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Feb 15 2013

Awesome cool scary horrible frightening!

A meteor exploded over Russia, injuring hundreds of people. At last report, no one had been killed, fortunately. Most of the injuries were caused by flying debris from the shock wave, but official police reports are describing the impact site and showing small fragments — it really went kablooiee.

There are also lots of videos of this event, because apparently everyone in Russia drives with a dashboard cam.

Russian drivers are probably scarier than rocks from space (usually), but it’s still got to give you pause— the universe really doesn’t care about us at all, and there is scary stuff whizzing about overhead.

66 comments

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  1. 1
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Also caused by Global Warming

  2. 2
    sunny

    Another sign from God: Mr. Pope please don’t resign.

  3. 3
    glodson

    I think that I would be lucky to come away with only ruining a pair of pants if I saw that first hand.

  4. 4
    Gretchen

    the universe really doesn’t care about us at all

    No, no, no, no…….the universe cares, and it hates Russians!

    That’s how you’re supposed to do it.

    It hates Russians because…..
    they’re persecuting gays
    they’re punishing blasphemy with prison time
    they’re a bunch of godless Communists, or something!

  5. 5
    sundiver

    I’ve always loved Niel DeGrasse Tyson’s rebuttal to all the religiots and mush-brained newagers who claim the “universe is made for us” which proceeds to point out all the places on Earth and throughout the cosmos where humans simply cannot survive. Remember “The Deteriorata’s ” refrain, “You are a fluke of the universe. You have no right to be here. And whether you can hear it or not, the universe is laughing behind your back”.

  6. 6
    infraredeyes

    Well, the Metropolitan of Chelyabinsk and Zlatoust (a species of priest) disagrees with you: Meteorite was Lord’s Message.

  7. 7
    machintelligence

    Gretchen @4
    You must admit that they have had more than their fair share of meteors lately, though.

  8. 8
    Jafafa Hots

    Asteroid 2012 DA14 is supposed to pass about 17,200 miles from earth today, closest so far.
    I’ve been wondering since those broke late last night if this is a chunk that got knocked off some years ago and has been in a similar orbit since.

    If they get samples, this could be cool. They might be able to get an idea.

  9. 9
    Jafafa Hots

    “since those” is supposed to be “since the news”

    new keyboard.

  10. 10
    Marcus Ranum

    Good thing nobody mistook it for an attack and started a war.

  11. 11
    eveningchaos

    The crackpot conspiracy theorist are already saying this is a US ICBM shot down by the Russian air defense (see CBC’s story in the comments section). I guess the cold war never ended.

  12. 12
    Martin Wagner

    Translation: “There’s something you don’t see every day.”

  13. 13
    bortedwards

    I can’t believe how unenthusiastic the driver is! I dont speak russian, but it sounds more like hes Grumbling about the price of vodka than the fact that a huge F***off meteor just arced infront of him!
    Don’t play poker with that man!

  14. 14
    Glen Davidson

    The Fall is the cause of rocks falling from the sky.

    It only makes sense.

    Glen Davidson

  15. 15
    scottlesch

    100s of injured. FOX NEWS says nearly 1000.

  16. 16
    Jacob Schmidt

    CBC reported around 1000 injured as well.

  17. 17
    Holms

    Check out the Bad Astronomer, he has several more videos and a preliminary assessment of the event.

  18. 18
    Richard Smith

    @Glen Davidson (14):

    The Fall is the cause of rocks falling from the sky.

    It only makes sense.

    Well, it would make sense if it wasn’t actually the Winter, almost the Spring…

  19. 19
    ramaus

    It looks to me as if it skimmed through the upper atmosphere and kept going on into space. Possibly at its nearest and white hot some pieces flaked off and these fell to the ground. The most dramatic scenes on the ground appear to be shock wave effects.

  20. 20
    mikeconley

    Damn. Am I the only one who watches those scenes of traffic and this bright light and shifting shadows and thinks, ‘Holy sh*t, there’s a blast wave coming any second…’

    That would probably be the most awesome (in all possible senses) thing I’d ever seen.

  21. 21
    Vall

    It’s the Pope returning to his “fully functional Death Star.”

  22. 22
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    The Fall is the cause of rocks falling from the sky.

    Yes, this song in particular.

  23. 23
    Jafafa Hots

    When the story first broke there was this from a Russian report:
    “A missile salvo blew the meteorite to pieces at an altitude of 20 kilometers, local newspaper Znak reports quoting a source in the military. Regnum news agency quoted a military source who claimed that the vapor condensation trail of the meteorite speaks to the fact that the meteorite was intercepted by air defenses.”

    high-larryus.

  24. 24
    scottlesch

    Oh OK……”The Interior Ministry said 985 ..”

  25. 25
    borax

    Scary and beautiful at the same time.

  26. 26
    Marcus Ranum

    Anyone got a back of the envelope estimate of how much energy was released? I guess that from the time between the explosion and the shockwave you could compute the distance and then from the shockwave at the distance you could estimate the energy?

    It sure does make me understand how a bronze-ager could see something like that and interpret it as a fire chariot or a divine smiting. Didn’t that shockwave sound a bit like “smite!”??

  27. 27
    Reginald Selkirk

    That footage is obviously fake. A real Russian driver stopping at a red light? C’mon.

  28. 28
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    ugh

    I just heard a national sports radio host (who i cannot stand so this isn’t surprising) say this

    You can’t trust meteorologists to predict these things

    Which if you want to take it as nicely as possible, yes he’s correct. But that’s not what he meant.

  29. 29
    michaelbusch

    @Jafafa Hots:

    No. As Phil Plait explains quite well, the Chelyabinsk meteor is entirely unrelated to 2012 DA14. DA14 is traveling from south to north (which is why I’m not observing it here in New Mexico until tonight but my friends in Chile have been having a good time). The Chelyabinsk meteor was traveling at nearly right angles to DA14′s trajectory, on an entirely different orbit. They were also separated by several hundred thousand kilometers. Fireballs like Chelyabinsk actually happen fairly often; just not so often over land and only rarely over cities (e.g. the 2008 TC3 impact over the desert in northern Sudan is more typical).

    @machintelligence:

    Not particularly. Russia does get a lot of meteorites falling inside the country, but that’s because it covers such a large area. If I’m remembering correctly, the last time something like Chelyabinsk happened over a relatively densely-populated region in Russia was in 1947, at Sikhote-Alin near Vladivostok. I have a piece of the impactor siting on my desk next to my computer.

  30. 30
    michaelbusch

    @Marcus Ranum:

    Preliminary estimates of the energy release from the publicly available data are in the few-kiloton range. The Russian and US (and probably other) Earth-monitoring defense satellites will have a better value for the yield, since they count all large fireballs incidentally while monitoring for nuclear bomb air detonations. But they don’t release their data readily.

  31. 31
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    If there’s a baby at the impact site, I hope he’s raised by a kindly farm couple.

  32. 32
    leftwingfox

    Naked Bunny with a Whip: I think we’re looking at a Red Son situation regardless.

  33. 33
    consciousness razor

    Russian drivers are probably scarier than rocks from space (usually), but it’s still got to give you pause— the universe really doesn’t care about us at all, and there is scary stuff whizzing about overhead.

    Just wait until they get flying cars.

    I was promised Russians in flying cars with dashcams.

  34. 34
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    At least nobody can try to blame THIS one on Tesla.

  35. 35
    David Utidjian

    As one wag put it: Meteors are natures way of asking… “So how’s that space program coming along?”

  36. 36
    NelC

    Here’s a Russian blogger who’s collecting video and photos.

    I note that Phil Plait is saying that the destruction was caused by the sonic boom, rather than the meteor exploding. I guess an unstreamlined object travelling hypersonicly is going to cause a pretty big bang, even if it is only the size of a truck.

  37. 37
    michaelbusch

    @NelC:

    Meteorites don’t directly explode. They run into the air at many times the speed of sound and the shock heating and pressure vaporize and fragment them. This one seems to have held together better than most of its size, which made a more concentrated shockwave at the ground and so more broken windows.

  38. 38
    nohellbelowus

    It’s clearly panspermia. Good thing Mother Earth has ways to shut that whole thing down.

  39. 39
    Lofty

    This snippet in my local news made me laugh:

    The panic and confusion that followed Friday’s meteorite crash quickly gave way to typical Russian black humor and entrepreneurial instincts.
    Several people smashed in the windows of their houses in the hopes of receiving compensation, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
    Others quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.
    One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21 last year – when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world – but was delivered late by Russia’s notoriously inefficient postal service.

  40. 40
    carlie

    I burned up a meteor for you, just to say goodbye.
    *sniff*

  41. 41
    cjcolucci

    In America, you find the meteor; in Russia, the meteor finds you.

  42. 42
    jnorris

    Why does God hate Siberia?

  43. 43
    Paul K

    I was up in the middle of the night here in the center of the USA, and checked Bad Astronomy not long after Phil posted about this; not because I had heard anything, but because that’s what I often do before heading to bed. Then I started surfing, and found plenty of ignorance, from calling it a ‘meteor shower’ when it’s clearly the path of a single object breaking up, to claims that it exploded when hit by Russian air defenses. And it wasn’t just bloggers and individuals posting this stuff. I wish I had bookmarked them for reference, but I was pretty sleepy and just kept searching for video.

    I looked at some comments on various threads, and some people were saying they wish they had been there, and others were chastising them because of the damage and injuries. I certainly don’t wish harm on anyone, but for myself, I would gladly have given up the windows on my house and a few broken bones to have experienced this. But maybe that’s just me.

  44. 44
    machintelligence

    mikeconley @ 20

    Damn. Am I the only one who watches those scenes of traffic and this bright light and shifting shadows and thinks, ‘Holy sh*t, there’s a blast wave coming any second…’

    Apparently. Many of those injured by flying glass were looking out of windows to see what caused the flash. The old duck and cover drill would have prevented many injuries, but I bet no one thought of a possible air burst nuke and the associated overpressure wave. (At least until after the fact.)

    “Move to a protected area away from windows or objects that might fall on you. If you see a flash, cover yourself with your coat, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye!”

  45. 45
    Ichthyic

    . And it wasn’t just bloggers and individuals posting this stuff.

    indeed, one of the kookier MPs there claimed it was a US nuclear missile attack.

  46. 46
    Ichthyic

    oh, sorry…

    “Those aren’t meteors falling, it’s the Americans testing new weapons”

    I had incorrectly ascribed him as saying he thought it was an attack.

    *rolleyes*

  47. 47
    Ichthyic

    oh, but the REALLY fun part of that article?

    this I think:

    In regard to antigravity technologies, these have been clearly demonstrated to both exist, and to have been developed in classified military programs.

    who knew Reagan had created a fleet of flying saucers?

  48. 48
    slowdjinn

    who knew Reagan had created a fleet of flying saucers?

    Well, I doubt Reagan had any recollection of this.

  49. 49
    raven

    Xpost from WEIT

    If the dinosaurs had a space program, they would still be around.

    Scientists have been saying for decades that big space rocks exist and will inevitably hit the earth. Just like the dinosaurs found out the hard way.

  50. 50
    Paul K

    In regard to antigravity technologies, these have been clearly demonstrated to both exist, and to have been developed in classified military programs.

    Well, if true, we’ve solved our problem with incoming asteroids, so that’s a win.

  51. 51
    DLC

    Proof that you can get killed just sitting in your home drinking coffee.
    So don’t spend your life cowering and running from every shade and shadow.
    Say “Fuck them!” and go do things. Study, Walk in the park, read, write, adventure , what the fuck ever.
    You only get one shot, and there’s no Jesus to give you another. Live as well as you can while you can, do no harm to others, and try to leave something for those who follow to remember you by.

  52. 52
    David Marjanović

    everyone in Russia drives with a dashboard cam

    That page… I kept giggling in disbelief.

    And that photo of the car door with the warning on it in the comments… just… wow…

    I think that I would be lucky to come away with only ruining a pair of pants if I saw that first hand.

    If you saw it like in the videos, you’d know it’s very far away. That kind of fireball is fucking huge.

    Meteorite was Lord’s Message.

    And quite the anvilicious message it was! A lump of iron and nickel, 2 to 4 m in diameter!!!

    I can’t believe how unenthusiastic the driver is! I dont speak russian, but it sounds more like hes Grumbling about the price of vodka than the fact that a huge F***off meteor just arced infront of him!
    Don’t play poker with that man!

    He’s not even grumbling. He’s so calm that I don’t understand most of what he says, but my impression is he’s, like, saying “Well, fascinating.” without lifting his eyebrow.
    Nope, don’t play poker with that man. o_O

    It’s the Pope returning to his “fully functional Death Star.”

    Thread won.

    If I’m remembering correctly, the last time something like Chelyabinsk happened over a relatively densely-populated region in Russia was in 1947, at Sikhote-Alin near Vladivostok.

    …where “relatively densely populated” means “populated at all”, and “near Vladivostok” means “maybe the length of Texas north of it”. :-)

    It’s clearly panspermia. Good thing Mother Earth has ways to shut that whole thing down.

    ROTFLMAO!!! X-D X-D X-D X-D X-D X-D X-D

    In America, you find the meteor; in Russia, the meteor finds you.

    Full of win!

    Well, I doubt Reagan had any recollection of this.

    + 1

  53. 53
    michaelbusch

    @myself @30:

    I am now finding widely-ranging estimates of the impact energy, derived by various indirect means (approximate size and low-altitude velocity of the bolide, volume and duration of the sound, etc.). These range from a few kilotons up to a bit over 100 kilotons. I suspect that we will have to get used to large error bars until and unless the defense groups are persuaded to supply the measurements from the monitoring satellites – those work with fairly well-calibrated lightcurve measurements.

  54. 54
    robro

    @NeLC — Thanks for the link. Interesting collection. There’s one photograph of a building with smoke billowing out of it. If that’s from a meteorite hitting it, it looks reasonably serious. I wonder if that’s the zinc processing plant that was apparently damaged.

    And my goodness, look at how well those Russians are driving. Why after watching some of those car-cam collections, I thought they were just all tearing around like madmen all the time. Perhaps there’s a selection bias at play.

    Oh, someone wondered about the driver’s grumpy voice in one of the videos: I think you’re hearing an announcer on the radio because after a few moments music starts playing, something duly Euro-poppity-pop-pop.

  55. 55
    Crudely Wrott

    In all, an amazing day to increase public awareness of the dynamicism and immediacy of this small part of the universe we inhabit.

    Most people have a Star Wars concept of meteors and asteroids; they’re all gathered up in something like a scrum. Fact is, if you were to stand on a main belt asteroid and scan the skies around you the sky would be empty but for the distant stars. You’d need a fairly good telescope to see a nearby asteroid; unless you knew exactly where to look and it was favorably lit by the sun from your perspective. Space is big. It’s heartbreakingly big.

    And, relative speed. The Russian bolide this morning came from the east and the earth is orbiting the sun to the east, as observed from, say, a point just outside the earth’s orbit. It does so at nearly thirty kilometers per second.If the speed of the bolide was close to the estimated velocity (insert source of your choice here) it was the sum of the object’s velocity and the orbital speed of the earth. I’ve chosen, just for fun, Roscosmos’ preliminary estimate of that sum as, guess what? Thirty kilometers per second. That means that the meteor in question might have been traveling along earth’s orbit at a paltry speed relative to earth’s velocity and, instead of it hitting us, we ran right up it’s ass. Like a dawdling driver in the left lane, it got run over by a semi traveling at the speed limit.

    The bolide did not burn up due to friction. It burst asunder due to sudden and very high compression caused by its impact with the atmosphere. To get a basic understanding of this effect, try this the next time you are relaxing a warm tub. Press your open hand gently against the surface of the water. Goes right on down, right? Next, raise your hand up and slap the water hard. Your hand stops, right? And perhaps stings.

    The same thing happens when a meteor hits the atmosphere. Though air is much less dense than water the speed of the meteor is several orders of magnitude higher than the velocity of your hand. When the meteor hits the atmosphere it undergoes a sudden and profound deceleration. This not only puts very high pressure on the meteor but also compresses the air in front of it. The air can only move out of the way so fast, the speed of sound. The meteor is moving many times faster. The forces that are experienced by the meteor are astounding. Deformation and fracturing happen faster than an eye blink. The meteor begins to suffer structural failure. Since the air it is compressing cannot move out of the way fast enough it heats up and becomes a plasma, exceedingly hot, glowing like it does around a returning shuttle.

    We then have a fracturing stone/metal object stressed beyond its structural limits and doing so inside a sheath of gaseous plasma. This makes for a confusing spectacle for ground observers, a confusion that is exacerbated by the fact that it is sudden, unannounced, unexpected.

    Now, all that energy that has been taken from the meteor by the atmosphere has to go somewhere, and it does, at the speed of sound. It radiates outward in a cone. Those sections of the cone that travel upwards or on a vector that clears the horizon will scarce be noticed by anyone. Not so with that section of the cone that traveles down or at some vector that intersects the surface of the earth close by. The result is tumbled walls, broken glass and lots of people clapping hands over ears, right now!

    The meteor, now slowing and fragmenting is relieved of the stresses and the air in front of it is compressed and heated less and less. This whole process can be clearly seen is several of the videos that we are fortunate to have delivered to us so quickly. An amazing spectacle and demonstration of physics delivered around the world in near real time. Not so rare a spectacle as you may think, though. Objects up to the size of this morning’s sudden visitor pay us visits several times each year. Larger ones much less often and ones that are much smaller almost constantly. Our skies are busy places and that traffic is not just airplanes.

    I can imagine how frightening it must have been to be nearly underneath this event but another part of me is jealous of their fortunate point of view.

    I hope this long winded post was helpful in fleshing out what happened and why. The earth is a marvelous and constantly astounding place, but so is that greater sea in which it swills and gyres. The thin layer of air above us is the interface and is always a fascinating place.

    As always, keep your eyes on the skies; but don’t forget to look where you are putting your feet.

    (geeze, up, down, up, down. how’s a body supposed to get any rest?)

  56. 56
    Crudely Wrott

    Error report.

    My description of the earth running over the meteor are in error. Now that I’ve built a small model on my desk top using an ashtray, a lighter and a small flashlight, I can see that the meteor approached from slightly behind and from inside the orbit of the earth. My model does not take into account vectors from above or below the orbital plane. I should be more careful.

    So, instead of a dawdling driver being run over from behind, the meteor was more like a distracted driver failing to merge properly into traffic.

    Apologies and only a little blushing. See, I’m not an astronomer. But, you knew that. ;^>

  57. 57
    cyberax

    He’s not even grumbling. He’s so calm that I don’t understand most of what he says, but my impression is he’s, like, saying “Well, fascinating.” without lifting his eyebrow.

    He’s actually saying “That’s fucking fascinating!” (using obscene words only, I might add).

  58. 58
    Lofty

    In any case, the rock got a speeding ticket slapped on it, hard. How soon before fragments appear on ebay? Someone will undoubtedly do some fishing in the frozen over local lake.

  59. 59
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    Clearly Gawd was trying to take out those oppressive gays who have ground the Canadian heteros under their jack-booted heel. He just missed, like usual.

    And thank you Crudely Wrott, that was most informative.

  60. 60
    Crudely Wrott

    Lofty, I understand that the offers of fragments for sale or barter began before the vapor trails had fully dissipated. They were, of course, equally vaporous.

    I also read that some of the good citizens near the area broke their own windows so they could be compensated. No word yet if any cut themselves or pushed shards into their faces.

  61. 61
    Crudely Wrott

    Oh, there was a laugher from Russia Today just minutes after the event. They reported that Russian Air Defense had detected and destroyed the interloper. Their evidence? Why, the trails of vapor, of course. Plain evidence of interceptors going up, doncha’ know . . .

  62. 62
    Crudely Wrott

    . . . and, thank you, Dave. My pleasure. You are most welcomed.

  63. 63
    Forbidden Snowflake

    The driver may sound calm, but he’s actually saying “holy fuck!” and “fuck me, a meteorite!” over and over again.

  64. 64
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    There are also lots of videos of this event, because apparently everyone in Russia drives with a dashboard cam.

    In not-quite-Soviet-again-yet Russia, car watches you!

  65. 65
    Lofty

    In not-quite-Soviet-again-yet Russia, car watches you!

    Little Brother is Watching You….
    The democritisation of paranoia!

  66. 66
    David Marjanović

    using obscene words only, I might add

    Details on how this works are here, especially in a comment by the author currently about halfway down the page (timestamp February 17, 2013 09:48 AM – nope, no numbers, no direct links, ancient blog).

    In not-quite-Soviet-again-yet Russia, car watches you!

    Little Brother is Watching You….
    The democritisation of paranoia!

    So true, so true.

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