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Meteor Explodes Over Central Russia Triggering Destructive Sonic Blast

Meteor Over Chelyabinsk
Travelling at hypersonic speed, the meteor — seen above the city of Chelyabinsk, east of the Ural mountains — exploded and the resulting shock wave smashed windows and set off car alarms. Photo by www.chelyabinsk.ru/REUTERS.

A meteor streaking through the sky Friday morning exploded over Russia’s Ural mountains, injuring nearly 1,000 people and damaging homes and businesses in the Chelyabinsk region, according to Associated Press sources.

“We saw a big burst of light, then went outside to see what it was and we heard a really loud thundering sound,” Sergey Hametov, a resident of Chelyabinsk, told the Associated Press. “There was panic. People had no idea what was happening. Everyone was going around to people’s houses to check if they were OK.”

Watch this video to see the explosion and aftermath of the meteor over Chelyabinsk, including Russians’ reactions.

Residents reported seeing a bright streak of light in the sky, just after sunrise local time. It exploded in a blinding flash followed by a sonic boom as the meteor broke apart, residents told The Associated Press.

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Shock waves from the blast shattered glass in 3,000 buildings and ripped the roof off of a zinc factory, said Chelyabinsk city officials. Voice of Russia radio reported that school children were hospitalized with cuts and concussions.

Chelyabinsk health chief Marina Moskvicheva said 985 people sought medical attention after the explosion, mostly due to injuries from shattered glass. President Vladimir Putin has already issued orders for emergency aid to the region.

The meteor weighed an estimated 10 tons, and fell through the Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 33,000 miles per hour, according to the Russian Academy of Sciences. Meteorites hit earth every year, but most break into pebble-size pieces high in the atmosphere. Scientists said the size of the blast indicates the core of the rock is incredibly strong, but no one is certain if the meteor was rock or iron.

Watch this amateur video to hear the boom from a meteor travelling at hypersonic speed over central Russia Friday.

Asteroid DA14

The meteorite that hit Russia eclipsed expected news that another asteroid, DA14, is expected to fly past Earth Friday at a close, but safe distance. At its closest distance, DA14 will be approximately 17,150 miles from the Earth’s surface.

NASA scientists reported that due to the difference in trajectory — the Russian meteor was traveling north to south and asteroid DA14 traveling south to north — these two space rocks are completely unrelated.

Path of Asteroid on Feb. 15
Click to enlarge. Diagram depicting the passage of asteroid 2012 DA14 through the Earth-moon system on Feb. 15, 2013. Image created by NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech.

Meteorites fall to earth several times a year, but big crashes like the one in Russia are rare, said Addi Bischoff, a mineralogist at the University of Muenster in Germany. Most land in remote areas and cause little to no damage, he added.

Scientists in Europe, Russia and the United States are working on ways to predict meteorite strikes in the futures, European Space Agency spokesman Bernhard von Weyhe told Associated Press. But don’t expect a “Armageddon”-style mission, he added.

“It’s a global challenge and we need to find a solution together,” he said. “But one thing’s for sure, the Bruce Willis ‘Armageddon’ method won’t work.”

Explore more reaction to news of the Russian meteor below:

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