The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 15, 2013

Meteor explodes over Russia, nearly 1,000 injured

(Continued)

A six-meter-wide (20-foot-wide) crater was found in the same area, which could come from space fragments striking the ground, the news agency cited military spokesman Yaroslavl Roshchupkin as saying.

Small pieces of space debris — usually parts of comets or asteroids — that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids. They become meteors when they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere, but if they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth they are called meteorites.

The site of Friday's spectacular show is about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles) west of Tunguska, which 1908 was the site of the largest recorded explosion of a space object plunging to Earth. That blast, attributed to a comet or asteroid fragment, is generally estimated to have been about 10 megatons; it leveled some 80 million trees.

Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth

The panic and confusion that followed Friday's meteorite crash quickly gave way to Chelyabinsk residents' entrepreneurial instincts. Several people smashed in the windows of their houses in the hopes of pretending they were broken by the meteorite and receiving compensation, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Other quickly took to the Internet and put what they said were meteorite fragments up for sale.

The Russian-language hashtags for the meteorite shot into Twitter's top trends, and the country's lively blogosphere quickly reacted with black humor.

One of the most popular jokes was that the meteorite was supposed to fall Dec. 21 last year — when many believed the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world — but was delivered late by Russia's notoriously inefficient postal service.

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