Feb 16 2013
There we were, focusing our attention on an asteroid that was going to miss Earth when Bang! a real live meteor zipped low over Russia yesterday morning.
The meteor taught me a lot more than the asteroid. After it lit the sky, made an explosive boom, blew out windows, and injured more than 1,000 people I learned from NASA:
- Its light was brighter than the sun.
- Its contrail was 300 miles long. (That’s the distance from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia).
- Eyewitnesses said the sonic boom lagged by three minutes … just long enough for everyone to go to their windows to watch.
- The meteor was about the size of a bus (55 feet) but it weighed 10,000 tons –> 1,400 times heavier than a bus.
- The atmosphere really did help after all. When the meteor exploded it was still 12-15 miles up. At least twice as high up as a jetliner.
- If it was only the size of a bus and 2 to 4 times higher up than a jet, why did it cause such a problem? Well, it was traveling at 40,000 mph!
So, hold onto your hats. It’s the stuff we aren’t worried about that gets us.
(photo of the Chelyabinsk meteor’s trace by Nikita Plekhanov via Wikipedia. Click on the image to see the original)
p.s. The meteor also taught me two things about Russian culture: (1) Russians have dashboard cameras in their cars to protect against corrupt policemen and disputed traffic accidents, and (2) They have already made a joke about it, quoted from the Houston Chronicle: “The meteorite was supposed to fall on Dec. 21, 2012 — when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world — but was delivered late by Russia’s notoriously inefficient postal service.”