A spectacular meteor shower has caused “hundreds” of injuries in central Russia, after the subsequent explosion blew out windows in Yekaterinberg. There are unconfirmed reports that the meteorite was “intercepted” by Russian air defense, but the speed of the space fragment traveling speeds in excess of Mach 25 is no match for any defense system. The space rock, probably a fragment of an asteroid–see below–is thought to have crashed into a lake near Chebarkul. Rescue workers have been sent to the region to help, although most of the injuries, caused by falling glass, are not thought to be life-threatening.
It’s highly probable that the phenomenon is connected with the “near miss” between an asteroid and Earth that is scheduled to happen just before 2.30 p.m. EST today. The space object, known as 2012 DA14 and around the same size as an Olympic swimming pool, will come within 17,200 miles of our planet, and will be visible with good binoculars or a telescope. Both the meteorite and the asteroid are probably fragments of space rock traveling in the same orbit. Last month, a 900-foot-wide asteroid named after a mythological Egyptian demon came close–but not as close–to earth. And NASA is considering an out-of-the-box idea that would involve dragging an asteroid into the Moon’s orbit for research purposes–and disaster movie plots.
Will you be watching the near-miss later today? Or have you already packed the car, said “You’re on your own” to the dog and your better half’s Mom and driven off in a squeal of brakes and tyre rubber to a bunker you know?AD