Published on 15 Feb 2013 Sections ,

Meteor blows apart over Russia, injuring hundreds

On the day an asteroid hurtles past earth, more than 1,000 people are injured – many by broken glass – after a meteor streaks across the sky over Russia’s Ural mountains.

Nearly 1,000 people are reported to have been injured in Russia as a meteorite, streaking across the sky, ceasted an enormous sonic boom that hit buildings and shattered windows.

The meteor left a a long white trail across the sky which could be seen from 125 miles away. At 9.20am local time (5.20am GMT) an explosion was heard across the region, which probably occured when the meteor hit the planet’s atmosphere.

I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows. Local resident Andrei

Across the mid-Russian region of Chelyabinsk, car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phones worked only intermittently.

Tim O’Brien, associate director of the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, said the injuries were caused when the meteor created a sonic boom.

“This reasonably large chunk of rock was moving faster than the speed of sound, maybe 20,000 miles per hour. It made a sonic boom in the atmosphere, and that hit buildings and shattered windows. That is what seems to have caused the injuries,” he said.

“It’s a completely abnormal experience. This thing appeared in the distance, raced over the horizon and was followed up 30 seconds or a minute later by a huge boom as the shock wave hit the ground. I can imagine that would be very frightening.”

Asteroid link?

A local official linked the meteor to an asteroid, 2012 DA14, that is passing close to the Earth on Friday. However, Richard Crowther of the UK Space Agency told Channel 4 News that it is unlikely the two events are linked.

“Although asteroids do tend to breakup as they encounter a massive body such as the earth, if this was a piece of 2012 DA14, it would be in the same orbit as the main tracked body.

“Given that the trajectory of 2012 DA14 is not in the same plane as the earth, we only intersect its orbit at one point in space and time (this evening).

“The Chelyabinsk impactor is likely to have been significantly smaller than 2012 DA14 (10 metres before entry into the atmosphere) but clearly still has potential to cause some limited damage.

“It is also worth noting that if this had arrived at earth four hours later, fragments would have fallen over northern UK.”

Blinding light

At least three people were seriously injured, Russia’s Interior Ministry said. Most injuries were called by shattering glass.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry urged residents not to panic, and said background radiation levels were nomal.

“I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day,” said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals mountains. “I felt like I was blinded by headlights.”

“I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend,” said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. “Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows.”