Russian Meteor Strike Was Biggest in 100 Years

Sonic shockwave believed to have caused most of the damage

By Kevin Spak,  Newser User

Posted Feb 15, 2013 2:05 PM CST
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(Newser) – The meteor that struck Russia today was the largest to hit Earth since 1908, releasing hundreds of kilotons of energy, scientists tell Nature. The blast put out so much energy that it was detected by networks designed to pick up infrasound data on nuclear explosions—and indeed, the blast was drastically more powerful than North Korea's recent nuclear test. Almost all of that energy and force is believed to have been generated not by impact—because the rock likely broke apart in the upper atmosphere—but by the sonic force of it obliterating the sound barrier.

"It was a very, very powerful event," says one astronomer, explaining that, to make matters worse, the meteor's low angle of approach focused its energy on the city below. "It's lucky that there wasn't more damage." By the most recent count, roughly 1,000 adults and 200 children have been injured, mostly from shards of glass, Reuters reports. (The European Space Agency has confirmed that there's no link between the meteor and the much larger asteroid that passed Earth today.) Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that conspiracy theories about the meteor are already springing up in Russia, with explanations ranging from alien invasion to biblical apocalypse.

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