A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s southern Chelyabinsk region Friday morning and then exploded, shattering glass in buildings and leaving hundreds of people hurt. The number of injured continues to rise as new reports come in from across the area. As of noon (Moscow time), as many as 725 people sought medical attention.
NASA scientists have reiterated that this event was not caused by an asteroid passing close by the Earth today (Feb.15). Asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of the agency’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, told SPACE.com that the object was most likely an exploding fireball known as a “bolide”.
“If the reports of ground damage can be verified, it might suggest an object whose original size was several meters in extent before entering the atmosphere, fragmenting and exploding due to the unequal pressure on the leading side vs the trailing side (it pancaked and exploded),” Yeomans told SPACE.com in an email. “It is far too early to provide estimates of the energy released or provide a reliable estimate of the original size.”
Yeoman stressed that the bolide event was likely not associated at all with the incoming asteroid 2012 DA14, which will fly within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth when it passes safely by our planet today. “The asteroid will travel south to north,” Yeomans said. “The bolide trail was not south to north and the separation in time between the fireball and 2012 DA14 close approach is significant.”
Watch a video of the meteor exploding over Russia below:
Asteroid 2012 DA14, is 150 feet wide — about half the size of a football field — and will make its closest approach to Earth at 2:24 p.m. EST today (Feb 15th, 2013) when it passes over Indonesia. It will be about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than the communications satellites circling the planet in geosynchronous orbits.