Hundreds injured by broken glass during meteor shower in Russia
Updated: 09:36, Friday, 15 February 2013
About 400 people have been injured after a meteorite shot across the sky in central Russia. It sent fireballs crashing to Earth, smashing windows and setting off car alarms. Residents on their way to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500km east of Moscow.
Chelyabinsk city authorities said about 400 people sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass.No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.Such incidents are rare. A meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000sq.km in Siberia in 1908, smashing windows as far as 200km from the point of impact.The Emergencies Ministry described today’s events as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal.It urged residents not to panic.Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens.They said a blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 metres, apparently signalling it occurred when the meteorite entered Earth's atmosphere.Unlike the meteor shower, scientists say there is no chance of an impact when a newly discovered asteroid passes the planet today.Asteroid 2012 DA14 is half the size of a football field and will pass closer to Earth than any other known object of its size.It will give scientists a rare opportunity for close-up observations without launching a probe.
At its closest approach, which will occur at 7.24pm Irish time, the asteroid will pass about 27,520km above the planet traveling at 13km per second, bringing it nearer than the networks of television and weather satellites that ring the planet.Currently, DA14 matches Earth's year-long orbit around the sun, but after today's encounter its flight path will change, said astronomer Donald Yeomans, with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California."The close approach will perturb its orbit so that actually instead of having an orbital period of one year, it'll lose a couple of months," Mr Yeomans said."The Earth is going to put this one in an orbit that is considerably safer," he said.The non-profit Space Data Association, which tracks satellites for potential collisions, analysed the asteroid's projected path and determined no spacecraft would be in its way.