Fiery meteor in Russia fires up UA astronomers

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Fiery meteor in Russia fires up UA astronomers

CREATED Feb 15, 2013

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - The University of Arizona is a world leader in the study of asteroids and meteorites so naturally the meteorite hitting Russia made for an exciting day.

"There are people all over the world talking about it and exchanging e-mails and the experts in explosions are talking to the experts in fireballs, are talking to the experts in finding meteorites and everybody gets excited about it."

That's the word from Dr. Tim Swindle, director of the UA Lunar and Planetary Science Lab.
Ed Beshore is a leader in a mission to sample an asteroid. He's also worked to identify and track space rocks that might hit the Earth.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Beshore, "When something like this happens are you thinking sort of a balance of this is really cool and this is really scary?" 

Beshore: "Yeah, actually both I think that for instance, I've talked to many geologists who really want to be in an earthquake."
We talked with Doctor Swindle in front of a small piece of the big rock that created Arizona's Meteor Crater about 50 thousand years ago.

Craig Smith asked: "How big was that one (the one that created Meteor Crater) and how big do we think this one was?"

Dr. Swindle: "The one that made Meteor Crater we think was something like half the size of a football field or maybe almost the size of a football field, that size rock so imagine Arizona stadium coming in and hitting you."
Ed Beshore says the latest size estimate for this new meteor has a diameter of about ten meters, roughly 32 feet. It exploded with the power of a fairly large nuclear bomb, according to instruments designed to measure nuclear bombs.

Beshore says, "And those acoustic stations actually can measure the explosive equivalent from the sound waves that come off of these things."

Smith: "And what did they conclude?"

Beshore: "They concluded the object was probably something on the order of ten meters in diameter and probably around seven thousand tons."

Thousands of meteor strikes happen each year but so much of the Earth is ocean no one sees them come in.  U of A operates a Sky Survey that looks to find space rocks that might threaten us in plenty of time to try to divert them.

Exactly how they'd divert them is something they're working on.  One of the things they would not do, is the movie trick of blowing them up.  Thousands of pieces slamming into the atmosphere would heat it up enough to cook us.