Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Meteor Sneaks in under the Radar, Catches Hadfield off Guard on Space Station

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Meteor Sneaks in under the Radar, Catches Hadfield off Guard on Space Station

Article excerpt

Meteor sneaked in under the radar: Cdn expert

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MONTREAL - The meteor that streaked across the sky above the Ural Mountains in Russia on Friday and caused several hundred injuries caught Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield off guard.

Hadfield, who is aboard the International Space Station on a five-month visit, said he missed the big event from his vantage point in outer space.

"We weren't in a position to see that meteorite do all that damage in Russia," he told University of Waterloo students during a video link-up Friday.

The space rock, estimated to weigh about 10 tonnes, caused sharp explosions as it streaked across the sky. There were reports that more than 1,000 people were injured, mostly due to broken glass.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen, who joined students for the chat with Hadfield, tried to offer his own assurances.

"This isn't new news," the rookie astronaut said. "The Earth is struck by objects all the time. In fact about 100 tonnes of debris hits our planet every day (and) most of it doesn't pose a threat to us."

Phil Langill, an astronomer and University of Calgary physics professor, said the meteor "snuck in under the radar."

He added that to be able to spot such a meteor beforehand, "you would have to be just really lucky."

"You have to have the right equipment looking in the right direction, at the right time, with the sun in the right angle, no clouds," Langill said in an interview.

He said space rocks like meteors are usually visible when they reflect sunlight, but a lot of them are dark.

The Russian Academy of Sciences said the meteor was going at at least 54,000 kilometres an hour when it entered the Earth's atmosphere. It shattered between about 30 and 50 kilometres above the ground.

Langill also pointed out that, luckily, the Russian meteor made a long streak across the atmosphere and did not come straight down toward the Earth. …

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