Russian Meteor Slams into Earth, Injuring Nearly 1,000 (Video)

First Posted: Feb 15, 2013 11:28 AM EST

Early on Friday, bright objects streaked across the sky in western Siberia, causing people to look up and take notice. Created by a meteor, these objects were accompanied by a boom which broke glass on buildings caused injuries in about 1,000 people, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry.

This meteorite strike comes hard on the heels of an announcement by NASA that an asteroid will dip close to Earth today at around 2:25 p.m. EST. Unlike the meteorite, though, the asteroid will not be striking Earth's surface. That doesn't mean that the two incidents are completely unrelated, though.

Aleksandr Y. Dudorov, a physicist at Chelyabink State University, said it was possible that the meteorite may have been flying alongside the asteroid, according to the New York Times. In an interview with the New York Times, the scientist said, "What we witnessed today may have been the precursor of that asteroid."

Other experts, though, including NASA, have said that there is no connection between the meteorite and the asteroid.

The 10-ton meteorite was what is known as a bolide, essentially an exploding fireball. A meteorite is essentially a meteoroid, a smaller version of an asteroid, that survives the Earth's atmosphere to hurtle to the surface.

In this case, the meteorite sped toward Earth's atmosphere at 15 to 20 kilometers per second; it then shattered about 20 to 30 miles above our planet and caused a massive explosion. The resulting shock wave brought about shattered windows and glass. About 3,000 buildings were damaged, and the blast blew a hole in the walls of a metals factory in Chelyabinsk. So far, 43 people have been hospitalized with injuries.

The governor of the Chelyabinsk district where the event took place has announced that an impact crater has been located about 50 miles west of the city. In addition, about 10,000 police officers are currently searching for meteorite debris. So far, three large pieces have been found, though officials say that dozens were seen falling to Earth.

Many who first witnessed the meteor thought that an airplane had crashed. Several amateur videographers took images of the sight, capturing it on film. Local police even announced that witnesses saw one piece smash into the ground near Lake Chebarkul, throwing up a column of ice, water and steam as it created a 26-foot crater.

A meteorite is a rare occurrence, and it's only once every 2,000 years or so that a football-field sized one crashes into Earth and causes significant damage. In 1908, a massive space object plunged to Earth in what is known as the Tunguska event. It leveled hundreds of thousands of acres of Siberian forest and while it was caused by an asteroid, meteorites can also cause significant impacts. About once a year, a car-sized asteroid enters our atmosphere. However, it usually burns up before hitting the surface.

Because of this rare event, scientists are now racing to the site in Russia where the meteorite was observed. Before now, there has only been one case in Sudan in 2007 where researchers were able to follow the track of a meteor as it came down and recover pieces on the ground.

Want to see the damage and the meteorite itself? Check out the video below.

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