Meteor events relatively common, UF geologist says

By on February 15th, 2013

A meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, Friday injuring about 1,200 people, shattering windows and damaging buildings, just hours before an asteroid passed near the Earth’s orbit.

Scientists estimated the meteor unleashed a force 20 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, although the space rock exploded at a much higher altitude.

Meteorites like this are more common than people think, said Ray Russo, a geophysicist at the University of Florida. He said we shouldn’t live in fear of them, but it’s something to be aware of.

Meteor strikes, which refer to meteors that enter into the Earth’s atmosphere, happen frequently, but the meteor in Russia was larger than usual and created a sonic boom while in the atmosphere, which caused all the damage.

When meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause damage, experts must act quickly to try and record enough information to help predict extreme cases like this in the future, he said.

“If they don’t find anything soon, it’s probably a lost cause,” Russo said.

Experts hope to gain enough knowledge from this incident to help predict these events in advance to avoid mass injury, Russo said.

The largest recorded meteor strike in more than a century occurred hours before a 150-foot asteroid passed within about 17,000 miles of Earth. The European Space Agency said its experts had determined there was no connection between the asteroid and the Russian meteor — just cosmic coincidence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Audreyanna Loguerre wrote this story online.

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