February 15, 2013

The universe is chunking rocks at us

Early Friday morning at about 0230 or 0300 CST on Friday, the Russians launched a "missile salvo", breaking up the remainder of a huge meteor before it could impact the Earth. According to the Russian press, this occurred near Chelyabinsk, a city in Russia just east of the Ural mountains, and about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The sonic boom caused as the rock streaked across the sky resulted in some broken windows and shattered nerves.

[UPDATE] Apparently there were some 400 injuries on the ground.

(Video Credit: The Russian Times)

Science writer and Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait tells us, "[t]his is almost certainly unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass on Friday." Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but it seems to me that there is a relationship between these two chunks of space rock.

Astronomers and astrophysicists theorize that the asteroids were formed in our primordial solar nebula as a group of planetesimals, some of which collided, stuck together and formed protoplanets, and still later into the planets as we know them.

For the longest time we thought the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter was the remnants of an exploded planet, but we now believe those huge chunks of metal and silica are planets that were never born. Gravitational perturbations from Jupiter bestowed too much orbital energy onto the protoplanets, preventing them from aggregating into a planet. The collisions too violent, causing them to break back appart rather than fuse together. Those shattered bits of protoplanets remained for the most part captured in orbit around our sun, doomed to spin on for eternity.

Collisions similar to those that doomed the would be planet still occur. When that happens bits of rock sometimes still break away, and sometimes with sufficient energy to break from their previous monotonous orbit and carene off into space. It is speculated that some of the debris from collisions have formed meteoroids that have entered the Earth's atmosphere, sometimes with spectacular effect.

Of the 50,000 meteorites found so far, 99.8 percent are believed to have originated in the asteroid belt. A 2007 study suggests that a collision with the asteroid 298 Baptistina sent large meteors into the inner Solar System, some of which are believed to have created Tycho crater on the Moon, and Chicxulub crater in Mexico. It is that latter strike that is believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Plait may be correct that Asteroid 2012 DA14 and our overnight visitor are not kissing cousins, but the liklihood that both originated from the same failed planet is exceedingly high.



Old NFO said...

Good question, and I think they're still sorting out he DA12/DA14 ISSUE... Re the Russians shooting one down (so to speak), I can only wonder what missile they used???

Mule Breath said...

The missile story came from an early report on a Russian news website that with subsequent revelation is likely debunked. Since this early morning report appeared I've found no further mention and no confirmed report.

Mule Breath said...

Debunked, along with other conspiracy theories: