Mother Nature put on quite the show Friday as a meteor disintegrated while entering the Earth’s atmosphere in the skies over Russia.
While NASA estimated the meteor was only about the size of a bus and weighed about 7,000 tons, the fireball it produced was dramatic. Video shot by startled residents of the city of Chelyabinsk showed its streaming contrails arcing toward the horizon just after sunrise, looking like something from a world-ending science-fiction movie.
Over 1,000 people were injured — most by shattered glass — after the shock wave blasted out windows.
Dr. William Schonberg, professor of civil engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology explained the bright light accompanying the meteor comes from the intense heat created while entering the atmosphere.
“Anytime something that fast cuts through the air, it creates a shock wave,” he said.
Schonberg said that shock wave is what caused about 99 percent of the damage in Russia, not the impact of the meteorite.
He also said events like this happen every couple of years, we just don’t know, or hear about them often.
He explained that, because 80 percent of the earth is covered in water, there is a good chance when meteors enter the astrosphere, it won’t be over a populated area and no one would see it.
Schonberg said word traveled quickly after Friday’s event in Russia because of advances in technology — specifically social media.
Within minutes of the blast, photos and videos spread over the internet like wildfire.
The meteor came hours before a 150-foot asteroid passed within about 17,000 miles of Earth. The European Space Agency said its experts had determined there was no connection between the asteroid and the Russian meteor — just cosmic coincidence.
So if scientists saw the asteroid coming months away, how did the meteor catch the world by surprise?
“You can only track something once you see it,” said Schonberg. “It’s common to think ‘how come we didn’t know about it?’ There’s millions of things out there.”
Schonberg said once scientists find an object, they determine if it could cross earth’s path. “Once we find one that Earth’s crossing, then we keep track of it,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - According to the Missouri S&T website, Schonberg studies high-speed impacts that might occur in low-Earth orbit
If you ever get the chance to see a meteor like this, Schonberg said to just enjoy the view.
“It’s a wondrous display of the power of nature,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.