What an awesome day for space debris! We’ve been preparing for 2012 DA14 for almost a year, but this morning’s explosion over Chelyabinsk Russia was a pretty rare and very unexpected coincidence.
The meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere in the western Siberian sky, over the city of Chelyabinsk at 3:20:26 UTC. The object is estimated to have been about 15 meters (49 feet), with a mass of about 7,000 tons. It’s speed is estimated to have been about 18 kilometers per second (40,000 MPH) which caused the 300 to 500 killaton shockwave as it broke apart in the atmosphere. And it was caught on video!
You can see the flash light up the city in this video at about the 00:00:44 mark:
NASA estimates the object’s orbit to have been about 2.1 Earth years, estimating it last left the astroid belt about 1 year ago.
NASA’s Spaceguard survey has found about 95% of Earth-crossing asteroids larger than 1 km diameter. This program is not currently funded to find objects of the size of the 2012 DA14 asteroid that passed the Earth today, let alone this small guy that rattled Chelyabinsk this morning. Practically speaking, it is more important that we focus on the objects that could cause mas extinction over the ones that could simply kill millions of people.
*Please note that this info was just released at a NASA press conference, and may change as data comes in.