Russian Meteorite Injures Hundreds: 3 Other Devastating Meteor Crashes [VIDEO]

By iScienceTimes Staff Reporter on February 15, 2013 12:17 PM EST

meteor meteorite chelyabinsk russia
A meteorite struck down in Chelyabinsk on Friday, causing injuries to hundreds. (Photo: Reuters)

USA Today has reported that Russia's Chelyabinsk region, located in the central Ural Mountains, was hit by fragments of an approximately 11-ton meteorite on Friday, Feb. 15, damaging property and injuring civilians.

The Guardian announced that Irina Rossius, Russian spokeswoman for the Emergency Ministry, told the Associated Press that the region was hit by a meteor shower. However, National Geographic noted that another spokesperson, Emergency Ministry deputy head Elena Smirnykh, claimed that the damage and injuries were caused by a singular meteorite that disintegrated into many pieces upon reaching land. For fear of an ensuing meteor shower, Russian authorities have cancelled school and told people to stay indoors. Reuters reported that the impact of the meteor could reach as far as Yekaterinburg, 125 miles away from the site of impact.

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Below is a compilation video from many of the smartphones and cameras that captured the meteor as it rocketed through the sky in a blaze of fire.

It's not often that one is treated to the otherworldly sight of a distant meteor shower, and even less often that one is courted by the terrifying danger of meteoroids falling to Earth nearby. On the rare occasion that large and destructive meteorites are falling from the sky, they have impacted life on our plane and sparked great change to our atmosphere.

Below we explore three famous examples of devastating meteorite crashes.

The first crash also took place on Russian soil, in Tunguska, after which it is infamously named. The so-called "Tunguska event," occurred in 1908, when a meteor or comet fragment caused an explosion. According to Russia Today, estimates of the energy of the Tunguska blast "may have been as high as 50 megatons of TNT, equal to a nuclear explosion. Some 80 million trees were leveled over a 2,000-square-kilometer area. The Tunguska blast remains one of the most mysterious events in history, prompting a wide array of hypotheses on its cause, including a black hole passing through Earth and the wreck of an alien spacecraft."

The Tunguska blast isn't the only crash shrouded in mystery, either. In 2007, a rare form of meteorite struck in Peru, near Lake Titicaca, where local residents began complaining of bizarre illness.

National Geographic explained.

"Nearby residents who visited the impact crater complained of headaches and nausea, spurring speculation that the explosion was a subterranean geyser eruption or a release of noxious gas from decayed matter underground.

"But the illness was the result of inhaling arsenic fumes, according to Luisa Macedo, a researcher for Peru's Mining, Metallurgy, and Geology Institute (INGEMMET), who visited the crash site.

"The meteorite created the gases when the object's hot surface met an underground water supply tainted with arsenic, the scientists said."

The final meteorite on our list, The Eltanin, didn't exactly affect human life upon impact, because, well, Homo sapiens weren't yet alive to experience it. But this doesn't mean that the ancient meteor's impact has had no effect on us today. In fact, according to Science Daily, recent scientific speculation points to the contrary. The Eltanin, which plummeted to Earth 2.5 million years ago, fell somewhere between Chile and Antarctica in the southern Pacific Ocean, and according to Professor James Goff of the Journal of Quaternary Science, it is the "only known deep-ocean impact event on the planet." Goff explains that until recently, the meteor had "largely been forgotten because there's no obvious giant crater to investigate, as there would have been if it had hit a landmass." This is changing however, as scientists now speculate that the meteor may have triggered our planet's Ice Age.

Red Orbit says that a team of Australian scientists led by James Goff have theorized that the "deep-ocean impact" may have triggered tsunamis and shot water vapor, dust and sulfur up into the stratosphere, which may have subsequently triggered a diminished amount of sunlight reachable through the atmosphere.

"The tsunami alone would have been devastating enough in the short term, but all that material shot so high into the atmosphere could have been enough to dim the sun and dramatically reduce surface temperatures. Earth was already in a gradual cooling phase, so this might have been enough to rapidly accelerate and accentuate the process and kick start the Ice Ages."

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