Meteor explodes over Russia, 1,100 injured

Meteor

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the incident showed the need for leading world powers to develop a system to intercept objects falling from space.

"At the moment, neither we nor the Americans have such technologies'' to shoot down meteors or asteroids, he said, according to the Interfax news agency.

Meteoroids are small pieces of space debris usually parts of comets or asteroids that are on a collision course with the Earth. They become meteors when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.

NASA said the Russian fireball was the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia, and flattened an estimated 80 million trees. Chelyabinsk is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska. The Tunguska blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons.

Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth.

The object hailed from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, becoming a meteor as it streaked through the earth's atmosphere, Bill Cooke, head of the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said.

Paul Chodas, research scientist at the Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that ground telescopes would have needed to point in the right direction at the right time to spot Friday's incoming meteor.

"It would be very faint and difficult to detect, not impossible, but difficult,'' Chodas said.

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