Chelyabinsk Meteor Recovered: Half-Ton Chunk Of Space Rock Pulled From Russian Lake

By Josh Lieberman on October 17, 2013 1:19 PM EDT

meteor
A massive chunk of meteorite from the February 2013 Chelyabinsk event was recovered from a Russian lake on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

A meteorite chunk hauled out of a Russian lake on Wednesday may be the biggest piece recovered from February's Chelyabinsk meteor event, as well as being one of the largest meteorite pieces ever found. The 5-foot-wide meteorite is so massive that it broke the scale used to weigh it after topping out at 1,256 pounds. 

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"When you actually have a look at it, yeah, it's big lump of rock, but it's not actually enormous," said Caroline Smith, curator for the Natural History Museum's meteorite collection in London. "Because with meteorites, most of them contain iron and nickel metal. So for their size, they're quite dense rocks." Smith called the Chelyabinsk meteorite retrieval "a once-in-a-100-year event."

The meteorite chunk was recovered by divers in Lake Chebarkul in Russia's Chelyabinsk region. The space rock crashed through the frozen lake in February, forming a 20-foot-wide hole. Twelve other pieces that broke off from the 56-foot-wide Chelyabinsk meteor have been found in other parts of Lake Chebarkul.

While the massive Chelyabinsk meteorite piece is cool, it probably won't yield anything interesting scientifically, Smith noted. That's because the meteorite is probably chondrite, which is the most common type of meteorite to reach Earth. Some 85 percent of meteorites found on earth are chondrite.   

The Chelyabinsk meteor entered earth's atmosphere on Feburary 15, 2013. The 10,000 metric ton meteor broke apart 15 miles above the ground while traveling at a speed of 40,000 mph. The meteorite struck with a force of between 300 and 500 kilotons, packing the punch of a modern nuclear bomb. The Chelyabinsk event injured as many as 1,500 people, who were mostly hurt by glass from buildings shattering. The meteorite was is the only one to have ever injured a large group of people, and is also believed to be the largest space object to hit earth since the Tunguska event of 1908 in Siberia.   

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