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Feb 15, 2013 7:21 PM by Chris Welty

Meteoroids are Common

A meteorite streaked across the sky and exploded over a Russian mountain range Friday and injured about 11-hundred people.

Captured on amateur video it can be seen leaving a thick white trail in the sky followed by an intense flash. The meteorite, estimated to be about 10 tons, entered the earth's atmosphere at 33-thousand miles an hour before shattering into pieces.

Meteoroids are common.

Large meteor strikes like the one in Russia are rare, but several hundred smaller strikes are common throughout the year. Meteors can enter our atmosphere in a number of ways.

"They can come from the asteroid belt, they've been knocked out of the asteroid belt by other objects, possibly ejected because of a collision with other bodies and then some gravitational instability is pulled toward the earth," said Dr. James Dent, Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

There is a difference between a meteor and a meteorite. Meteoroid is pieces of rock floating in outer-space, but once the rock enters our atmosphere it's a meteor and when it hits the earth it's a meteorite. Dr. Dent says the meteorite which hit Russia released a massive amount of energy.

"It's on the order of a small atomic explosion, that's the amount of energy that was released."

The meteor heats up while traveling through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds, that's what causes a sonic boom. If a meteor hits the earth it can cause massive craters and damage depending where it hits. Scientists couldn't predict the meteor in Russia, because they say it was small, about 49 feet.

"We don't see them all so we don't have perfect coverage. A lot of these things aren't seen until they are quite close," said Dent.

Chris Welty
cwelty@katctv.com

 

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