Russian Meteors

Good day, dear readers. I’ve missed you *kisses&hugs*! Something has forced me to wake up from my winter hibernation and reunite with the blogosphere. It’s this meteor thing. Yeah, so let’s talk about it.

On February 15th, what seemed to be a regular winter morning, soon became a world phenomenon and sensation as a meteorite streaked across the sky over Chelyabinsk before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left about 1,000 people hurt. Since then, the internet has been flooded with lots of amateur video footage of this meteorite captured by Russian dash-cams, car dashboard mounted cameras. One YouTube user, jokingly commented, “Thank God for Russian car cams, if this had happened in Zimbabwe we would have never known.” The Russian Academy of Sciences says the meteor weighed 10 tons and entered the earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000kph.

Has anyone ever wondered why meteorites pick Russia as their favorite destination? More than once, that’s for sure. It’s really a scary thought, given that space is clearly capable of pounding us with deadly rocks at any time.

The first recorded meteorite explosion in Russia was in 1908, known as the Tunguska event. Eyewitnesses in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal observed a column of bluish light, nearly as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. Then there was a flash and a sound similar to artillery fire, followed by a shock wave that knocked down around 80 million trees. It is estimated that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale.

“…the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest. The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn’t bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few meters… After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook…When the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways…” (Testimony of S. Semenov)

December 1922, a second meteorite decided to strike Russia’s soil, this time in the village of Tsaritsin, Volgograd District. This meteorite under the name of Tsarev is considered to be the largest episode of a meteor shower in Russia (3rd in the world; yielding first and second place to China and Mexico). Around 82 pieces of the meteorite were discovered in 1968—making up around 1,500 tons of total mass—and was classified as an Olivine-hypersthene chondrite. The reason for which it took so many years to find the meteorite was mainly because the place where it supposedly fell wasn’t properly identified. However, there were many rumors going on among the villagers. They said, for example, that it was a stone the size of a house, and entirely of gold! Others believed that the meteor fell into the Lake Elton, causing water to boil.

Next, we have the iron meteorite that fell on February 12th 1947 in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in eastern Siberia. The Sikhote-Alin meteorite exploded in the atmosphere as it fell, raining more than 30 tons of metal on an elliptical region about 1.5 square kilometers in area. Craters were formed by the meteors, the largest being 26 meters in diameter.

Sikhote-Alin Stamp

Above is an image of a Soviet Union stamp issued for the 10th anniversary of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite shower. It reproduces a painting by P. J. Medvedev, a Soviet artist who witnessed the fall: he was sitting in his window starting a sketch when the fireball appeared, so he immediately began drawing what he saw.

Fragments of the iron meteorite

Fragments of the iron meteorite /// Credit: http://www.meteorite-recon.com/

A more recent meteorite flashed across the night skies of the Irkutsk region in Siberia, on September 25th 2002. More than a hundred people, near the towns of Vitim and Bodaybo, reported to have seen the sky light up and heard the sound of an explosion. Named as the Vitim Event, it is believed to have been an impact by a bolide or comet nucleus in the Vitim River basin.

I thought it would be interesting to share with you these previous episodes of Russian meteors, since I find them really curious. What distinguished the Chelyabinsk meteor from the rest is the fact that it fell in an urban area where evidence was caught on tape… in the 21st century. Consequently, the videos went viral in the social media, such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, not to mention its massive coverage in the world news. The meteor got so popular it even got its own Twitter hashtag #Russianmeteor (the # symbol, or hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet). I don’t think the Tunguska meteor has a hashtag, therefore it’s not cool… it ain’t got enough #swag.

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8 thoughts on “Russian Meteors

  1. Oh, all of these events are so impressive! By the way, the famous Tunguska’s blast was equivalent to a likely average of 15 megatons of TNT (somewhat the power of a mid ’50s thermonuclear bomb), according to various estimates…

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