New data reveals the true, devastating nature of Russia's meteor

Credit: NASA

A Russian-lead international investigation into the destruction reaped by the Chelyabinsk meteor has just been published. The data contained therein, along with a new finding from researchers at the University of Western Ontario, just might have you quaking in your boots like Chicken Little.

The Chelyabinsk meteor, widely reported as it was, was actually much more ferocious than we believed at the time. At its brightest, the explosion that sent car alarms blaring and shrapnel flying for miles shone 30 times brighter than the sun. It was so bright that it burnt the flesh and eyes of those close enough to catch the blast full-bore. Radiation burns were recorded in victims as far away as 18 miles.

The shockwave released by the explosion literally blew people below it off their feet. It shattered windows across 3,600 blocks of apartments and was the cause of shrapnel damage 30 miles away in the town of Yemanzhelinsk. All in all, the shockwave was the cause of a trail of damage 55 miles wide.

Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Western Ontario have discovered a glitch in how scientists predict how common meteor strikes of this magnitude might occur. The Chelyabinsk meteor loosed an airburst somewhere between 400 and 600 kilotons of TNT. Judging by the size of the meteor and the energy it released, these researchers found that previous models were off by a factor of ten. That means that asteroids as large and devastating as the one that exploded over southern Russia could be ten times as common as we used to think.

Science and Nature, via The Guardian

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