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Entries in Meteor (3)

Monday
Feb182013

Russian Meteor: Close Encounters and Plans to Prevent Impacts

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(MOSCOW)-- As if Friday’s massive meteor explosion over central Russia weren’t enough, just hours later a large asteroid buzzed dangerously close to Earth.

And that evening, the California sky was lit up by a fireball, apparently entering Earth’s atmosphere.

It’s a barrage from space that has people asking: Are we ready for the big one?

Nearly 100 tons of space debris enters Earth’s atmosphere every day. Most of it burns up or falls harmlessly into the ocean, but experts still worry that eventually something big will come our way.

The prospect of Earth getting hit by a giant hunk of space rock is concerning enough that the United Nations is gathering top minds in Italy this week to discuss it.

Scientists say the idea of blowing up an asteroid — as Bruce Willis’ character did in the movie Armageddon — is pure Hollywood fantasy. Even if we could hit it, it’s unlikely to stop it.

Existing sky-watching programs run by NASA and others can only spot the biggest asteroids, not the small ones that sneak up on us.

But fear not, citizens of Earth. Scientists have a plan.

One group, the non-profit B612 Foundation, proposes sending a telescope, called Sentinel, into space to detect incoming objects decades before their orbits intersect ours. Then, unmanned spacecraft could fly to them and nudge them clear of Earth’s path.

The group is trying to raise $200 million to make it happen and hopes to launch the telescope by 2016.

Another project, proposed by the University of Hawaii, aims to give earthlings a heads-up when necessary, starting by 2015.

It is called the Atlas program, and the plan is to deploy a string of telescopes that would search for even smaller objects in the sky, hoping to be able to give people at least a few day’s notice that could allow time for an evacuation.

Until then, better keep Bruce Willis on speed dial.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb182013

Russian Meteor: Scientists Say Meteor Pieces Found Near Frozen Lake

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHEBARKUL, Russia) -- Scientists confirmed Saturday the first recovered fragments of the giant meteor that exploded over this region on Friday, according to Russian media.

The fragments were found on the edge of a giant hole in a frozen lake in this tiny village, thought to have been created when a sizable chunk of space rock came crashing down, RIA Novosti reported.

Earlier in the day, authorities called off the search for space debris that may have fallen into the frigid waters.

On Saturday divers looked for any evidence of a meteorite on the lake bottom, but came up empty. Some officials began to doubt publicly whether the hole had indeed been caused by falling debris.

Amateur explorers, meanwhile, have been scouring the countryside for their own fragments, which could be worth thousands of dollars.

Mikhail Udovinko, who is studying metallurgy at the university, found a small stone near the edge of the hole he thinks was part of Friday's meteor.

He says the stone responds to magnets and even has some weak radioactive properties.

The hole in the lake, meanwhile, has become something of a tourist destination. A steady stream of people made the long trek across the ice to see it firsthand.

Locals were amused at all the attention their little town is getting.

"Our town is very small. Now it is very famous. Unbelievable," a student named Svetlana said.

At a church near the lake, Father Dimitri says he believes God saved the village from the meteor strike and suggested its timing had religious significance.

"This event happened the day of the big Orthodox holiday that means meeting with God and this has to make people think," he said.

The meteor was travelling at 46,000 mph when it hit the Earth's atmosphere and exploded, according to new data from Paul Abell at the Johnson Space Center.

It exploded in the atmosphere because its composition is stony, rather than metallic, like the meteor that left a massive crater in Arizona, Abell said.

The Tunguska asteroid in 1908 was also stony, which is why it also exploded above the Earth's surface.

The odd coincidence of the DA 14 asteroid flyby and the meteor explosion occurring in the same day has amped up concerns about what else is out there and whether the planet can be protected.

The White House, Congress, and the United Nations have all asked to be briefed on this event, Abell said.

Cleanup and repair of the damage caused by the explosion has been proceeding on schedule, Russian authorities said.

All the schools, pre-schools and hospitals that were damaged by the explosion have been restored, Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said.

"All the medical, educational and social buildings have been restored. Studies at all children's educational institutions in the Chelyabinsk Region will continue on Monday," Rospotrebnadzor said in a statement.

The explosion blew windows at 700 schools and pre-schools and at more than 200 hospitals and social security facilities, while approximately 100,000 homes were damaged, Chelyabinsk region governor Mikhail Yurevich said, according to RIA Novosti.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb172013

Russian Meteor: Rushing to Cash in on the Blast

Chad Baker/Photodisc/Thinkstock(CHELYABINSK, Russia) -- The shattered glass and broken walls caused by the massive explosion of a monstrous meteor over this remote, industrial Russian city is not even cleaned up, and people are already trying to cash in.

Some residents want to turn this city known mostly for its tank factory into a tourist destination, while others from all around the world are determined to find fragments of the meteorite.

Meteor hunters say it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. A small piece of the space rock that exploded over Russia Friday could be worth thousands of dollars, and bigger chunks could fetch hundreds of thousands.

"I haven't been able to sleep for the last two days because of this," said Michael Farmer, who runs the website Meteor Hunter. "This is a once in a lifetime event. We've never seen anything like this in the last hundred years."

He said he started planning a trip to Chelyabinsk as soon as the meteorite exploded.

"The next morning I was on the phone working on visas. I'd like to get a visa and get over to Russia as quickly as possible," he said. "When this type of thing happens, you know hours count so we try to arrange that as fast as possible."

A day after a massive meteor exploded over this city in central Russia, a monumental cleanup effort is under way.

Authorities have deployed around 24,000 troops and emergencies responders to help in the effort.

Officials say more than a million square feet of windows -- the size of about 20 football fields -- were shattered by the shockwave from the meteor's blast. Around 4,000 buildings in the area were damaged.

The injury toll climbed steadily on Friday. Authorities said on Sunday there are more than 1,200 injuries. Most of those injuries were from broken glass, and only a few hundred required hospitalization.

 

According to NASA, this was the biggest meteor to hit Earth in more than a century. Preliminary figures suggest it was 50 feet wide and weighed more than the Eiffel Tower.

NASA scientists have also estimated the force of the blast that occurred when the meteor fractured upon entering Earth's atmosphere was approximately 470 kilotons -- the equivalent of about 30 Hiroshima bombs, but it did not cause major damage because it occurred so high in the atmosphere.

"This was caused by a small asteroid, about 15 meters in diameter, coming in at around 18 kilometers per second, that's in excess of 40-thousand miles per hour," NASA planetary scientist Paul Abell said. "As the asteroid comes in, it interacts with the atmosphere and effectively it converts all the energy, the kinetic energy of the asteroid, the mass of the asteroid and the velocity and it's actually that velocity, the asteroid just effectively explodes and that creates the pressure wave, the blast wave that comes down."

Treasure hunters hoping to cash in on the bits of space rock aren't the only ones eager to find pieces of the meteor, Abell said. Scientists say the material could offer valuable information.

"One of the things we'd like to learn is first of all, what was the composition of the asteroid, where did it come from," he said. "We know it came from the asteroid belt but can we link it to a bigger asteroid and also, get an idea of the dispersal pattern."

Residents said they still can't believe it happened here.

"It was something we only saw in the movies," one university student said. "We never thought we would see it ourselves."

Throughout the city, the streets are littered with broken glass. Local officials have announced an ambitious pledge to replace all the broken windows within a week.

Authorities have sent divers into a frozen lake outside the city, where a large chunk of the meteor is believed to have landed, creating a large hole in the ice.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio