Russia’s national space agency, Roscosmos, reports that a meteorite entered the atmosphere this morning and burnt up, scattering around Russia in an area approximately 900 miles away from Moscow. NASA officials say this strike has nothing to do with the asteroid passing within 17,000 miles of the Earth today, which could have been catastrophic if it hit.
A meteorite exploded near Russia’s Ural mountain range Friday around 9:20 a.m. local time this morning, causing a massive explosion that smashed windows and injured more than 700 people, mostly due to flying glass. Amateur videos from dash cams and handheld cameras show the meteor streaking across the sky before bursting into a ball of flame. An article on Online.WSJ.com says residents in the Chelyabinsk area reported windows shattering and doors shaking from the shock wave of the explosion.
A hole was blown into the wall of a metal factory and it appears that around 3,000 buildings were damaged, the Wall Street Journal reports. Approximately 20,000 emergency response workers have been put into motion to help. So far, 34 people have been hospitalized, but that number could rise as new reports come in.
Most of the meteorite burned up before impact, but one large chunk did hit near Lake Chebarkul where local authorities say it created an eight-meter crater, sending out spews of ice, water and steam. The meteorite was not large, only a few meters in diameter, but it is believed to have weighed around 10 metric tons. It entered the atmosphere traveling about 33,000 miles per hour and exploded anywhere from 18 to 32 miles above the ground.
NASA officials responded quickly, saying this strike has nothing to do with the asteroid that is expected to pass by Earth Friday in what astronomers say will be a close call. It is approximately as long as half of a football field and will pass within 17,000 miles of our planet. One spokesman told CNN.com the two events are completely separate and that it is strange they are happening so close together.
It is not rare for a meteor to strike the earth, with the event occurring about five to 10 times a year on average. Of course, most of these are smaller meteors that will often land in an uninhabited area or in the ocean, so little impact is typically felt. It is not known if the meteor’s entrance into the atmosphere was expected or not.