Meteor explodes over Russia

A meteor has exploded over Chelyabinsk , a remote part of Russia 150km north of Kazahstan. The meteor's descent was captured by many video cameras (largely the ubiquitous Russian dashboard cams, it seems). There are no reports of deaths, but apparently there are now 400 reported injuries. At least one large building, a zinc factory, had its roof demolished by the explosion.

A witness in Chelyabinsk reported hearing a huge blast early in the morning and feeling a shockwave in a 19-storey building in the town centre.

The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, the witness said, and mobile phones were working intermittently. "Preliminary indications are that it was a meteorite rain," an emergency official told RIA-Novosti. "We have information about a blast at 10,000-metre altitude. It is being verified."

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, a 36-year-old resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he told Reuters.

Meteorite explosion over Russia injures hundreds [The Guardian]


    1. Totally unrelated, but this is why I love boingboing. Came for the meteor, left learning a little about Russian pop.

      The song playing from about 00:17-00:35 seconds I recognized instantly as a Russian version of The Peanuts’ 恋のバカンス (Love’s Vacation) so I did a little wiki-ing and found out that the song was ported to the Soviet Union in the 60’s by a Russian TV/radio correspondent in Tokyo at the time. Good song to have playing in my head on this snowy day.

    1. Commenters on reddit pointed out that this meteor had a trajectory almost at right angles to 2012 DA14, so they are not related.

      Haha… NASA says that too.  But, now that “commenters on reddit” have confirmed it, I know it’s true! ;D

      1. That was where I saw it and I didn’t want to claim the information as my own. I linked to give credit. Also this was a link to /r/askscience which is often very authoritative.

    1. On the first video on Bad Astronomy, just as the fellow is making the turn, it looks like you can see three separate things tracing through the air.  Two close together and a third off almost at the edge of the windscreen (0:22 – 0:26), so it certainly looks like it broke apart.  Wow.  

      And thank goodness for the Russian fondness for dash-cams!

      1.  Breaking up on entry isn’t the same as exploding though. One involves several fragments more-or-less along the original trajectory, the other involves fragments going all higgledypiggledy. Which is a technical term.

        1. Just speculating, but when one supersonic object breaks up, now there are multiple objects with overlapping supersonic shock waves.  That’s probably not much studied, since I’ve never heard of fighters flying close to each other at supersonic speeds, but I’d imagine it would cause adjacent objects to break up further. Also, some of this fragments will be decidedly non aerodynamic and explode (picture a poker chip tumbling randomly at mach 7+).  And of course every fragment will now be taking a different trajectory, moving laterally at some subsonic speed propelled by that mach 7+ headwind,  causing further colliding among the fragments.  So there’d be a catastrophic cascade of failure at a speed beyond human observation. 

          Also, there are all sort of strange things that happen in high speed. Hit a tank on a test range with a kinetic round going at some absurd velocity and you get a big flash of light as well as a halo that surrounds the whole target right out to the end of its gun. There’s no “explosion” but there is still enough energy being delivered to create light, electrons, a big ball of plasma, and shrapnel.

  1. The last video at the Guardian article has five existential minutes of a guy driving very slowly around an almost empty parking lot.  Then the meteor streaks over him at the five minute mark.  Then it takes two solid minutes before the shock wave hits and sets off car alarms.

    1. And the song on the radio is perfectly existentialist: “never gonna get too far…away…from the future.”

    1. You may be kidding, but there is the traditional belief that the Roman Pope held a covenant with God to protect us from “meteora et cometarum” In 1456, then pope Callistus III issued a “Papal Bull” to protect Christians from the plagues and destruction that had long been associated with appearances of Halley’s Comet. Pope Benedict XVI has apparently refused to issue a similar edict to protect us from DA14. “Sit eis adolebit…” he reportedly said.“A hairy and fiery comet having then made its appearance for several days, as the mathematicians declared that there would follow a grievous pestilence, dearth and some great calamity, Callistus, to avert the wrath of God ordered supplications, that if evils were impending for the human race, He would turn all upon the Turks, the enemies of the Christian name. He likewise ordered, to move God by continual entreaty, that notice should be given by the bells to all the faithful, at mid-day, to aid by their prayers those engaged in battle with the Turk.”

  2. What way to close a weird news week. Pope resign, North Korea drop a N-bomb, Blade-runner kills girlfriend… I hope for something exciting is line up for the weekends.

      1. Were passengers restrained from crapping over the side?  Or am I the only one who would have tried to get away with that?

        1. I’m sure people got quite creative. There must have been some unpleasant experiences taking place on lower deck balconies.

          With open bars and free alcohol, and the ship filled with those red bags of waste, my sickest speculation is that at some dark, twisted moment the cry rang out… “pillow fight!”

    1. Henceforth to be celebrated annually as “Brown Trouser Day” (Я тоже дерьмо в моей празднования брюки)

    2. What are you talking about? Everyone in this video acted like this sort of thing happens every single day. Of course, I was watching the one posted at the front of the comments . . . 

      1. I’ve been told by friends and colleagues who have lived and worked in Russia that the general level of WTF and crazy stuff happening every day is so high that Russians are rarely surprised or shocked by anything. These videos certainly seem to support that claim.

    1. I’ve been meditating on what this event would have been like in 1983 since I read this story. 

      Technology and Cold War policies of competitive omertà would have kept this event a mystery (and source of conspiracy theories) for who knows how long, and I can easily imagine the fear most of the globe would be feeling on this day in 1983. 

      With Breshnev having recently died, and Andropov an unknown, Reagan and the Politburo would be posturing and lobbing threats at each other while NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations convened for emergency sessions.

      I do not miss the Cold War. Right now, we’d most of us be wondering what the hell happened and if we’d be seeing mushroom clouds soon.

  3. This is a pretty historic event.    Even if it’s just from the sonic boom, I can’t think of any previous incident where anyone (let along 500 people) were injured by the sonic boom from a meteor.

    I know there’ll be a lot of references to Tunguska.

    But let me mention 1947 Siberia, the Sikhote-Alin meteorite:

    1. Apparently there is a problem in Russia, real or perceived, with people lying about traffic accidents (or outright faking them – backing into someone’s car & claiming they were rear-ended, etc.) in order to extort money or get insurance payouts.  The dashboard cams are meant to protect against against that.

  4. A weird thing is, as much as “being hit by a meteorite” is a trope, nobody in verifiable recorded history has ever been killed or even seriously injured by a meteorite.   1954 incident where a woman was sitting on her sofa in Alabama when a relatively small meteorite came through her roof and bounced off the floor and hit her leg, injuring her slightly.   Most other incidents become a bit nebulous.  A Ugandan boy was hit in 1992 without injury, a 2009 incident in Germany which isn’t verified but resulted in no serious injury.  A monk in 1677 Italy was reportedly killed.

    1. The Peekskill Meterite (now in the Smithsonian) hit a car in NY state in 1992.  It passed right over me in Maryland on a night with 60% cloud cover.  The track of the fireball was clearly visible as its light shown down through the clouds, like a plane with its landing lights on.  Brighter actually because it lit up the countryside like a full moon.   Where it was visible it was trailing smoke and flames. It must have taken 20 seconds to go from horizon to horizon.  I was driving, so I did not hear a sonic boom. 

      1.  Here’s a newspaper report of that Peekskill incident in 1992.

        Which strikes me as a bit weird, was the Seattle Times really putting their stuff on the web in 1992, or did they release old archive stuff to the web later?

        This reminds me of, as a kid (1970s), I read a lot of books on meteorites and stuff, and there were a lot of anecdotal stories that, well, I now wonder how much of it was more in the range of urban rumor.     For example, one detailed how somebody was driving across the desert in their car, towing a camper, like Arizona or someplace, and they later found that a meteorite had smashed through the roof of the camper.   Did that really happen?   Maybe, but a bit of googling, I can’t find it now.

        1. I think the car that hit by the Peekskill meteorite was being driven by a teenager, and I could just imagine how that went “Yeah, umm, Dad?  The car got hit by a meteor. Honest!”

          1.  It hit the car parked in the driveway in the middle of the night.  I think the teenager was exonerated.

  5. Joe Dirt: Uhhh, no, that’s a space peanut.  
    Meteor Bert: No, afraid not. That just a big ol’ frozen chunk of poopy. 

  6. Preliminary accounts of this on Twitter last night claimed a Russian jet SHOT THE METEOR OUT OF THE SKY, which is such a wonderfully typical Russian assumption I don’t think facts could ever top it.

          1. @facebook-1000995188:disqus Real Russian men do all their computing with malware!  When they aren’t chewing steel and spitting nails, that is.  Real Russian men have chunks of Gimp in their javnó (turd).

    1. Yeah, I’ve also heard that the nut job conspiracy theorist are now also saying it was blown out of the sky by a missile strike.

      Missile / Jet vs 33,000+mph meteor, don’t think so.

    2. i dont see why people think that would be impossible (just damn hard), sure it moves fast, but that din’t seem to bother the ‘building that it landed in. Meteors tend to be very bad at turning away, just a matter of being ready in the right place :)

      1. It didn’t land on a building. The building (and everything else) was damaged by the shock wave from the blast.

  7. This definitely calls for a movie reference from “Armageddon,”  but there was not a single memorable line of dialogue in that movie. 

    1. Switch to Deep Impact. You might not remember any quotes, but at least Morgan Freeman will be the one making them.

    1. Good point.  Perhaps this is a Dostoyevskian plan whereby the Russians have spent billions on an artificial meteorite in order to demonstrate the depth of Russian self-restraint and dignity in the face of an exploding high-speed projectile from beyond their borders, thereby setting an example to the world.

    1.  Abbas Kiarostami has made two, although the cameras are mostly pointing into the vehicles rather than outwards.

  8. no screaming drivers,  they don’t seem to be impressed. Note to self: if some Russian dude starts screaming and running away, there is no hope left.

    1. But you won’t see them screaming and running. If there really is no hope left, the Russians will say something like, “Well, that’s it then.” 

      That’s just how they roll.

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