"Meteorite rush" begins as Russian scientists find fragments
A meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural mountains and sent fireballs blazing to earth has set off a rush to find fragments of the space rock which hunters hope could fetch thousands of dollars a piece.
Friday's blast and ensuing shockwave shattered windows, injured almost 1,200 people and caused about $33 million worth of damage, said local authorities.
It also started a " meteor ite rush" around the industrial city of Chelyabinsk, 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow, where groups of people have started combing through the snow and ice.
One amateur space enthusiast estimated chunks could be worth anything up to 66,000 roubles ($2,200) per gramme - more than 40 times the current cost of gold.
"The price is hard to say yet ... The fewer meteor ites that are recovered, the higher their price," said Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteor ite Lovers. Meteor ites are parts of a meteor that have fallen to earth.
Scientists at the Urals Federal University were the first to announce a significant find - 53 small, stony, black objects around Lake Chebarkul, near Chelyabinsk, which tests confirmed were small meteor ites.
The fragments were only 0.5 to 1 cm (0.2 to 0.4 inches) across but the scientists said larger pieces may have crashed into the lake, where a crater in the ice about eight metres (26 feet) wide opened up after Friday's explosion.
"We just completed tests and confirm that the pieces of matter found by our experts around Lake Chebarkul are really meteor ites," said Viktor Grokhovsky, a scientist with the Urals Federal University and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"These are classified as ordinary chondrites, or stony meteor ites, with an iron content of about 10 percent," he told RIA news agency.