While astronomers were waiting for one asteroid to fly by, something much more exciting happened: a different, much smaller rock plunged through the atmosphere over Russia to become a spectacular meteor. Many Russians have dashboard cameras running at all times, so the event was caught hundreds of times on video. Here's one of my favourites: wait a few seconds to see the meteor suddenly appear in the sky and create an impressive train as it streaks by:
Talking Points Memo has a great roundup of other videos, including several of curious Russians filming the train in a serene blue sky, only to be jolted by the sound of the sonic boom created by the supersonic object. (Many people were injured by shattered glass from the boom, not as had been reported, by falling rock.) Phil Plait has some great reporting on the event, including this photo (by Itar-Tass Photos/Newscom) of where the meteorite apparently plunged through the ice of a frozen lake:
While astronomers knew about the flyby of 2012 DA14 ahead of time, this Russian meteor was not being tracked and came as a complete surprise. Just imagine if something like this had happened in a big city like New York! The damage and danger from thousands of skyscraper windows exploding from the sonic boom would catastrophic enough, not to mention the explosion that could occur if a small object like this actually hit a building. That's why it's critical to fund NASA's asteroid-tracking program, not just so we'll know if a dinosaur-killer is on the way, but so we can be forewarned of smaller, but still dangerous, objects like this one in Russia.
Something to think about over the weekend! Have a good one.