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The meteor shower over the Ural Mountains could have been caused by asteroid 2012 DA14

15 February 2013 / 15:02:35  GRReporter
2913 reads

Victoria Mindova

The meteor shower over the southern part of the Ural Mountains has become top news across the world. There are over 500 injured and at least 14 people have been hospitalized, over 300 buildings have suffered minor or major damage, 16 of which are publicly owned as reported by Itar-Tass. GRReporter contacted the Athens Observatory to obtain more information about the phenomenon.

"There are at least 500,000 such objects with different diameters, which can range from 5 to 200 metres, for example. Some of these cosmic objects, approximately 10 to 15 metres in diameter, entered the Earth's atmosphere and caused the damage on Russia’s territory", astronomer Nikos Matsopoulous from the Athens Observatory told GRReporter.

Hundreds of thousands of cosmic objects are moving in close proximity to the orbit of the Earth. The scientist explains that telescopes cannot detect in time the smaller meteorites with diameters from a few centimetres to several metres that enter the atmosphere. "These are small, dark objects that do not emit light. They start burning only after they have entered the atmosphere. So, all that remains is to observe them".
 
Matsopoulous states that asteroid 2012 DA14 is only 27.7 thousand kilometres away from Earth, which is very close (in terms of cosmic distances) and its diameter is approximately 45 metres. The astronomer adds that if it hits the Earth, the damage that it would cause would be a thousand times more serious than that caused by the phenomenon in Russia on Friday morning. "We have no evidence yet to believe that asteroid 2012 DA14 was the cause of the meteor shower over the Ural Mountains. However, it is possible that the pieces that hit the Earth might have been part of a larger object that is passing close to the orbit", says the specialist.

The telescopes on Earth now can detect approaching cosmic objects whose diameter is greater than 20 - 25 metres. Larger objects can be seen before they approach the Earth's orbit. "We are quite capable of preventing a collision between a larger cosmic object and the Earth", says the astronomer, adding, "Unfortunately, the armaments we have allow the countries to look to each other, but we are not ready for action if a large meteorite really threatens our planet". He explains that if astronomers detect today a meteorite, which will hit the Earth's surface after six months, scientists are not ready to create a missile to break up or deflect the cosmic object before the collision.

Tunguska meteorite that passed through the Siberian tundra in 1908 is the most recent phenomenon associated with a collision between the Earth and a large object. "Then, 2.5 thousand square kilometres of forest were razed to the ground. In that era, they did not study the phenomenon on time. They did that much later, which was largely due to the political situation during that period". Nikos Matsopoulous is clear that the Earth is completely unprotected from a collision with a larger cosmic object. A similar incident is not excluded and it could happen after hundreds of years or six months. Its consequences will be fatal to life on Earth as we know it but the probability of such an end is relatively small.

Tags: NewsMeteoriteAthens ObservatoryUral MountainsMeteor shower
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