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Russian Meteor Paid Visit from Beyond Mars

By February 27, 2013

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meteorScientists have put together an impressive postmortem on the meteor that exploded over Siberia this month, shattering windows and people's sense of security about what's coming from space -- and whether we'd be able to stop something larger. From Space.com:

A meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this month likely hit Earth after a long trip from beyond the orbit of Mars, scientists say.

Astronomers and the public were caught off guard by the Russian fireball, which damaged thousands of buildings and wounded more than 1,000 people when it detonated over the city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15.

But some YouTube-aided detective work suggests that the meteor's parent body belonged to the Apollo family of Earth-crossing asteroids, whose elliptical orbits take them farther than one Earth-sun distance (about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers) from our star at some point, researchers said.

Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin of the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia, reached this conclusion after analyzing several videos of the Russian meteor, especially one taken in Chelyabinsk's Revolutionary Square and another recorded in the nearby city of Korkino. [Russian Fireball: All You Need to Know (Video)]

They also took into account the location of a hole in the ice of Lake Chebarkul, about 43 miles (70 km) from Chelyabinsk. Scientists think the hole was caused by a piece of the space rock that hit Earth on Feb. 15.

Using trigonometry, Zuluaga and Ferrin calculated basic elements of the fireball's path through Earth's atmosphere.

Scientists agree that the Russian meteor and the asteroid that made a close, projected flyby past the Earth that day weren't related.


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