Saturday, August 10, 2013

Origin of that HUGE METEOR over Russia

Life might be busy, but everyone can take a short break to enjoy some science. I've got too much going on to do a full Weekly Roundup, but I couldn't pass this one story up.

Everyone remembers that huge space rock that exploded over Russia on February 15th earlier this year, right? That amazingly terrifying and yet super awesome meteor that hit our atmosphere (and luckily broke up before smashing into the ground)?

Well, even if you've forgotten about it, scientists haven't. They've been working around the clock to pinpoint where that thing came from. And they may have finally found its point of origin: the near-Earth asteroid EO40.

By using computer simulations to model the meteor's path, they traced it back through space to see if it intersected with any known objects. It did. Asteroid EO40, like most asteroids, is a weakly held together conglomeration of space rock, and part of it must've broken away. The asteroid had already been on our watch list, since it is a NEO (Near Earth Object), but no one had anticipated a piece of it to break off and come hurdling our way.

Lesson learned.

Needless to say, scientists are taking a closer look at all such objects now, to determine the risk for this happening again. The best we can do for now is just continue to fund organizations like the Minor Planet Center, who track things coming near us in space.

Fun fact before I wrap up this post: at least twenty more pieces may have broken away from EO40. Of course, the odds that any of them would hit Earth are slim, but it is good to remember that one piece did beat the odds.

Let's all just think about that for a little bit. Anyone still think NASA's funding needs to get cut?

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