Longway Planetarium astronomer discusses Friday's celestial even - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Longway Planetarium astronomer discusses Friday's celestial events

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(02/15/13) - It's been a busy day in our corner of the solar system, as two celestial events captured the attention of skywatchers.

Neither one directly affected Mid-Michigan, but one astronomer thinks they're both pretty cool.

It was a morning that won't soon be forgotten in central Russia. The meteor that exploded in the sky over that country has done a lot of damage, blasting out countless windows in a city in the Ural Mountains.

A health official says nearly 1,000 people have sought treatment for injuries - more than 40 had to be hospitalized.

Amateur video showed an object speeding across the sky just after sunrise, leaving a thick white contrail before blowing up with an intense flash.

"Just the spectacular site of that meteorite going through the atmosphere like that and exploding had to be incredible to see," said Richard Walker, Longway Planetarium astronomer.

The Russian Academy of Sciences estimates the meteor's size at about 10 tons, and says it was going at least 33,000 miles an hour when it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

"This probably happens really, really often. This is just rare it happened over a populated area. This happens almost once a month," Walker said.

Scientists say a 150-foot asteroid that passed close to Earth later in the day had nothing to do with the meteor in Russia. It missed our planet by a little over 17,000 miles.

"This asteroid would be about the size of the one that created the big crater in Arizona - Meteor Crater. That crater's about a mile across and about 900 feet deep. So if this asteroid would have hit us, that's what kind of damage it could do," Walker said.

The asteroid was too small to be seen by the naked eye.

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