Giant Chunk of Russian Meteor Recovered

Russian scientists appear to have pulled up a half-ton charred meteorite from the bottom of a murky Siberian lake—a piece of the giant space rock that exploded in the skies above the southern Urals in February. 

Entering the atmosphere at speeds up to 31,000 miles per hour (50,000 kilometers per hour), the Russian meteor, officially named 2011 EO40, exploded about 25 miles (40 kilometers) above the city of Chelyabinsk. The power of the explosion was estimated to be at least 20 times stronger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The resulting air blast damaged buildings and injured some 1,600 people.

A crowd gathers near what is believed to be a chunk of the Chelyabinsk meteor, recovered from Chebarkul Lake. Photograph by Alexander Firsov, AP

(See also “Best Videos from Meteor Strike in Russia.”)

According to news reports, the suspected piece of meteor recovered this week weighs at least 1,257 pounds (570 kilograms). However, it is only a fragment of the original impactor that is estimated to have been about 17 meters (54 feet) across, with a mass of about 10,000 metric tons before it shattered. (See “Pictures: Meteorite Hits Russia.”)

 

 

After the February event, locals directed scientists to Lake Chebarkul—45 miles west of the city of Chelyabinsk—to a 25-foot (8-meter) hole punctured in the ice by the meteor. Eight months later, a 5-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) boulder was pulled out of the lake with a harness and placed on a balance. Before its exact weight could be measured, however, it broke into three pieces.

“It’s a typical meteorite, judging by its appearance – [I’m] 105 percent [sure]. There’s no doubt about that. [It has] a thick melted crust, while dents reveal typical structures of the Chelyabinsk meteorite,” Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ meteorite commission who examined some previously recovered fragments, told reporters from RIA Novosti.

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Changing Planet

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.