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Good morning! City of 1.1 million nearly nuked by meteorite

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Nearly a thousand people have been injured, two seriously, following what appears to be the explosion of a meteorite over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk around 9:20 a.m. local time today. Although pieces of the meteorite reportedly hit the ground, it is the airbust that appears to have done the most damage.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (Catholic Online) - Witnesses reported seeing an intense flash of light from as far away as 300 miles away from the event's epicenter in Chelyabinsk. In Chelyabinsk, the shockwave from the event was so powerful that it shattered windows, blew open doors, and even collapsed a factory roof.

About 980 people are reported injured at this time, although the actual number may be much higher as those with minor injuries do not report them. At least two people are reported in serious condition.

Local new agencies report damage to 12 schools, as well as dozens of industrial enters and 297 apartment complexes, which abound in the city of 1.1 million people.

The primary concern now is for cold. Shattered windows with high temperatures of only 23 degrees Fahrenheit and much colder overnight, means that anyone who cannot replace the windows or insulate the openings soon will need to find someplace else to sleep.

This is the first time in recorded human history that so many people have been injured by the reentry of a meteorite. A few historical reports and anecdotes claim injuries and even a few deaths from smaller impacts, however these stories are mostly anecdotal and have never been verified.

The event in Chelyabinsk is uniquely significant from a historical perspective.

The Russian academy of sciences has estimated the mass of the meteorite to be about 10 tons, with most it burning up in the atmosphere. There were unconfirmed reports of debris raining down in various areas around the city and its outskirts. Scientists will be rushing to recover what debris they can so they can learn more about the object which hit the Earth at a speed of about 10 to 12 miles per second.

Comparisons to the 1908 Tunguska event were promptly made. However, that object is believed to have been considerably larger, and far more destructive than today's meteorite.

Speculation also occurred that suggested the event could be related to the close passage of asteroid 2012 DA14, which occurs today. Researchers have quickly nixed this idea, saying the meteorite's trajectory does not match that of the asteroid. The two are entirely unrelated, but it is a curious coincidence nonetheless.

Events such as this are rare, but not as rare as we might suppose. Similar impacts happen about once per year however they typically happen over uninhabited regions and therefore go unnoticed.

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