Meteorite - Not the End of the World - Strikes Russia's Siberia (+Video)
Weir, Fred, The Christian Science Monitor
A meteor the size of a bus exploded in the atmosphere over the Russian Urals city of Chelyabinsk Friday, terrifying thousands with blinding light flashes and powerful sonic booms that shattered windows, damaged buildings, and injuries may be heading toward 1,000, mainly due to flying glass and debris.
Thanks to the proliferation of new technologies like CCTV and dashboard cameras in cars, the dazzling meteor shower that hit the far-western Siberian region may be the first event of its kind in history to be filmed from almost every angle.
Dozens of videos have cropped up on YouTube and other social media, and they offer an astounding glimpse of what happens when a huge hunk of rock, estimated at about 10 tons, plows into the atmosphere at a speed of 30,000 miles per hour. It disintegrated in a series of bright flashes while still several miles above the Earth's surface.
According to eyewitnesses quoted by the Ekho Moskvi radio station, the event began around 9 a.m. local time, when it was not yet full daylight. The station said that thousands of people rushed into the frigid streets, looking up at the fiery contrails in the sky, with many wondering if it was an air disaster, a missile attack, or the end of the world.
"My ears popped, the windows in our building are smashed, everyone says an airplane exploded. My cellphone stopped working for awhile," said one witness from Chelyabinsk.
"I was driving to work and suddenly there was this flash that lit everything up like bright sunlight," said another. "The shock wave nearly drove me off the road."
Close to 1,000 people were reported injured, but only three seriously enough to be hospitalized, according to the official RIA- Novosti agency. Windows were blown out across a wide area, and several buildings were reported damaged, including a Chelyabinsk factory, whose roof caved in.
Pieces of the meteor have been reported coming down across several regions in western Siberia and even nearby Kazakhstan. Russia's Defense Ministry reported that soldiers have located a 20- ft.-wide crater near a lake in Chelyabinsk region.
Russia's military may have known of the impending meteor strike several days in advance, but did not issue any special public warnings, according to the independent Rosbalt news agency (link in Russian). …