Scientists Figure Out Russia Meteor's Origin

As biggest piece yet found in Ural Mountains

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 26, 2013 7:30 AM CST | Updated Feb 26, 2013 8:50 AM CST

(Newser) – Turns out there is a cool use for trigonometry: Scientists in Colombia have been able to calculate the trajectory of the meteor that injured 1,000 in Russia this month using data gleaned from local camera footage and a lake landing spot. Once they had determined the meteor's path through the atmosphere, they were then able to trace its orbit around the sun, the BBC reports. They then plugged that data into astronomy software, which showed that the meteor was part of the so-called Apollo asteroid group, which have Earth-crossing orbits. Such an orbit indicates the meteor "most likely" originated in "the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter," says a researcher unrelated to the study.

Experts in Russia, meanwhile, have learned more about the object itself. It's called a chondrite—the most common kind of space rock near Earth. And, as Popular Science reports, it spent 4.5 billion years in space before rocking Russia. Volunteer skiers traversed 31 miles of its debris field this weekend, picking up more than 100 pieces, the largest of which weighs in at about 2.2 pounds. Some chunks are being sold online for as much as $16,000, though they haven't been authenticated, Russia Today notes; guides have started offering tours of the impact area.

In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru, a meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.
In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru, a meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.   (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)
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