The meteor that streaked across the skies over Russia in a blinding fireball on Friday struck Earth’s atmosphere with a force about 30 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb, Nasa scientists have said.
The 55-feet rock, said by Nasa to have a mass of 10,000 tonnes, plunged to Earth in the Urals region on Friday morning, causing shockwaves that injured 1,200 people and damaged thousands of homes in an event unprecedented in modern times.
Nasa estimate that the energy released by the meteor’s impact with the atmosphere was 500 kilotonnes, around 30 times the force of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.
Divers were this morning searching the Chelyabinsk region’s frozen Lake Chebarkul for a fragment of the meteorite. No fragments have been found in the region so far – despite some 20,000 rescuers and recovery workers being dispatched to help the hundreds of people injured.
Scientists from Nasa, the US space agency, estimated that the amount of energy released from impact with the atmosphere was about 30 times greater than the nuclear bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II.
“We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of Nasa’s Near-Earth Object Program Office.
“When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case there were probably some large ones,” he said in a statement published on the Nasa website.
The strike brought traffic to a halt in the industrial city of Chelyabinsk as residents poured out on the streets to watch the light show before hovering for safety as a sonic boom shattered glass and set off car alarms. Most of the injuries were caused by glass.
“We have a special team working… that is now assessing the seismic stability of buildings,” Vladimir Puchkov, the Emergencies Minister, told residents as he inspected the damage in the city.
“We will be especially careful about switching the gas back on,” he said in televised remarks.
The meteor explosion appears to be one of the most stunning cosmic events above Russia since the 1908 Tunguska Event in which a massive blast most scientists blame on an asteroid or a comet ripped through Siberia.
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