substantial.”
– Kelly Beatty

“This meteor that came in over Chelyabinsk had the equivalent of 300,000 tons of TNT – it’s essentially a nuclear bomb that went off in the skies over Russia today,” Beatty said.

The meteorite may have been as large as 50 feet across and 7,000 tons when it came into the atmosphere, Beatty said.

It broke up 18-32 miles over the Chelyabinsk region, causing windows to shatter and leaving a crater about 20 feet across.

“We’re lucky that it didn’t hit a little bit lower down or over a truly populated area because the damage could have been much more substantial,” Beatty said.

The meteor and the asteroid fly-by later today are unrelated.

“They’re simply not coming from the same direction,” Beatty said.

According to Russia Today, a local zinc factory was hit the hardest by the meteor; some of its walls collapsed.

It’s not clear whether any people were struck by meteorite fragments; most people were injured by shards of glass.

Many local residents have posted their videos of the meteor online. Dashboard-mounted cameras are popular in Russia, so much of the video was captured by commuters.

A compilation of amateur and surveillance videos, posted by Russia Today:

The sonic blasts are experienced while looking out a window:

The sonic blasts are experienced on the street (Note: contains swearing):

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this article.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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