Two scientists in Colombia’s second city Medellin on Monday have beaten the pack to figure out the origins and the orbit of the meteor that hit Russian town Chelyabinsk in February.
Using amateur YouTube videos and recordings from traffic cameras, Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin of the University of Antioquia “calculated the trajectory of the body in the atmosphere and used it to reconstruct the orbit [of the meteoroid] in space previous to the violent encounter with our planet,” wrote the scientists in their submission letter published on Arxiv.org.
Over 1,000 people were injured after the meteor broke up over central Russia on February 15, causing extensive damage to buildings and blowing out windows.
The energy from the explosion, which was heard from over a hundred miles away, exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT, which according to NASA , is 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Many videos were recorded on camera phones and even more on car-dashboard cameras and then uploaded to the web, readily available for the researchers to use.
The astronomers -whom submitted their calculations on February 21- used points in the videos where the meteor becomes bright enough to cast a shadow on electricity poles in Chelyabinsk, and points where the body can be seen fragmenting to make their calculations.
An “extraordinary coincidence” also helped the scientists to calculate the distance of the meteor to the center of the town: a video of the fireball streaking across the sky at Korkino, a small city to the south of Chelyabinsk.
The third vantage point they used was Lake Chebarkul, where a large hole in the ice was discovered, providing the intersection of the trajectory with the Earth’s surface.
Combining the shadows at the center of Chelyabinsk, the videos of the fireball and its contrail, and the impact at the lake, the scientists calculated the trajectory.
The Colombians used their results to classify the meteor among the near-Earth Apollo asteroid family. Around 9,700 near–Earth asteroids have been discovered so far, and about 5,200 of these are Apollo asteroids, classified by their orbit.
- Russia’s meteor’s size, origins, pinned down by scientists (Huffington Post)
- Russia meteor explosion (Space.com)
- Russia meteor’s origin tracked down (BBC)
- A preliminary reconstruction of the orbit of the Chelyabinsk meteoroid (Arxiv.org)