A sizeable asteroid meteor exploded over Russia the other day which, while it didn’t cause any damage, did serve as a timely reminder about pesky space rocks coming our way.
The meteor was seen over several Russian cities including Lipetsk, south-east of Moscow, and others such as Kursk and Voronzeh in the early hours of Thursday June 21. It’s thought that it measured about 4 meters (13 feet) across, with some witnesses reporting a sonic boom.
Video footage managed to capture the meteor, with it brightening dramatically as it burned up in the atmosphere. Footage from a weather satellite also managed to capture the moment from space.
NASA also tracked the meteor, listing it as a fireball event, which are exceptionally bright meteors that can be seen over a wide area. They said that it exploded at an altitude of about 27.2 kilometers (16.9 miles), and was traveling at a speed of 14.4 kilometers (9 miles) per second.
According to NASA, it exploded with an impact energy of about 2.8 kilotons, making it the most powerful asteroid since March 2017. The International Meteor Organization, however, said the explosion may have been slightly more powerful at around 3.2 kilotons.
Russia, being the largest country, gets quite a few meteors compared to elsewhere. This includes the famous 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor, which injured hundreds when it exploded. It was thought to be a bit bigger than this latest one, about 20 meters (65 feet) across.
Just last week we had another meteor make the news, for different reasons though – as it lit up a Foo Fighters gig. That meteor appeared green, likely due to its chemical composition.
Both meteors were not tracked before they entered the atmosphere, a timely reminder that we don’t know about all debris entering our atmosphere. A recent report from NASA said the agency would step up its attempts to both prevent dangerous asteroids hitting Earth, and prepare for the aftermath if they do.
You probably don’t need reminding that an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs. If such a large asteroid were heading our way, we’d want to know quite a few years in advance so that we could try and deflect it, such as by nudging out of the way or nuking it.
This Saturday, June 30, is Asteroid Day, an event around the world that seeks to raise awareness about asteroids. One day a rock might have our name on it, and if it does, we’ll want to be ready.