Space

An asteroid exploded over Russia this week and we didn’t see it coming… again

Several Russian cities had a fantastic light show last Thursday, as a bright meteor burst into a fireball over the landscape.

And once again, no one saw it coming until it exploded.

NASA’s fireball records show that the meteor exploded with 2.8 kilotons of force on June 21 at 01:16 UTC over a number of Russian cities including Lipetsk, which is south-east of Moscow.

The explosion size correlates to a smallish asteroid of about 4 metres (13 feet) in diameter, which is a bit of a baby compared to the 20 metre (65 feet) asteroid that exploded back in February 2013 over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

“The event has been reported by witnesses from the cities of Kursk, Lipetsk, Voronzeh and Orel. Many of them reported a loud sonic boom,” reports the International Meteor Organisation.

Although we don’t know yet if any of the fragments reached Earth’s surface, we do know that the intense explosion caused by the friction in the air likely disintegrated most of the rock before it had a chance to touch down.

But, as has become a regular occurrence, the asteroid wasn’t detected until it had hit our atmosphere, which does make us just a tiny bit nervous. While it wasn’t a mammoth that could destroy life as we know it, it still shows we have a long way to go to easily detect interlopers from space.

Thankfully, NASA is trying hard to become better at detecting potentially problematic asteroids, so let’s hope we will get warned in the rare chance a big one comes crashing towards us.

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