Meteor Explodes Over Russia: February 15, 2013

"Shooting Star"
"Shooting Star" | Source

Is This the End of the World?

Well, of course, everything comes to an end eventually. However, while the February 2013 event produced some stunning images, it was certainly not even close to a planet-killer class occurrence.

To be sure, this was a very scary thing for people who were in the area and witnessed it first-hand. As this rock entered the Earth's atmosphere, it heated up until it reached the point at which it exploded. This happened about 12 - 15 miles above the ground.

The sound of the initial explosion, and the smaller ones of the scattered pieces as they, in turn, exploded made for some frightening sounds, and people reported actually feeling the pressure wave from these explosions that were powerful enough to shatter much of the glass in buildings and in the case of one factory, collapse the roof.

How Often Does This Happen?

The truth is, space rocks and debris hit the Earth on a daily basis, and we don't even notice. Most of the pieces are so small that they burn up on entering our atmosphere, and in the daytime, don't even create enough of a burn to outshine the light of the sun.

When the sun is not up; we see these bright burning invaders of our night sky as "shooting stars," and have a fun tradition of making wishes upon them. There are certain times of the year when many can be seen on a single night. The Perseid's in mid-August and the Leonid's in mid-November are good examples. There are many others less well-known all through the year.

Historic and Prehistoric Impacts

There have been a number of significant impacts over the course of the Earth's history; most of the biggest ones were prehistoric. It is widely speculated and believed that it was a meteor strike that did in the dinosaurs. Unquestionably, any animals in the immediate area were instantly killed; probably incinerated, while the pressure shock waves probably killed many more in the surrounding areas.

The more lasting effects, though, are suspected to have been global climate change caused by massive amounts of dust being thrown into the atmosphere and blocking the sunlight. This would have caused the death of many more animals by starvation, as their food supplies failed.

The famous Meteor Crater in Arizona in the Southwestern United States was formed about 50,000 years ago. The fact that it is still visible, appearing much the same as it did when the dust had settled, is due to the arid climate of that area. Strikes in areas with a wetter climate are probably hidden under either overgrowth of forest or jungle, or have become lakes.

The most recent significant impact was the Tunguska Event in Siberia in 1908. Trees were blasted out in a circular pattern for miles around, all pointing away from the impact site. In 1908, however, science was much less advanced, and it was only fairly recently that the scientific community decided the cause was likely a meteor. (Some say comet--that is still under debate.)

People Were Hurt; Buildings Damaged

Because of the pressure wave described above, there were injuries in the February 2013 event in Russia. However, as of this writing, only 5 people were injured seriously enough to need hospitalization.

The rest of the injuries were in the nature of cuts from broken glass, bumps and bruises. It is probably a valid guess that many of those bumps and bruises were the result of panicked running, tripping and falling trying to escape from buildings.

In one case, the roof of a factory collapsed, but the news story there did not report injuries, so it is possible no one was inside at the time.

No Point toPanic

Have we been hit before? As we have seen, yes, lots of times. Will we be hit again? It is certain. Will this be the end of the world? No one knows. Events such as this are scary, but not worthy of constant worry and speculation.

The thing is, in modern times, we've seen countless "doomsday" predictions; all have proven wrong. The lesson to be learned is that the end of the world will happen in its own time, when and however it happens.

It is not an event we can know or predict, so there is no point wasting time and energy worrying about it. It is probably not likely in the lifetimes of ourselves or those of our grandchildren or even our great-grandchildren.

As science progresses, we are quite likely to develop ways to discourage large 'planet busters,' by means of launching spacecraft to nudge them out of their intercepting orbits. The actual process would be nothing even close to the drama seen in the movie, "Armageddon." It is best not to study physics, astrophysics, geology, or any other science by means of Hollywood offerings.

Movie Trailer for "Armageddon"

What to Believe?

The movie trailer has both some likely scenarios, and some very unlikely ones. If, in fact, a sizable chunk of space rock were to impact the Earth, the destruction of buildings as seen in those opening shots are probably close to real.

However, the entire astronaut sequence is pure Hollywood fiction. None of what is postulated in that movie is likely at all. A brief perusal of any scientific journal would prove that.

Believe that for the most part, we are safe; we see the big ones and know their orbits and time periods. So far, nothing even close to the movie event has been spotted anywhere near Earth. NASA does track them, as do observatories worldwide.

The February 2013 event was a smallish, rogue rock, and apparently unrelated to the much-publicized 'near pass' of the asteroid dubbed, "DA-14" that came between Earth and it's communications satellites on the same day. At that, it was still 17,000 miles away; not dangerously close by most estimates.

Be safe--stay safe by focusing on things closer to home like paying attention while driving. You're not so likely to die from an asteroid impact.

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Comments 16 comments

point2make profile image

point2make 3 years ago

Very interesting hub. It does make one think about when the "big" one might have Earth in it's sights. The fact that a relatively small meteor, in Russia, could cause such widespread damage and injury is a real eyeopener. We have a difficult time grasping just how much energy is involved here and how potentially deadly that awesome energy can be. Voted up.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Nice job of getting this out so quickly. It was a pretty amazing event for sure, and the videos I have seen were awesome. I'm sure it was a bit scary if close to it.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

@ point2make--Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. It is a scary amount of power, indeed; I forgot the equivalent in tons of TNT, the usual standard of comparison, but no matter--you don't want to be close to anything bigger than what just happened in Russia. I'm pleased you liked the article, and I thank you for the vote.

@ billybuc--Thanks, Billy--I don't usually do current events pieces, as I'm not that much into politics, which is the usual topic of current happenings. However, I'm very interested in geology and related sciences, and this is probably more of an 'evergreen' topic than politics. The videos were, indeed impressive. Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 3 years ago from malang-indonesia

It's a shocking news and I saw about this from television. I hope they didn't came twice..amen. Nice report my friend and I really enjoy the video above. I hope the people who were injured will recover soon. Voted up!

Prasetio


jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Thanks for sharing this information. I watched many of the videos on the meteor explosion on youtube.

Voted up and re-shared...


JimTxMiller profile image

JimTxMiller 3 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

I just recently listened to a TED talk on possible responses to a potential "planet buster" if and when we detect one on a collision course. Most likely scenario involves sending an unmanned vehicle of some 200 tons (best I recall) to establish a gravity link with the asteroid and gently tow it into a safer (for us) trajectory using an ion drive engine.

Strange coincidence, is it not, that this little guy grazed Russia on the same day the Big Boy passed within 17,000+ miles?


Christine B. profile image

Christine B. 3 years ago from Medina, Ohio

As usual, Lizzy... a great and informative hub. Your comments are valid and insightful--it doesn't do anyone any good to worry about being hit by a giant meteor when there are soooooo many other things that are more likely to kill you!! Ha-Ha If one lived their life as if they would die tomorrow, there would be nothing to worry about! Thanks for another great hub!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Lizzy what a fascinating hub and the video was really scary!! I heard about this but hadn't seen any footage and I didn't realise people had been injured. It's one of those things where although frightening it's absolutely fascinating to watch! I think it's just a blessing that more people weren't seriously injured and no fatalities!!

Awsome hub!


drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Scary stuff, Lizzy. NASA, the US space agency, reported that the meteor weighed 10,000 tons before entering earth's atmosphere, and released about 500 kilotons of energy. As a comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 12 to 15 kilotons. Just sayin'.

Voted up for prompt reporting, m'dear.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

@ prasetio30--Yes, this was quite a shock to witness the confusion and genuine terror of people scrambling about trying to figure out what was happening. I’m sure the injured folks will be just fine; none of the reports I read mentioned life-threatening injuries. Thanks very much for stopping by and for the vote.

@ jainisumus--Thank you very much for stopping by. There were a lot of videos, thanks to everyone having cell phones and being amateur videographers these days. I’m glad you liked the article, and I thank you for the vote and share.

@ JimTxMiller--Those TED talks are very interesting, are they not? Those are the scientific sources people should listen to instead of Hollywood over-driven drama. I don’t believe I saw that particular session, but I did read similar information on a university site. It was, indeed a very strange coincidence about the two asteroids on the same day. The initial speculation was that a chunk had broken from the larger one, but according to the sources I read, it was later determined to be just a coincidence, as they were traveling in opposite directions. Thanks very much for your informative comment.

@ ChristineB--Thanks very much for your high praise, dear. You are so right--Carpe Diem should be our watch-words! I’m delighted you enjoyed the article!

@ Seeker7--Thank you so very much for reading and commenting. You are quite right about the ‘scare-factor,’ but still and all, events large enough to make news are very infrequent, thankfully.. I’m pleased you enjoyed the article, and I thank you for the praise.

@ drbj--Scary, indeed--luckily, not frequent! Thanks so much for your educational comment. I had read and forgotten the kiloton comparisons, and frankly, I had had some HP “issues” with my first draft disappearing, and I just did not feel like going back and re-finding that information. I guess you could say I got lazy. ;-) So, I thank you for adding that data. Thanks very much for the vote.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Lizzy, thank goodness no one was seriously hurt, and saying that, I thought it was an awesome sight and something I never thought I would see, great footage from camera's going on. I remember seeing on tv the other night when they were talking about it they said that in future if they were trying to get one away from earth they would paint it! evidently it would reflect the suns rays and cause it to go of course, take a lot of paint though! lol!


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hi, Nell--

PAINT it??? ROFL! That's a new one I'd not heard before. Someone is having fun pulling legs, there. Hee hee hee...

Thanks much for stopping by and adding that chuckle.


James-wolve profile image

James-wolve 3 years ago from Morocco

Why it could not be seen in air defnce radars and destroyed before the hit? It means if it was a balistic missile, it would not be intercepted by Russian air defence system. I dont know if it was really a kind of new weapon to be tested on Russia or not but it s clear a meteor should be detected and tracked much earlier with its route to earth. And I expect Russian S300 or S400 systems to destroy it on air preventing to be so harmful. Only a couple of days ago there was a news about estimates of the orbit of the meteor Apopsis. Russian scientists from a missile development interprise in St. Petersburg promised to develop a missile system to trak it s orbit and destroy if it will be neccessary in following 50 years. It s tragicomic to talk about to track and to destroy a meteor is millions of miles away from the earth since 2050 and in the same week to be hit by a meteor. This a meteor (if it is) should be thousands of times closer than Apophis. There was no warning to local people by public authorties before the impact. And no attempt to intercept it by air defence systems.

And one mroe thing seems very strange in the videos of the incident, the white track of the meteor in the blue sky. It s not straight as expected. I am not a space expert but according to physical rules an object goes by the gravity should have a direct and straight route but not a way like with small corrections in its route by any navigation.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Hello, James-wolve,

Thank you for your comment and questions. I'm no expert, myself, but I have read a good deal on the matter. They do, in fact, see and track these things.

As I understand it, trying to destroy a meteor (especially a very large one) with a missile would have the effect of breaking it up, creating a great many large fragments that would hit in multiple areas. That would not be much better than a huge, single hit. While it might not be a "planet killer," it would still cause great mayhem worldwide, and could alter our climate to the point of crop failures. The most likely scenario, as I've described, is not an explosive missile, but rather an unarmed one to give the meteor a nudge sufficient to get it away from Earth's gravitational pull.

The reason the track does not appear straight is because of the pull of gravity, and the curvature of our Earth. It did not enter vertically, but skipped a few times, much as you'd skip a stone across a pond. Therefore, the entry angle was shallow, allowing the meteor to follow the arc of the Earth. Gravity was pulling on it, yes, but at the speed it was traveling, that gravitational pull was at each point along the path, and as the Earth is a sphere, so was the angle of the pull.

Thank you for your comment and questions.


LongTimeMother profile image

LongTimeMother 3 years ago from Australia

Apparently a lot of the injuries were caused because people ran to their windows to see the reason for the bright light. When the glass shattered, they were directly hit.

Voted up.


DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 3 years ago from Oakley, CA Author

Greetings, LongTimeMother,

What you say is true in this instance, and is also true in many other kinds of disaster injuries. Our curiosity as a species is truly a double-edged sword, and must be tempered with caution.

Thank you so much for your comment and vote!

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