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The Rock That Clobbered Russia: Meteor Post Mortem

Science & Space

Chunks of rock fall from space all the time, some of them big enough to do a fair amount of damage. Most of the time, however, nobody’s the wiser: the vast majority of Earth’s surface is ocean, desert or wilderness, so even a good-sized meteorite can fall without anyone noticing. And that’s assuming the incoming ordnance makes it through our atmosphere at all without burning up first.

That’s not how things played out last February 15, though, when a 60-ft.-wide (18 m) space boulder blazed through the skies above Chelyabinsk, Russia just after sunrise, then exploded in mid-air. The fiery meteor was so bright it briefly outshone the Sun, and even caused sunburns; its sonic boom, meanwhile, smashed thousands of windows and threw people to the ground. Nobody died in the incident, which lasted no more than 10 seconds or so, but about 1,500 people had to seek…

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