A meteor exploded over Russia on February 15, 2013, shattering windows, damaging buildings, and injuring around 1500 people. The meteor was caught on tape by several cameras. Today we take a look back at that once-in-a-century event.
Reuters initially reported that a shock-wave was felt by morning commuters in the Russian town of Chelyabinsk. The fireball could be seen more than 100 miles away and briefly lit up the morning sky “as bright as if it was day,” according to one eyewitness. Nature notes that it was 30 times brighter than the sun to ground observers.
The rock is believed to have originated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, with a mass around 12,000 metric tonnes – almost double the original estimates. It entered the atmosphere traveling around 19 km (11.8 miles) per hour an exploded at an altitude of about 27 kilometers, or 16.7 miles, above the ground. Most of the energy – significantly more than released by the bomb detonated at Hiroshima – was absorbed by the atmosphere. It produced a seismic reading of 2.7.
There were approximately 1500 injuries reported as a result of the meteor’s shock-wave, mostly related to flying glass from shattering windows. Over 7000 buildings in six cities reported damage, which was estimated to be about $30 million.
It was reported that several chunks of meteorite debris were found near Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelyabinsk. A 600-kg meteorite was recovered from the bottom of the lake a month later.
Some Russian officials speculated that the meteor may have been related to the near-earth asteroid DA14 which passed by the planet later the same day, although others such as the UK Space Agency rejected this theory due to differences in the objects’ orbits.
The video below was posted the day of the event. It compiles several angles of the 2013 meteor exploding over the skies of Russia, and has nearly 40 million views as of January 2016.
To commemorate the one-year anniversary of the meteor, Russian officials gave athletes who earned gold medals on February 15, 2014 at the Sochi Olympics a special medal containing meteor fragments. Amateur video of the meteor was also included in the 2014 Sci Fi film “Edge of Tomorrow.”
The Chelyabinsk meteor is the largest known object to enter the Earth’s atmosphere since 1908.
Two years after the Russian meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, astronomers continued to debate the origins of the object. It was originally thought that the meteor originated from a near-Earth object known as 1999 NC43, but analysis of that object showed that they had different compositions.
Updated January 21, 2016
Originally published February 2013