Spectacular cosmic coincidence

20130215-082506.jpg

A 10 tonne asteroid has crashed into Russia early this morning. The large piece of space rock probably shattered 20 miles above the ground, it enough fragments made it all the way down to Earth to cause significant damage. The small crater in the ice above is the result of one of the fragments. At least 950 people were injured as the resulting shockwave blew out windows and shook buildings in the Ural Mountains.

“It was quite extraordinary,” Chelyabinsk resident Polina Zolotarevskaya told BBC News. “We saw a very bright light and then there was a kind of a track, white and yellow in the sky.” “The explosion was so strong that some windows in our building and in the buildings that are across the road and in the city in general, the windows broke.”

Your can see it for yourself here

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/9872507/The-science-behind-Russian-meteor-strike.html

Asteroids this size strike the Earth several hundred times a year, but are mostly over sea or desolate places and mostly burn up. But this event shows that when the trajectory is right, it can cause a lot of damage. Scientists have played down suggestions that there is any link between the event in the Urals and 2012 DA14, an asteroid expected to race past the Earth on Friday at a distance of just 27,700km (17,200 miles) – the closest ever predicted for an object of that size. The two asteroids approached from different directions, so it appears to be a cosmic coincidence.

Advertisements

Death by asteroid!

20120501-215902.jpg

This is a great topic for astro101 classes. We can talk about reality compared to hollywood, about big numbers, big space, and how long odds can act up over long period of time. Two new articles add to the debate.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=earth-was-longtime-asteroid-punchin-12-05-01

This first one shows that there has been far more asteroid collisions on Earth than previously accepted, seemingly mostly from one orbital location. Best to keep any eye on these ones then.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/science/new-studies-of-permian-extinction-shed-light-on-the-great-dying.html?_r=1&ref=science

This second one talks about a species ending event long before the time of the dinosaurs. This one knocked off 95% of species on the Earth. This one was not an asteroid collision, instead a sudden release of CO2, probably from a volcano. The scary thing about this second one is the rise of CO2 in the last 60 years or so is paralleling this situation. Perhaps we should worry more about the risks we are doing to ourselves than about big bits of rock in space.