Possible Huge Meteorite Fragment Recovered From Russian Fireball

A half-ton meteorite — presumably from the Russian fireball that broke up over Chelyabinsk in February — was dragged up from Lake Chebarkul in the Urals, Russian media reports said. Scientists estimate the chunk is about 1,260 pounds (570 kilograms), but couldn’t get a precise measurement in the field because the bulky bolide broke the scale, according to media reports.

“The preliminary examination… shows that this is really a fraction of the Chelyabinsk meteorite,” said Sergey Zamozdra, associate professor of Chelyabinsk State University, in reports from Interfax and RT.

A polished slice of one of Russian meteorite samples. You can see round grains called chondrules and shock veins lined with melted rock. The meteorite is probably non-uniform. The preliminary analysis showed that the meteorite belongs to chemical type L or LL, petrologic type 5.
A polished slice of one of Russian meteorite samples (different samples than what was reportedly recovered on Oct. 16). You can see round grains called chondrules and shock veins lined with melted rock. The meteorite is probably non-uniform. The preliminary analysis showed that the meteorite belongs to chemical type L or LL, petrologic type 5.

“It’s got thick burn-off, the rust is clearly seen and it’s got a big number of indents. This chunk is most probably one of the top ten biggest meteorite fragments ever found.”

The big rock was first spotted in September, but it’s taken several attempts to bring it to the surface. If scientists can confirm this came from the fireball, this would be the biggest piece recovered yet. The chunk is reportedly in a natural history museum, where a portion will be X-rayed to determine its origins.

More than 1,000 people were injured and millions of dollars in damage occurred when the meteor broke up in the atmosphere Feb. 15, shattering glass and causing booms.

Since then, there have been numerous papers concerning the meteor’s origins (from the Apollo class of asteroids — you can read this article if you’re unclear on the difference between an asteroid and a meteorite) and tracking the spread of dust through the atmosphere, among other items.

Russian Meteor Experienced Melting Before Slamming Into Earth: Study

A collision or “near miss” caused melting in the Chelyabinsk meteor before it slammed into Earth’s atmosphere this February, causing damage and injuries to hundreds in the remote Russian region.

A new study, presented at the Goldschmidt Conference in Florence, Italy, says some meteorite fragments’ composition shows strong evidence of heating, which is an indication of interplanetary violence of some sort.

“The meteorite which landed near Chelyabinsk is a type known as an LL5 chondrite, and it’s fairly common for these to have undergone a melting process before they fall to Earth,” stated Victor Sharygin, a researcher from the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy in Russia.

“This almost certainly means that there was a collision between the Chelyabinsk meteorite and another body in the solar system, or a near miss with the Sun.”

Chelyabinsk’s size of 59 feet (18 meters) was by no means a very large meteor, but it was enough to cause car alarms to go off and to shatter glass when it exploded over Russia on Feb. 15. Its arrival brought the danger of space rocks once again to public attention.

In just the few short months since its arrival, a number of research studies have begun to sketch out its origins and effects. One recent NASA study showed that the cloud of dust from the explosion spread around the northern hemisphere in days.

Model and satellite data show that four days after the bolide explosion, the faster, higher portion of the plume (red) had snaked its way entirely around the northern hemisphere and back to Chelyabinsk, Russia. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization
Model and satellite data show that four days after the bolide explosion, the faster, higher portion of the plume (red) had snaked its way entirely around the northern hemisphere and back to Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization

Sharygin’s team analyzed several fragments of the meteorites and put them into three groups: light, dark and intermediate. Lights ones were the most abundant. Dark fragments were most commonly found in the area where the meteorite hit the Earth.

While only three of the dark fragments show there was previous melting, the researchers say it’s quite possible that more samples might be available from the public and most notably, from the main portion that is still at the bottom of Chebarkul Lake.

“The dark fragments include a large proportion of fine-grained material, and their structure, texture and mineral composition shows they were formed by a very intensive melting process,” a press release stated.

“This material is distinct from the ‘fusion crust’ – the thin layer of material on the surface of the meteorite that melts, then solidifies, as it travels through the Earth’s atmosphere.”

A "fusion crust" or melting is visible in this fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Credit: Victor Sharygin
A “fusion crust” or melting is visible in this fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. Credit: Victor Sharygin

Researchers also spotted “bubbles” in the dark fragments that they consider either “perfect crystals” of oxides, silicates and metal or little spots that are filled up with sulfide or metal.

They also saw platinum-type elements in the crust, which was a surprise as the time it takes for a crust to fuse is too short for platinum to form.

“We think the appearance (formation) of this platinum group mineral in the fusion crust may be linked to compositional changes in metal-sulfide liquid during remelting and oxidation processes as the meteorite came into contact with atmospheric oxygen,” Sharygin stated.

The work is ongoing, and no submission date for a study for publication was disclosed.

Source: EurekAlert!

Russian Meteorite Bits Will Be Used In Some 2014 Olympic Medals

Going for gold in the Sochi Winter Olympics could earn athletes some out-of-this-world rocks.

Athletes who top the podium on Feb. 15, 2014 will receive special medals with pieces of the Chelyabinsk meteor that broke up over the remote Russian community on that day in 2013, according to media reports.

“We will hand out our medals to all the athletes who will win gold on that day, because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic Games are the global events,” stated Chelyabinsk Region Culture Minister Alexei Betekhtin in a Ria Novosti report.

The reported sports that will receive these medals include:

  • Women’s 1,000 meter and men’s 1,500 meter short track;
  • Men’s skeleton;
  • Women’s cross-country skiing relay;
  • Men’s K-125 ski jump;
  • Men’s 1,500 meter speed skating;
  • Women’s super giant slalom.

The 55-foot (17-meter) meteor’s airburst in February damaged buildings, causing injuries and fright among those in the region. As astronomers have been collecting fragments and calculating the orbit of the fireball, the incident put renewed attention on the need to monitor space rocks that could threaten the Earth.

Check out this Universe Today collection of videos showing what the meteor looked like.

Giant Ancient Impact Crater Confirmed in Iowa

A monster lurks under northeastern Iowa. That monster is in the form of a giant buried basin, the result of a meteorite impact in central North America over 470 million years ago.

A recent aerial survey conducted by the state of Minnesota Geological Survey and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirms the existence of an impact structure long suspected near the eastern edge of the town of Decorah, Iowa. The goal of the 60 day survey was a routine look at possible mineral and water resources in the region, but the confirmation of the crater was an added plus. Continue reading “Giant Ancient Impact Crater Confirmed in Iowa”

This is NOT the Russian Meteorite Crater

There’s been a lot of really incredible videos and images of the meteor that streaked across Russian skies on Feb. 15, 2013… but this isn’t one of them.

I recently spotted it on YouTube, uploaded by several users and claiming to be a crater from the meteorite. Whether done purposely to deceive or just in error, the fact is that this isn’t from that event. Actually it’s not even a meteorite crater at all.

What this video shows is a feature in Derweze, Turkmenistan. It’s the remains of a 1971 drilling project by Soviet geologists. When the ground under their rig collapsed after breaking into an underground cavern full of natural gas, the geologists decided to set the borehole on fire to flare off the gases.

Panorama of The Door to Hell (Tormod Sandtorv/Wikipedia)
Panorama of The Door to Hell (Tormod Sandtorv/Wikipedia)

They assumed all the gas would soon burn off and the fire would go out. But it’s still burning today, nearly 42 years later.

The fiery glow from the circular pit has inspired the hole’s local name, “The Door to Hell.” You can find some photos of this infernal feature here.

Anyway, in the nature of not only informing but also preventing the spread of disinformation, hopefully this will help clear up any confusion for those who might run across the same video in coming days. News about the Russian meteor is still — no pun intended — very hot right now, and it’s likely that at least a few fraudulent articles might try to garner some attention.

If you want to see some real videos of the meteor, check out our original breaking news article here and see some photos of an actual resulting crater — icy, not fiery — in a frozen Russian lake here.

In order to not make for more easy hits on the incorrectly-titled video I did not set it to play. If you do still want to watch it, you can find it here.

Airburst Explained: NASA Addresses the Russian Meteor Explosion

A small asteroid entered Earth’s atmosphere early Friday, February 15, 2013 over Chelyabinsk, Russia at about 9:20 am local Russian time. Initial estimates, according to Bill Cooke, lead for the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, is that the asteroid was about 15 meters (50 feet) in diameter, with a weight of 7,000 metric tons. It hit the atmosphere at a shallow angle of about 20 degrees, at a speed of about 65,000 km/h (40,000 mph).

It traveled through the atmosphere for about 30 seconds before breaking apart and producing violent airburst ‘explosion’ about 20-25 km (12-15 miles) above Earth’s surface, producing an energy shockwave equivalent to a 300 kilotons explosion. That energy propagated down through the atmosphere, stuck the city below – the Chelyabinsk region has a population of about 1 million — and windows were broken, walls collapsed and there were other reports of minor damage throughout the city.

The official impact time was 7:20:26 p.m. PST, or 10:20:26 p.m. EST on Feb. 14 (3:20:26 UTC on Feb. 15).

Cooke said that at this time, the known damage is not due to fragments of the bolide striking the ground but only from the airburst. “There are undoubtedly fragments on the ground, but at the current time no pieces have been recovered that we can verify with any certainty,” Cooke said during a media teleconference today.

He added that the space rock appears to be “an asteroid in nature,” – likely a rocky asteroid since it broke apart in the atmosphere. It wasn’t detected by telescopes searching for asteroids because of its small size, but also because “it came out of the daylight side of our planet – was in the daylight sky and as a result was not detected by any earth based telescopes. #RussianMeteor was not detected from Earth because it came from the daylight side (i.e the Sun-facing side of Earth).

The meteor left a trail in the sky about 480 km (300 miles) long.

Cooke, along with Paul Chodas, a research scientist in the Near Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that asteroids this size hit the Earth on average about once every 100 years. “These are rare events, and it was an incredible coincidence that it happened on the same day as the close flyby of Asteroid 2012 DA14,” Chodas said. “The two are not related in any way.”

The Russian meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia. Oddly enough, the Tunguska event was caused by an object about the size of 2012 DA14, the asteroid that flew by Earth today harmlessly. The meteor, which was about one-third the diameter of asteroid 2012 DA14, became brighter than the Sun, as seen in some of the videos here. Its trail was visible for about 30 seconds, so it was a grazing impact through the atmosphere.

There were certainly pieces that hit the ground, according to Jon M. Friedrich from Fordham University. “For something that created a bolide and sonic detonation of the size seen in Russia, it seems likely that fragments reached the earth,”Friedrich said in an email to Universe Today. “In fact, there are reports of a crater in a frozen lake and other locations that were in the path of the meteor. The resulting fragments are not likely large – I’d expect some of the absolute largest to be football to basketball sized, with many fragments being smaller, like marbles.”

Chodas said that defending the Earth against tiny asteroids like this is challenging issue, “something that is not currently our goal,” he said. “NASA’s goal it to find the larger asteroids. Even 2012 DA14 is on the smaller size. The tiny asteroid that hit over Russia is very difficult to detect, an in order to defend the Earth, the problem and issue there is to find these things early enough to do something about it if we wanted to divert it. While smaller asteroids are easier to divert, they are much more difficult to detect.”

“What an amazing day for near Earth objects,” Chodas said, “with two events happening on the same day.”

The lead animation courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc.

Latest Video of Asteroid 2012 DA14 Steaking Towards Close Shave with Earth – as Meteor explodes over Russia

Here’s the latest video of the fast approaching asteroid named 2012 DA14 that’s screeching towards our planet and set to give us all a very close shave this afternoon, shortly after 2 PM EST. NASA TV will provide Live coverage starting at 2 PM EST. Continue reading “Latest Video of Asteroid 2012 DA14 Steaking Towards Close Shave with Earth – as Meteor explodes over Russia”

Russian Meteor Not Related to Asteroid Flyby, NASA Confirms

The meteor that streaked over the skies of Russia — creating a shockwave that shattered windows, injuring upwards of 1,000 people — is not related to the asteroid that will whiz past Earth later today, (Feb.15), NASA has confirmed.

As many of our readers have noted in comments on our previous story on the Russian meteor, the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, making it a completely unrelated object.

“Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite and analysis is preliminary at this point,” NASA said in a statement. “In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”

Images and video of the Russian bolide taken from satellites in Earth orbit confirm the trajectory:

An image from the SEVIRI instrument aboard the Meteosat-10 geostationary satellite. The vapor trail left by the meteor that was seen near Chelyabinsk in Russia on 15th February 2013 is visible in the center of the image. Original data Copyright EUMETSAT 2013
An image from the SEVIRI instrument aboard the Meteosat-10 geostationary satellite. The vapor trail left by the meteor that was seen near Chelyabinsk in Russia on 15th February 2013 is visible in the center of the image. Original data Copyright EUMETSAT 2013

Reports are still coming in, but perhaps more than 1,000 people were injured, according to a statement from the Russian Emergency Ministry, primarily by glass cuts when windows were shattered from the shockwave blast. The vapor trail of the meteor was visible before the blast, so many people were standing in front of windows, looking at the trail visible across the sky.

The meteor appeared in the skies at around 09:25 a.m. local time in the Chelyabinsk region, near the southern Ural Mountains. It disintegrated and ‘exploded’ about 30-50 kilometers above Earth’s surface. The fireball blinded drivers and a subsequent explosion blew out windows. Reports of damaged buildings are being checked.

Initial estimates for the Russian Meteor are that it was a 1.5 meter-wide object weighing about 10 tons, traveling at 15 km/s.

Meteosat-10 image of Meteoroid trail aligned border with Kazakhstan in Google Maps. Credit: Paul Attivissimo
Meteosat-10 image of Meteoroid trail aligned border with Kazakhstan in Google Maps. Credit: Paul Attivissimo

Nature News is reporting that this morning was the largest recorded object to strike the Earth in more than a century. “Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today’s blast released hundreds of kilotonnes of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago and the largest rock crashing on the planet since a meteor broke up over Siberia’s Tunguska river in 1908<" Nature News said. [caption id="attachment_100015" align="aligncenter" width="580"]Satellite images from the European MET-7 weather satellite. Credit: EUMETSAT.  Satellite images from the European MET-7 weather satellite. Credit: EUMETSAT. [/caption]

We’ll continue to provide updates on this story as they become available.

Meteor Blast Rocks Russia

This just in: reports of bright meteors and loud explosions have been coming from Russia, with the incredible video above showing what appears to be a meteor exploding in the atmosphere on the morning of Friday, Feb. 15.

According to Reuters the objects were seen in the skies over the Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk regions.

“Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain,” an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. “We have information about a blast at 10,000-meter (32,800-foot) altitude. It is being verified.” UPDATE: The Russian Academy of Sciences has estimated that the single 10-ton meteor entered the atmosphere at around 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and disintegrated 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) up. Nearly 500 people have been injured, most by broken glass — at least 3 in serious condition. (AP)

Chelyabinsk is 930 miles (1,500 km) east of Moscow, in Russia’s Ural Mountains.

Preliminary reports on RT.com state that the meteorite “crashed into a wall near a zinc factory, disrupting the city’s internet and mobile service.” 150 minor injuries have also been reported from broken glass and debris created by the explosion’s shockwave.

ADDED: More videos below:

Contrails and explosions can be heard here, with breaking glass:

Over a city commercial district:

And yet another dash cam:

Watch the garage door get blown in at the 30-second mark:

Here’s a great summary from Russia Today

This event occurs on the same day that Earth is to be passed at a distance of 27,000 km by the 45-meter-wide asteroid 2012 DA14. Coincidence? Most likely. But – more info as it comes!

Read what Phil Plait has to say about this on his Bad Astronomy blog here.

News source: Reuters. H/T to Matt Arnold.