In February, a meteor explosion occurred over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring over 1,600 people. It was so powerful that its flash alone caused sunburns and temporary blindness to those who witnessed it. After studying the video recordings and the area where its fragments landed, scientists now believe that other such incidents are 10 times more likely to happen than originally thought.
The Chelyabinsk incident was the first damaging meteor explosion to ever be recorded on video. It was also tracked by satellites as it raced through the sky. Large chunks of meteorite are still being discovered, including one that weighs 1,430 pounds. Several research teams banded together to visit the region and study the footage from the event. Using the information they found, the scientists worked up a model of the meteor’s path and its explosion in the sky.
After the meteor exploded, the resulting shockwave started about 55 miles above the ground. The shockwave itself shattered windows and knocked people off their feet. More than 1,200 people in the area ended up in hospitals. The damage went as far as 55 miles around the site of the initial explosion. Scientists estimated its energy equal to about 40 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. After it exploded, pieces of the asteroid fell down at over 40,000 miles per hour. Fortunately, most of the meteorite evaporated during this process or the damage might have been worse.
After studying videos of the meteor, scientists determined its trajectory and figured out where it came from. They believe it originated from the Flora asteroid family, but the rock itself did not shatter there. Scientists think that it originally belonged to a larger asteroid that broke apart over 1 million years ago.
So what does this mean? It means that whatever created the Chelyabinsk asteroid could have created a lot more rubble. Based on this, scientists estimate that more asteroids are likely to hit Earth, and in fact, the odds of that happening are 10 times greater than what we thought. Fortunately, various agencies are now looking for ways of detecting asteroids, as well as figuring out how to deflect them away from our planet.