This morning a meteorite has broken up over central Russia in a shockwave blast that lit up the sky and caused damage to the bodies of 500 citizens nearby. Though this news bit may seem like science fiction from the latest blockbuster apocalypse movie, it's the real deal. According to reports from the region, this former chunk of space debris was right around the size of a sports utility vehicle before it shattered entering the Earth's atmosphere.
Another much larger mass is passing by the Earth today in what asteroid expert Richard Binzel of MIT notes is almost certainly an unrelated incident. This larger asteroid conglomeration called 2012 DA14 is closer in size to a 13-story-sized building and will be passing by the Earth nearly 24 hours after the Russian mass. 2012 DA14 will pass within 17,000 miles of our planet at right around 2:24 PM EST today, February 15th, 2013.
According to Binzel speaking with USA Today, "we just have the incredible coincidence of this happening just before the asteroid flies by." The Russian meteorite entered Earth's atmosphere and bits crash landed across Chelyabinsk. This little beast has been estimated at entering the atmosphere at 33,000 mph and has been captured, believe it or not, in a collection of home-made videos filmed by citizens around the area. Have a peek at a couple here:
Above: Here you'll hear the shockwave - or multiple shocks, that is - along with the dust left by the material entering the atmosphere.
Above: In this vehicle dash-based camera capture you'll see the meteor enter the vehicle's line of view, light up the sky, and continue its journey downward in a lovely arc.
Astronomers will be attempting to recover the bits of matter left by the Russian meteor for study as soon as possible. According to a Rueters report, citizens like Viktor Prokofiev saw the heavenly body enter the atmosphere clearly: "I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day. I felt like I was blinded by headlights."
Above: Security camera footage shows meteor lighting up the sky.
Head of the Emergencies Ministry in Chelyabinsk Yuri Burenko spoke up as well, noting the rarity of this type of situation happening in Russia: "There have never been any cases of meteorites breaking up at such a low level over Russia before." This same Emergencies Ministry described the event as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" but made it clear that "background radiation levels were normal."
At this very moment final estimates for the amount of damage and injuries are not to be had, but according to Rueters, more than 500 people have been "hurt." We'll be checking back throughout the day with updates - stay tuned to SlashGear for more.
UPDATE 10:36 AM CST: The Washington Post now reports that 1,000 people have been injured by the blast.
UPDATE 10:45 AM CST: New home video surfaces (seen below). According to local news group Pravda a partial evacuation was conducted in Chelyabinsk and the police were set to high alert. A "Fortress" plan was enacted and "all vital facilities of the city were taken under additional protection." It's also been reported the the area is "currently" being inspected by three aircraft and 20,000 EMERCOM personnel. EMERCOM is Russia's Ministry for Emergency Situations.
UPDATE 10:50 AM CST: Another video with the first major sonic boom surfaces.
UPDATE 11:00 AM CST: A video has surfaced showing the initial boom with glass breaking in nearby buildings - a must see!