Russian Meteor Impact Unrelated To Asteroid 2012 DA14 Says Astronomer

By Peter Fowler at 15 Feb 2013

(Newsroom America) -- Astronomer Phil Plait says a meteor which "exploded" over Russia is not related to the asteroid 2012 DA14 which is due to make a close fly-by of earth in the next few hours.

A meteor shower has reportedly hit the Chelyabinsk Region of Russia in the Ural Mountains.

Mr Plait said it appeared to be a "very big" meteor which gave off a very bright fireball and a sonic boom.

Various reports said up to 400 people have been injured, mainly by shattering glass.

Mr Plait said the "explosion" heard in videos such as the one below was "almost certainly" from the shock wave of the meteoroid, and not from it exploding or hitting the ground.

But he said on Twitter that the Russian Meteor is almost certainly unrelated to asteroid 2012 DA14 which is due to make a close pass by earth in a few hours.

"Most important thing for the moment: The #RussianMeteor is almost certainly unrelated to #2012DA14! Wrong direction, way too early," he tweeted.

NASA says an asteroid 150-feet in diameter with an estimated mass of about 130,000 metric tons will make a record close approach to earth for a known object of this size today, and will pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites.

NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) Program Office says it can accurately predict the asteroid's path and there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with the Earth.

However the flyby was expected to provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be closest to Earth on February 15, 2013 at about 19:24 GMT (2:24 p.m. EST or 11:24 a.m. PST), when it will be at a distance of about 27,700 kilometers (17,200 miles) above the Earth's surface.

This is so close that the asteroid will actually pass inside the ring of geosynchronous satellites, which is located about 35,800 kilometers (22,200 miles) above the equator, but still well above the vast majority of satellites, including the International Space Station.

Paul Chodas and Don Yeomans from the NEO Program Office say at its closest, the asteroid will be only about 1/13th of the distance to the Moon.

They say the asteroid will fly by our planet quite rapidly, at a speed of about 7.8 kilometers/second (17,400 miles/hour) in a south-to-north direction with respect to the Earth.

"Even though 2012 DA14 is coming remarkably close, it will still only appear as a point of light in the biggest of optical telescopes because of its small size. Based on its brightness, astronomers estimate that it is only about 45 meters (150 feet) across.

Related: Updates: Videos Show Meteorite Shower Hitting Russia

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