Meteor fireball seen from Kamensk-Uralsky where it was still dawn, in an oblast north of Chelyabinsk
|Date||15 February 2013|
|Time||09:20 YEKT (UTC+06:00)|
|Also known as||Chelyabinsk meteorite|
|Cause||Meteor air burst|
|Property damage||Over 7,200 damaged buildings, collapsed factory roof, shattered windows|
On 15 February 2013, a small asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere over Russia at about 09:20 YEKT (03:20 UTC) with an estimated speed of 18.6 km/s (over 41,000 mph)—approximately 50 times the speed of sound at that altitude—and quickly became a brilliant superbolide meteor—the Chelyabinsk meteor—over the southern Ural region. The dazzling light of the meteor was brighter than the sun, and bright enough to cast moving shadows during the morning in Chelyabinsk. It was observed over a wide area of the region and in neighbouring republics. Eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball.
Due to its enormous velocity and shallow atmospheric entry angle, the object exploded in an air burst over the Chelyabinsk Oblast, at a height of about 23.3 km (14.5 miles). The explosion generated a bright flash, producing many small fragmentary meteorites and a powerful shock wave. The atmosphere absorbed most of the object's energy, with a total kinetic energy before atmospheric impact equivalent to approximately 440 kilotons of TNT (about 1.8 PJ), 20–30 times more energy than was released from the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima.
The object was undetected before its atmospheric entry and its explosion created considerable confusion among local residents. About 1,500 people were injured seriously enough to seek medical treatment. All of the injuries were due to indirect effects rather than the meteor itself, mainly from broken glass from windows that were blown in when the shock wave arrived, which came minutes after the superbolide's flash. Some 7,200 buildings in six cities across the region were damaged by the explosion's shock wave, and authorities scrambled to help repair the structures in sub-zero temperatures.
With an estimated initial mass of about 10,000 tonnes (11,000 short tons, heavier than the Eiffel Tower), and measuring between 17 to 20 metres in size, it is the largest known natural object to have entered Earth's atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event which destroyed a wide, remote forest area of Siberia. The Chelyabinsk meteor is also the only meteor confirmed to have resulted in a large number of injuries. The predicted close approach of a second asteroid, the roughly 30-metre 2012 DA14 occurred about 16 hours later; detailed analysis of the two objects later determined that they were unrelated to each other.
Local residents witnessed extremely bright burning objects in the sky in Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen, and Orenburg Oblasts, the Republic of Bashkortostan, and in neighbouring regions in Kazakhstan, when an asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere over Russia. Amateur videos showed a fireball streaking across the sky and a loud boom several minutes afterwards. Eyewitnesses also felt intense heat from the fireball.
The event began at 09:20 Yekaterinburg time, several minutes after sunrise in Chelyabinsk, and minutes before sunrise in Yekaterinburg. According to eyewitnesses the bolide was brighter than the sun, a fact later confirmed by NASA. An image of the object was also taken shortly after it entered the atmosphere by the weather satellite Meteosat 9. Witnesses in Chelyabinsk said that the air of the city smelled like gunpowder.
The visible phenomenon due to the passage of an asteroid or meteoroid through the atmosphere is called a meteor. If the object reaches the ground, then it is called a meteorite. During the Chelyabinsk meteor's traversal, there was a bright object trailing smoke, then an air burst (explosion) that caused a powerful shock wave, the cause of the damage to thousands of buildings in Chelyabinsk and its neighbouring towns. The fragments entered dark flight (without the emission of light) and created a strewn field of numerous meteorites on the snow-covered ground (officially named Chelyabinsk meteorites).
According to the Russian Federal Space Agency, preliminary estimates indicated the object was an asteroid moving at about 30 km/s in a "low trajectory" when it entered Earth's atmosphere. According to the Russian Academy of Sciences, the meteor then pushed through the atmosphere at a velocity of 15 km/s. The radiant (the apparent position of origin of the meteor in the sky) appears from video recordings to have been above and to the left of the rising Sun.
The United States space agency NASA estimated the diameter of the bolide at about 17–20 m and has revised the mass several times from an initial 7,700 tonnes (7,600 long tons; 8,500 short tons), until reaching a final estimate of 10,000 tonnes, (11,000 short tons, greater than the total weight of the Eiffel Tower). The air burst and shock wave registered on seismographs at magnitude 2.7. On 1 March 2013 NASA published a detailed synopsis of the event, stating that at peak brightness at (09:20:33 local time), the meteor was 23.3 km (14.5 miles) high, located at 54.8°N, 61.1°E. At that time it was travelling at about 18.6 km/s (11.6 mi/s), (about 67,000 km/h, or about 41,750 mph).
The Russian Geographical Society said the passing of the meteor over Chelyabinsk caused three blasts of different power. The first explosion was the most powerful, and was preceded by a bright flash, which lasted about five seconds. Initial altitude estimates ranged from 30–70 km, with an explosive equivalent of roughly 500 kilotonnes of TNT (2,100 TJ), and the hypocentre of the explosion was to the south of Chelyabinsk, in Yemanzhelinsk and Yuzhnouralsk. Due to the height of the air burst, the atmosphere fortunately absorbed most of the explosion's energy, The explosion's shock wave reached Chelyabinsk and environs between less than 2 minutes 23 seconds  and 2 minutes 57 seconds later. The object did not release all of its energy in the form of an explosion, as some 90 kilotons of TNT (about 3.75 x 1014 joules, or 0.375 PJ), of the total energy of the fireball was emitted as visible light according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The infrasound waves given off by the explosions were detected by 17 monitoring stations designed to detect nuclear weapons testing run by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission, including at the most distant Antarctic station, some 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mi) away. The meteor explosion produced the largest infrasounds ever to be recorded by a United Nations monitoring system, so great that they reverberated around the world several times, taking over a day to dissipate. Additional scientific analysis of US military infrasound data was aided by an agreement reached with US authorities to allow its use by civilian scientists, implemented only about a month before the Chelyabinsk meteor event.
Analysis of CCTV and dash cam video posted online indicates that the meteor approached from east by south, and exploded about 40 km south of central Chelyabinsk above Korkino at a height of 23.3 km (14.5 miles), with fragments continuing in the direction of Lake Chebarkul.
The last time a similar phenomenon was observed in the Chelyabinsk region was the Kunashak meteor shower of 1949, after which scientists recovered about 20 meteorites weighing over 200 kg in total. The Chelyabinsk meteor is thought to be the biggest natural space object to enter Earth's atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event, and the only one confirmed to have resulted in a large number of injuries,[Note 1] although a small number of panic-related injuries occurred during the Great Madrid Meteor Event of 10 February 1896.
Although it is not yet clear if the 6 metre (20 ft) wide hole in Lake Chebarkul's frozen surface was the result of an impact, scientists from the Ural Federal University have collected 53 samples from around the hole. The specimens are all under 1 cm (0.4 in) in size and initial laboratory analysis confirmed their meteoric origin. They are ordinary chondrite meteorites and contain 10% iron. The official name for such fragments is designated as Chelyabinsk meteorite.
A team of six Russian Emergencies Ministry scuba divers examined the lake impact site and found no large meteorite fragment at the bottom. A fragment large enough to cause the 6-metre-wide hole in the ice has yet to be found.
In the neighbouring country of Kazakhstan, officials said they were looking for two possible unidentified objects that may have impacted in Aktobe Province, adjacent to the affected Russian regions.
Injuries and damage
The meteor's unpredicted arrival and air burst resulted in considerable injury. Russian authorities stated that 1,491 people, including 311 children, sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk Oblast within the first few days. Health officials said 112 people had been hospitalised, with two in serious condition. A 52-year-old woman with a broken spine was flown to Moscow for treatment. Most people were hurt by shattered, falling or blown-in glass.
After the air blast, car alarms went off and mobile phone networks were overloaded with calls. Office buildings in Chelyabinsk were evacuated. Classes for all Chelyabinsk schools were cancelled, mainly due to broken windows. At least 20 children were injured when the windows of a school and kindergarten were blown in at 09:22. Following the event, government officials in Chelyabinsk asked parents to take their children home from schools.
Approximately 600 m² of a roof at a zinc factory collapsed during the incident. Residents in Chelyabinsk whose windows were smashed quickly sought to cover the openings with anything available, as the temperature in Chelyabinsk and the impact area was −15 °C (5 °F). Approximately 100,000 home-owners were affected, according to Chelyabinsk Oblast Governor Mikhail Yurevich. He also said that preserving the water pipes of the city's central heating system was the primary goal of the authorities as they scrambled to contain further post-explosion damage.
By March 5 the number of damaged buildings was tallied at over 7,200, which included some 6,040 apartment blocks, 293 medical facilities, 718 schools and universities, 100 cultural organizations, and 43 sport facilities, of which only about one and a half percent had not yet been repaired. The oblast's governor estimated the damage to buildings at more than than 1 billion rubles (approximately US$33 million). Chelyabinsk authorities said that broken windows of apartment homes, but not the glazing of enclosed balconies, would be replaced at the state's expense. One of the buildings damaged in the blast was the Traktor Sport Palace, home arena of Traktor Chelyabinsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The arena was closed for inspection, affecting various scheduled events, and possibly the postseason of the KHL.
Dmitry Medvedev, the Prime Minister of Russia, confirmed a meteor had struck Russia and said it proves the "entire planet" is vulnerable to meteors and a spaceguard system is needed to protect the planet from similar objects in the future.Dmitry Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, proposed that there should be an international programme that would alert countries to "objects of an extraterrestrial origin", also called potentially hazardous objects.
Colonel General Nikolay Bogdanov, commander of the Central Military District, created task forces that were directed to the probable impact areas to search for fragments of the asteroid and to monitor the situation. Meteorites (fragments) measuring 1 to 5 cm (0.39 to 2.0 in) have been found 1 km (0.62 mi) from Chebarkul in the Chelyabinsk region.
On the day of the impact, Bloomberg News reported that the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs had suggested the investigation of creating an "Action Team on Near-Earth Objects", a proposed global asteroid warning network system, in face of 2012 DA14's approach. As a result of the impact, two scientists in California have proposed directed-energy weapon technology development as a possible means to protect Earth from asteroids.
|Meteor Air Burst|
|Extensive dash cam footage from the atmospheric entry onwards|
|Bright light and sound recorded by a stationary surveillance camera|
The Russian government put out a brief statement within an hour of the event, but the event was first covered in the US by hockey blog Russian Machine Never Breaks. Discussion on social media sites started almost immediately after the event (including initial scepticism, given the sophistication of modern computer-generated imagery), and heavy coverage by the international media had begun by the time the Associated Press put out a brief report with the Russian government's confirmation less than two hours afterwards. Less than 15 hours after the meteor impact, videos of the meteor and its aftermath had been viewed millions of times.
The number of injuries caused by the asteroid led the Internet-search giant Google to remove a Google Doodle from their website, created for the predicted pending arrival of another asteroid, 2012 DA14. New York City planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson stated the Chelyabinsk meteor was unpredicted because no attempt had been made to find and catalogue every 15-metre near-Earth object. In television media interviews shortly afterwards Tyson also noted the disturbing closeness of the two completely unrelated events.
On 27 March 2013 a broadcast episode of NOVA titled "Meteor Strike" documented the Chelyabinsk meteor, including the large amounts of meteoritic science revealed by the numerous videos of the airburst posted online by ordinary citizens. The NOVA program called the video documentation and the related scientific discoveries of the airburst "unprecedented". The documentary also discussed the much greater tragedy "that could have been" had the asteroid entered the Earth's atmosphere more steeply.
Impactor orbital parameters
Q = Aphelion, q = Perihelion
a = Semi-major axis
e = Eccentricity, i = Inclination
Ω = Ascending node longitude
ω = Argument of perihelion
|Lyytinen via Hankey; AMS||2.53||0.80||1.66||0.52||4.05°||326.43°||116.0°|
|Zuluaga, Ferrin; ArXiv||2.64||0.82||1.73||0.51||3.45°||326.70°||120.6°|
|Borovicka, et al.; IAU 3423||2.33||0.77||1.55||0.50||3.6°||326.41°||109.7°|
Multiple videos of the Chelyabinsk superbolide, particularly from traffic cameras, helped to establish the meteor's provenance as an Apollo asteroid. Sophisticated analysis techniques included the subsequent superposition of nighttime starfield views over recorded daytime images, as well as the plotting of the daytime shadow vectors shown in several online videos.
The asteroid belonged to the Apollo group of near-Earth asteroids, and was roughly 40 days past perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) and had aphelion (furthest distance from the Sun) in the asteroid belt. Several groups independently derived very similar orbits for the object.
In the aftermath of the air burst of the body, a large number of small meteorites fell on areas west of Chelyabinsk, generally at terminal velocity, about the speed of a piece of gravel dropped from a skyscraper. Local residents and schoolchildren located and picked up some of the meteorites, many located in snowdrifts, by following a visible hole that had been left in the outer surface of the snow. Speculators have been active in the informal market that has rapidly emerged for meteorite fragments.
Coincidental asteroid approach
Preliminary calculations showed the object was not related to the 15 February close approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 that subsequently passed the Earth at a distance of 27,700 km. The Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory, Russian sources, the European Space Agency and NASA indicated the two objects could not have been related because the two asteroids had widely different trajectories.
The Chelyabinsk meteor occurred 16 hours before the approach of asteroid 2012 DA14 to the Earth, which was the "closest ever predicted Earth approach" of an object its size. After an initial analysis of photographs from the site, scientists at the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory in Northern Finland concluded that the two trajectories were widely different.
- Historical, normally accurate, Chinese records of the 1490 Ch'ing-yang event describe over 10,000 deaths, but have never been confirmed.
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia. (May 2013)|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 2013 Russian meteor event|
- Meteor vapour trail from space, image captured by EUMETSAT satellite.
- Satellite views of meteor vapor trail over Russia (CIMSS Satellite Blog)
- Russia Meteor Not Linked to Asteroid Flyby – NASA
- Метеоритный удар по Челябинску (Collection of videos and photographs of the meteor and resulting damage). Chelyabinsk website (Russian)
- Meteor Strike, PBS NOVA documentary broadcast, 53 minutes, aired 27 March 2013. Includes extensive scientific analysis of the worldwide infrasound monitoring network data from which the megaton energy estimates were made.
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