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Meteor explosion over Russia injures hundreds


Staff writers

February 15, 2013 — There was a sense of panic Friday morning as a large meteor streaked across the sky above Russia's Ural Mountains.

Hundreds of people were injured by broken glass
Hundreds of people were injured by broken glass

A sonic boom, sharp explosions and broken glass.

Panic rushed through three Russian towns after a meteor streaked across the sky between 9-10 am local time, Friday morning. 

The explosion was centred 80 km from Satka city, in the Chelyabinsk region. 

"Reports indicate the exploding meteor was a stone the size of a van or truck, weighing in at about 10 tonnes," says Andrew Fazekas of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

More than 900 people were injured and over 30 were reported hospitalized. Officials say many of the injuries were caused by broken glass from the explosion. 

Glass broke in high-rise buildings and the explosion also caused at least one roof collapse at a zinc factory.

According to local media, 3,000 buildings were damaged. 

Residents say they saw a big burst of light followed by a loud clap of thunder. Several amateur videos show an object speeding across the sky leaving a thick white vapour trail and intense flash. 

The meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere at the speed of over 50,000 km/h and shattered about 30-50 km above the ground.

"At those velocities, the stone had a lot of pressure on it, which is what caused it to explode ... and resulted in a large sonic boom," Fazekas says.

Meteor sighting sparked panic in several Russian communities
Meteor sighting sparked panic in several Russian communities

According to experts, meteors typically cause sizable sonic booms when they enter the atmosphere because they are travelling much faster than the speed of sound.

Meteorites have been already been picked up, and there have been reports of a 6 metre crater being found.

"These meteorites will be a boon to scientists because we think that meteors are cosmic fossils left over from the formation of planets like the Earth. It's rare to find these meteorites and its extremely rare to have such a large meteor blast occur over a large area," Fazekas adds.

The meteor hit less than a day before the DA14 asteroid is expected to buzz by Earth, but the European Space Agency and NASA say there is no connection. 

What is the difference between a meteor and a meteorite? 

According to the European Space Agency, meteors are pieces of space rock, which enter the Earth's atmosphere.

Meteors are often burned up by the heat of the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth, they are called meteorites.

With files from The Associated Press

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