A meteorite has just exploded over Russia. This doesn't feel good when you know that a 150-foot asteroid is about to fly by Earth — and you read about the actual effects of an impact if astronomers' calculations are wrong. 250 people have been injured, according to the BBC. The videos we are collecting are incredible.
What's more incredible: unconfirmed reports say that an air defence unit fired a missile as the meteor entered Russian airspace at supersonic speeds, shattering it to pieces. I find this hard to believe, as I doubt their air defence had the time to detect and target an object that appeared out of nowhere, from space. There's also one single trail. If a missile actually hit anything, there would be multiple trails following the debris.
More likely, the meteor exploded before hitting the ground because of the enormous heat generated by the compression of air in front of the meteor or asteroid. This phenomenon is called asteroid airburst or bolide.
According to witnesses, cellphones stopped working and windows were blown out as the meteor exploded in the air. Apparently, about 250 people have been reported injured so far because of falling glasses and other minor accidents. You can hear windows being obliterated in some of the videos.
The Russian Emergency Ministry says that there are 20,000 rescue workers deployed in the area. Aircraft are now flying over the area looking for impact sites.
The event was observed in the regions of Chelyabinsk, Tyumen and Sverdlovsk, located in the Republic of Bashkiria and in northern Kazakhstan.
Some people are theorising that this is connected to the flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14, which will pass near Earth later today, saying this is is "rubble" flying along the larger asteroid. While the timing in uncanny, there's absolutely no scientific demonstration of this theory at this point. It's purely speculative.
Update: In fact, the European Space Agency say their experts "confirm there is no link between meteor incidents in Russia and Asteroid 2012DA14 flyby today".
Latest update: The Russian Academy of Sciences has estimated that the meteorite weighed about 10 tonnes and entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 33,000 mph, shattering about 18-32 miles above ground.
This is amazing. Here you can't see the meteorite, but look at the scene lighting as the meteorite passes illuminating the sky
Another view of an intersection illuminated by the meteorite's fire trail
The complete fall from another angle
The meteorite trail
The sound of the meteorite
Another view of the trail. Listen to the explosion at 0:20
The final explosion looks like the beginning of a nuclear detonation
Another spectacular shot
Meteorite taking over some dude on the road
Additional reporting by Kyle Wagner.