Meteorite fragments rain down on Siberia

The New York Times reports: Bright objects, apparently debris from a meteor, streaked through the sky in western Siberia early on Friday, accompanied by a boom that damaged buildings across a vast territory. Russia’s Interior Ministry said more than 1,000 people were hurt, 200 of them children, mostly from shards of glass that shattered when the meteor entered the atmosphere.

Many of the injuries were suffered by residents of the city of Chelyabinsk, about 950 miles east of Moscow, in a region where many factories for defense, including nuclear weapons production, are situated. But there was no indication of damage that resulted in any radiation leaks, officials said.

Russian experts believe the blast was caused by a 10-ton meteor known as a bolide, which created a powerful shock wave when it reached the Earth’s atmosphere, the Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement. Scientists believe the bolide exploded and evaporated at a height of around 20 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface, but that small meteorite fragments may have reached the ground, the statement said.

The governor of the Chelyabinsk district reported that material from the sky had fallen into a lake on the outskirts of a city about 50 miles west of Chelyabinsk. Officials told Russian news agencies they had sent police officers A small asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, was expected to pass close to Earth later on Friday, NASA reported on its Web site. Aleksandr Y. Dudorov, a physicist at Chelyabinsk State University, said it was possible that the meteorite may have been flying alongside the asteroid.

“What we witnessed today may have been the precursor of that asteroid,” said Mr. Dudorov in a telephone interview.

Others, however disputed that view, saying there was almost certainly no connection. Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, told the BBC that the 2012 Da14 was approaching earth from the south, while the meteor struck the earth’s atmosphere in the northern hemisphere, indicating the objects were traveling in different directions. “This is literally a cosmic coincidence, although a spectacular one,” he said.

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