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Russia meteor unrelated to asteroid flyby, NASA says

Feb. 15, 2013
World Science staff

Pre­lim­i­nar­y mea­sure­ments show that a me­te­or over Chel­ya­binsk, Rus­sia, that caused hun­dreds of in­ju­ries Fri­day is un­re­lat­ed to the as­ter­oid that flew by Earth safely the same day, NASA sci­en­tists say.

The as­ter­oid, des­ig­nat­ed 2012 DA14, is an es­ti­mat­ed three times wid­er than the me­te­or, which which ap­peared in the sky Fri­day morn­ing lo­cal time and is the larg­est re­ported since 1908. That’s when a me­te­or hit Tun­gus­ka, Si­be­ria. 

This an­i­mat­ed set of im­ages, from the tel­e­scope known as the iTe­le­scope.net Sid­ing Spring Ob­serv­a­to­ry in Aus­tral­ia, shows as­ter­oid 2012 DA14 as the streak mov­ing from left to right. (Im­age cour­te­sy of E. Guido/N. Howes/Re­man­za­cc Ob­serv­a­to­ry)


The me­te­or Fri­day en­tered the at­mos­phere at an es­ti­mat­ed 40,000 mph (18 kilo­me­ters per sec­ond), at 9:20 a.m. lo­cal time, NASA said. The im­pact re­leased en­er­gy meas­ured in the hun­dreds of kilo­tons. Ac­cord­ing to NASA sci­en­tists, the tra­jec­to­ry of the Rus­sia me­te­or was sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent than the tra­jec­to­ry of the larg­er as­ter­oid, mak­ing the two ob­jects com­pletely un­re­lat­ed.

Based on the me­te­or event’s dura­t­ion, it was a very shal­low en­try, the sci­en­tists said. It was larg­er than the me­te­or over In­do­ne­sia on Oct. 8, 2009. Mea­sure­ments are still com­ing in, and a more pre­cise meas­ure of the en­er­gy may be avail­a­ble lat­er, ac­cord­ing to the space agen­cy. The size of the ob­ject be­fore hit­ting the at­mos­phere was an estim­ated 49 feet (15 me­ters) and scien­tists put its weight at about 7,000 tons.

The me­te­or, which scientists said was about one-third the di­am­e­ter of as­ter­oid 2012 DA14, was brighter than the sun. Its trail was vis­i­ble for about 30 sec­onds, so it was a graz­ing im­pact through the at­mos­phere.

Mean­while, as­ter­oid 2012 DA14 safely passed our plan­et 17,500 miles above In­do­ne­sia, ac­cord­ing to NASA sci­en­tists. It passed in­side the ring of weath­er and com­mu­nica­t­ions satel­lites that are geosyn­chronous, mean­ing they have a 24-hour or­bit.


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Preliminary measurements show that a meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia, that caused hundreds of injuries Friday is unrelated to the asteroid that flew by Earth safely the same day, NASA scientists say. The asteroid, designated 2012 DA14, is an estimated three times wider than the meteor, which which appeared in the sky Friday morning local time and is the largest reported since 1908. That’s when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia. The meteor Friday entered the atmosphere at an estimated 40,000 mph (18 kilometers per second), at 9:20 a.m. local time, NASA said. The impact released energy measured in the hundreds of kilotons. According to NASA scientists, the trajectory of the Russia meteor was significantly different than the trajectory of the larger asteroid, making the two objects completely unrelated. Based on the meteor event’s duration, it was a very shallow entry, the scientists said. It was larger than the meteor over Indonesia on Oct. 8, 2009. Measurements are still coming in, and a more precise measure of the energy may be available later, according to the space agency. The size of the object before hitting the atmosphere was about 49 feet (15 meters) and it weighed an estimated 7,000 tons. The meteor, which was about one-third the diameter of asteroid 2012 DA14, was brighter than the sun. Its trail was visible for about 30 seconds, so it was a grazing impact through the atmosphere. Meanwhile, asteroid 2012 DA14 safely passed our planet 17,500 miles above Indonesia, according to NASA scientists. It passed inside the ring of weather and communications satellites that are geosynchronous, meaning they have a 24-hour orbit.