"Meteorite rush" begins as Russian scientists find fragments

Meteorite

He did not say whether the fragments had told his team anything about the origins of the meteor , which the U.S. space agency NASA estimated was 55 feet (17 metres) across before entering Earth's atmosphere and weighed about 10,000 tons.

The main fireball streaked across the sky at a speed of about 30 km (19 miles) per second, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, before crashing into the snowy wastes.

Treasure Hunters

More than 20,000 people took part in search and clean-up operations at the weekend in and around Chelyabinsk, which is in the heart of a region packed with industrial military plants.

Many other people were in the area just hoping to find a meteor ite after what was described by scientists as a once-in-a-century event.

Residents of a village near Chelyabinsk searched the snowy streets, collecting stones they hoped would prove to be the real thing. But not all were ready to sell.

"I will keep it. Why sell it? I didn't have a rich lifestyle before, so why start now?" a woman in a pink woollen hat and winter jacket, clutching a small black pebble, told state television Rossiya-24.

The Internet filled quickly with advertisements from eager hunters hoping to sell what they said were meteor ites - some for as little as 1,000 roubles ($33.18).

The authenticity of the items was hard to ascertain.

One seller of a large, silver-hued rock wrote in an advertisement on the portal Avito.ru: "Selling an unusual rock. It may be a piece of meteor ite, it may be a bit of a UFO, it may be a piece of a rocket!"

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