Tags: meteor | dust | blast | russia

Meteor Dust: Layer of Debris Lingers From February Russian Blast

Image: Meteor Dust: Layer of Debris Lingers From February Russian Blast

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 01:15 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A layer of dust from a meteor that exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February remains in the Earth's atmosphere some six months after the explosion.

The dust cloud, comprised of hundreds of tons of debris, circled the earth four days following the explosion, Space.com reported. The dust cloud's speed was measured at 190 mph and 25 miles high in the atmosphere.

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"Thirty years ago, we could only state that the plume was embedded in the stratospheric jet stream," Paul Newman, chief scientist for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's atmospheric science lab, said in a statement. "Today, our models allow us to precisely trace the bolide and understand its evolution as it moves around the globe."

The lingering layer of dust is illustrated in a video created by scientists at NASA.

Weighing approximately 11,000 metric tons, the bus-sized space rock broke apart about 15 miles above Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, spraying the city streets with pieces of the rock that caused structural damage to numerous area buildings and injured more than 1,000 residents.

The blast, which released a burst of energy 30 times greater than the atom bomb that leveled Hiroshima during World War II, appeared like a fireball above Chelyabinsk, reportedly breaking glass windows throughout the city. The falling glass was responsible for many of the injuries. No one was killed.

Nick Gorkavyi, a NASA Goddard atmospheric physicist who is from Chelyabinsk, questioned whether or not it would be possible to track the cloud using NASA's Suomi NPP satellite.

"Indeed, we saw the formation of a new dust belt in Earth's stratosphere, and achieved the first space-based observation of the long-term evolution of a bolide plume," Gorkavyi said in a statement.

Chelyabinsk's meteor wasn't the only space rock to make headlines this year.

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In March, the 2013 ET, an asteroid equivalent in size to a city block, passed our planet at a distance of 600,000 miles. One week before that, a much smaller 33-foot-wide asteroid, named 2013 EC, zipped by at only 230,000 miles away.

In mid-February, the 2012 DA14, which was large enough to destroy a major U.S. city, passed the Earth's surface by only about 17,000 miles, which is 5,000 miles below the altitude that most major weather and communications satellites operate.

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