Moment meteorite exploded in the sky above Russian town as doctors treat 950 people injured when sonic boom shattered windows
- Large object flashed across the sky at 9.20am local time
- Pictures show a streak of smoke followed by several bright blasts of flames
- 82 of the injured are children and two are in intensive care
- Landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a neighbouring town
- 6,000 square feet of a roof at a zinc factory collapsed
- One local said it ‘was like a scene from the Armageddon movie’
- Same day as Asteroid 2012 DA14, which is due to skim Earth’s orbit tonight
A terrifying meteorite shower left more than 950 people injured, buildings devastated and the mobile network wiped out when it hit Russia this morning.
Brightly burning rocks could be seen for miles as they crashed at around 9.20am local time and one bystander described it ‘like a scene from the Armageddon movie.’
The meteorite is believed to have landed in a lake near Chebarkul, a town in the neighbouring Chelyabinsk region.
The city of Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow and close to the Kazakhstan border, took the brunt of the super sonic impact.
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Unexpected sight: A terrifying meteorite shower left hundreds of people injured, buildings devastated and the mobile network wiped out when it hit Russia this morning
Terrifying: Brightly burning rocks could be seen for hundreds of kilometres as they crashed at around 9.20am local time and one bystander described it ‘like a scene from the Armageddon movie’
Spectacular sky: The Urals region was struck by falling meteorite fragments which fell in the city of Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow and close to the Kazakhstan border
Before and after: A video showed a street scene in Russia before the meteorite shower struck. Seconds later the street was lit up in a haze of bright white as the large fireball exploded
Speed: Russia’s space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second and that such events were hard to predict
VIDEO Moment Meteorite shower hits caught on camera
The Russian Ministry of Emergencies says 950 people have been injured, 82 of them are children and two are in intensive care.
Many of the injured had bloodied faces and one child’s back was seen covered in blood.
Tim O’Brien, associate director of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, said the injuries were caused when the meteor created a sonic boom.
‘This reasonably large chunk of rock was moving faster than the speed of sound, maybe 20,000 miles per hour. It made a sonic boom in the atmosphere, and that hit buildings and shattered windows. That is what seems to have caused the injuries,’ he explained.
However, there were no reports of fatalities and it was not immediately clear if any people were struck by fragments.
A six metre wide hole was found in the ground close to Lake Chebarkul, said Russian military sources cited by RIA Novosti news agency.
Earlier it was thought the main body of the meteorite had hit the lake.
‘The meteorite that passed over the Chelyabinsk region fell into a body of water 1km from the city of Chebarkul,’ said a statement posted on the website of Chelyabinsk governor, Mikhail Yurevich.
According to an unconfirmed report in Russia Today, the meteorite was intercepted by Russian air defense.
Shockwave: People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave
Smoking: Pictures show a streak of smoke followed by several bright blasts of flames
Coincidence: Early indications are that the shower is unrelated to Asteroid 2012 DA14, which is due to skim the orbit of the Earth later today
High in the sky: The vapour trail of a falling meteorite is seen in the sky over the city of Chelyabinsk
The strike came on the same day that Asteroid 2012 DA14 is due to skim the orbit of the Earth tonight.
But astronomers say that it is probably just a coincidence - Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told MailOnline: ‘As I understand it, the Russian meteorite(s) were travelling from east to west whereas 2012 DA14 will be travelling from north to south.’
Chelyabinsk residents reported shaking ground, windows being shattered and car alarms being set off during the shower.
Pictures show a streak of smoke followed by several bright blasts of flames and eyewitnesses spoke of several devastating explosions.
Mobile phones are only working intermittently and there were localised power cuts.
According to RT.com, the Urals regional centre of the Emergency Ministry claimed it sent out a mass text message warning residents about a possible meteorite shower.
Injured: A man identifying himself as Viktor poses for a photograph after receiving treatment for injuries after the meteorite shower hit the Russian region
Medical treatment: Many injured had bloodied faces from being hit by shards of glass broken in the explosions
Toll: Hundreds of people were injured, but there have been no reports of fatalities
Fear: First reports suggested that there had been a plane crash but officials confirmed it was one or more meteorites falling to Earth
Sonic boom: Tim O’Brien, associate director of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, said the injuries were caused when the meteor created a sonic boom causing windows to shatter
But eyewitnesses said they either never received it, or got the message after the explosion had already occurred.
The emergencies ministry said that 10,000 rescue workers had been dispatched to help the injured and locate those needing help.
The stadium of Chelyabinsk’s Traktor ice hockey side was hit and state television showed a part of the roof and a wall shorn off a brick zinc factory in the city.
All schools and kindergartens were closed in Chelyabinsk region today.
Explosion: Eyewitnesses spoke of several devastating explosions rocking buildings and shattering glass
Damaged: A zinc factory in Chelyabinsk was seen with a partially collapsed roof and walls in the morning after meteor pieces rained on the town
Moment of impact: A pair, seen on CCTV, cower from the impact as the window near them explodes
Injured: Four schoolchildren were known to have been injured from broken glass
Unexpected: Eyewitnesses spoke of several devastating explosions rocking buildings and shattering glass
The Russian Academy of Sciences is estimating the meteor weighed about 10 tons.
The academy said in a statement hours fall that the meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometres (18-32 miles) above ground.
One eyewitness Gulnara Dudka, in her 20s, gave a dramatic account of the meteorite, telling how she feared ‘doomsday’ had arrived, reported the Siberian Times.
‘What was it? People said it was a plane that fell and exploded,’ she said.
‘I saw a bright blast from behind me. Everything was lit up, very bright light.
‘It was like from Armageddon movie when the meteorite rain started, I really thought it was like doomsday.
‘It was so scary especially the explosion. It was very strong. I am speechless. It was so strong. My camera couldn’t reproduce how strong the bang was.’
‘I was sitting at home and typing something on my computer. Suddenly there was a huge bright flash,’ said Konstantin Zharinov, an historian and journalist from Chelyabinsk.
‘At first I thought something happened at my neighbours place but a minute later the sound of the explosion came.’
He said ‘many lost their windows, glass is everywhere in the streets’.
Children were left panic-stricken as windows smashed at School Number 15 in Chelyabinsk.
‘First there was an unreal light that lit up all the classrooms on the right side of the school. That kind of light doesn’t happen in life, only at the end of the world, then a trail appeared like from a plane but only 10 times bigger,’ said teacher Valentina Nikolayeva.
Residents in one 19 storey block reported feeling the shockwaves of the explosions.
The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, said a witness, and there were reports that the internet and mobile networks were temporarily down.
The meteorite flew across the Russian sky from the direction of Kazakhstan, its trajectory going over southern Siberia, above the Tyumen, Kurgan and Sverdlovsk regions, said the head of the Urals regional branch of the Emergencies Ministry press service, Vadim Grebennikov.
VIDEO: Dramatic moment workers run for cover as meteorite strikes
The event has been well-documented – many drivers in Russia have video recorders fitted in their cars to record any accident or disputes.
Within an hour of the explosion, footage from these was uploaded to YouTube showing the fireball crashing to the ground.
Officials stressed that radiation levels remained normal amid fears that one of dozens of nuclear facilities in the region could have been hit.
‘All Rosatom enterprises located in the Urals region — including the Mayak complex — are working as normal,’ an unnamed Rosatom spokesman told Interfax.
Hurt: A school in Chelyabinsk took a fair brunt of the explosion – four students were injured
Ruined: The sounds of car alarms and breaking windows could be heard in the area, said a witness, and there were reports that the internet and mobile networks were temporarily down
Damaged: The emergencies ministry said that 20,000 rescue workers had been dispatched to help the injured and locate those needing help
Clear up: A man removes shards of glass from the frame of a broken window – most of the injuries were from glass
Blown out: A building damaged by the shockwave from the meteorite
Concern focused on nuclear warehouses of the Defense Ministry in Trekhgorny, in the South Urals, but officials insisted that there was no damage.
Russian news reports noted that the meteor hit less than a day before the asteroid 2012 DA14 is to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid – about 17,150 miles (28,000 kilometers).
But the European Space Agency, in a post on its Twitter account, said its experts had determined there was no connection.
Small pieces of space debris – usually parts of comets or asteroids – that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids.
Surprise: Shocked residents look up in the sky with horror
Aftermath: People look at damage to a shop following the meteor shower
Shattered: The city of Chelyabinsk, 900 miles east of Moscow and close to the Kazakhstan border, took the brunt of the impact
When meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere they are called meteors.
Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.
The dramatic events prompted an array of reactions from prominent Russian political figures.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an economic forum in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, said the meteor could be a symbol for the forum, showing that ‘not only the economy is vulnerable, but the whole planet.’
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the nationalist leader noted for vehement statements, said ‘It’s not meteors falling, it’s the test of a new weapon by the Americans,’ the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
‘At the moment we are checking the territories and counting how many towns and settlements suffered from it.
‘Preliminary information says the meteorite did not fall down but exploded in the air. ‘
Radiation levels were normal, said officials.
Destroyed: The building of the local zinc plant badly damaged by a shockwave from a meteorite impact
Impact: Small pieces of space debris – usually parts of comets or asteroids – that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids
Getting to work: Rescue servicemen work at the site of a collapsed wall and roof of the concentrate warehouse of the zinc plant in Chelyabinsk
HALF A MILLION KILOMETRES AWAY, ANOTHER ASTEROID IS COMING…
At first glance it may seem a more than a coincidence that this meteorite shower has struck Earth just hours before asteroid 2012 DA14 is due to skim past our planet tonight.
Yet astronomers say that a coincidence is all it is.
Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told MailOnline: ‘As I understand it, the Russian meteorite(s) were travelling from east to west whereas 2012 DA14 will be travelling from north to south.
‘In any case with a 12 hour time difference, the objects are at least half a million km apart, so unrelated.’
His view was backed up by Dr Phil Plait on his Bad Astronomy blog for Slate and the European Space Agency.
The ESA wrote on Twitter (@esaoperations): ‘ESA experts at #ESOC confirm *no* link between #meteor incidents in #Russia & #Asteroid #2012DA14 Earth flyby tonite #SSA #NEO.’
Dr Massey added: ‘So, although the incident in Russia is dramatic and the reports of injuries are unprecedented and awful – there are very few historic reports of people being hurt as a result of meteorites – it doesn’t seem to be at all relevant to tonight’s close asteroid flyby.’
What will happen tonight?
Just before 7.30pm today, a 150ft wide chunk of space rock will whizz past us in the closest shave since records began.
If it hit the planet, it could wipe out a city the size of London and do as much damage as 1,000 of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.
Nasa has stressed that ‘no Earth impact is possible’ – but scientists say there is a small chance that TV signals may be affected.
The asteroid will cut through the orbit of some satellites used for weather forecasting and for satellite phones and television.
Mobile phones won’t be affected as they rely on land-based masts and cables.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered last year by a Spanish dentist turned amateur astronomer and has been closely tracked ever since.
Hurtling through space at speeds of five miles a second, eight times as fast as a speeding bullet, it will come within 17,000 miles of Earth at 7.24pm tomorrow.
Astronomy expert Daniel Brown, of Nottingham Trent University, said: ‘In astronomical terms, that’s very close.’
Although the asteroid won’t be visible with the naked eye, it should be possible to see it with binoculars.