The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Russian City Hit by Meteor: 1,200 People Hurt

 NASA estimated that this piece of space rock weighed in at roughly 7,000 tons. It was moving at hypersonic speed, traveling at roughly 40,000 mph. When it exploded 18 to 32 miles above Chelyabinsk, the detonation was the equivalent of 20 atomic bombs, or 300 to 500 kilotons of energy. The trail it left across the sky from its rapid, fiery descent was 300 miles long. Over 1,100 of the residents were injured in the blast.

I joked with friends yesterday that it was fortunate this wasn't the old Cold War era or we might have been in World War III right now, caused by a Soviet counter-strike for what would have been believed to be an American attack. It's not so funny when you read that Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a nationalist leader apparently of the old school, who blamed a new American weapon for the destruction.

Now, this was a comparatively small rock that fortunately detonated high in the atmosphere. We might not be so lucky next time. Isn't it about time we actually started tracking these wandering leftovers of the solar system's formation and figuring out how to nudge them out of orbits that will intersect ours?

Details from Jim Heintz and Vladimir Isachenkov of Associated Press, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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