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Mystery of the Chelyabinsk Meteor is Still Ongoing Three Years After Historic Crash

First Posted: Feb 15, 2016 04:20 PM EST

The mystery of the meteor that streaked across Russian skies is still ongoing three years after it occurred. Scientists are taking a closer look at the superbolide that entered the atmosphere above Chelyabinsk in Russia, breaking windows and causing injuries.

"Three years have passed since the Chelyabinsk (Russia) great scare and during this time more than two hundred research papers-50 in the last year-related directly or indirectly to the 19-m wide Chelyabinsk superbolide have been published in scientific peer-review journals," said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, co-author of one of the research papers, in a news release.

The images and diverse scientific data compiled during the event have allowed the calculation of the atmospheric entry trajectory of the meteoroid, which turned into a meteor when it crossed the Earth's atmosphere, exploding at a height of 20 km and releasing 500 kilotons of energy. That's about 30 times the yield of a Hiroshima nuclear bomb. The shockwave created by this explosion caused damage out to a distance of 75 miles, breaking windows, and even the window frames in some cases, of hundreds of buildings and injuring 1,491 people mainly due to cuts inflicted by shattered and broken glass.

At first, researchers thought it could be possible that the superbolide was related to the asteroid that passed Earth on the same day. However, researchers analyzed both objects and found that the two objects were completely independent and unrelated. Instead, it was an unrelated, though very unusual, coincidence.

In fact, the researchers have yet to figure out the exact origins of the superbolide. This is because of the controversial value of the object's geocentric velocity at impact. This parameter has different values depending on the research study considered, and this fact leads to slightly different pre-impact orbits.

Currently, the object remains a mystery. However, researchers do agree the event was a rare one, and likely won't occur again for a very long time.

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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