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Feb 15, 2018: Chelyabinsk meteor surprise 5 years ago woke up worries about space rocks

RUSSIA - A meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk five years ago, reviving interest in topics like dinosaur extinction and concern about the threats to mankind from asteroids. The visitor apparently surprised astronomers, a jolting aspect of the drama that will be revisited on the anniversary.

A meteor is an asteroid or other object from space that either vaporizes upon entry into the Earth’s atmosphere or survives and hits the planet. A giant meteor that struck the Yucatán Peninsula 66 million years ago is the leading explanation for the extinction of the dinosaurs and some 75 per cent of life on Earth. Earth’s array of impact craters from space rocks suggests strikes are relatively common, and an exploding object from space laid waste in 1908 to a vast tract of Siberian forest.

The shock wave of the explosion from the 56-62-foot meteor over Chelyabinsk on Feb 15, 2013, shattered glass and injured about 1,200 people. High up in the atmosphere, the blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion.

Astronomers peer into the skies with powerful telescopes to look for signs that rocks with the potential to cause a similar event are heading toward Earth, and to assess the risk that they pose. Space.com reports that the dramatic event served as a wake-up call, alerting the world to the dangers posed by the millions of space rocks that reside in Earth’s neck of the cosmic woods. Several scientists said that the danger of small asteroids was now foremost in many public officials’ minds, according to the publication. It notes that the United States Congress held several hearings about planetary defense in the aftermath of Chelyabinsk, and Russian and U.S. militaries began talking about how to work together to find and defend Earth against hazardous asteroids.

The European Space Agency, NASA and other space agencies conduct sky-watching programs to mitigate the threat. The anniversary invites a comparison on pre- Chelyabinsk programs compared to the number and scale of programs five years after the drama.

#22458 Published: 01/05/2018

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