Very Large Meteorite Fell Down in Siberia - 18 March, 2003 - News

The falling of the meteorite is still mysterious. Scientists say that it might weigh 60 tons

The night was rather dull in the north-east of the Russian Irkutsk region on September 25, 2002. All of a sudden, night turned into day. A very bright glow covered the sky, it was hard to look at it. Those people, who happened to be outside at 2 a.m., saw a ball of fire that was flying very fast across the sky. Weird rusting sounds could be heard. A few seconds later the glow disappeared in the north-east. A little bit later, there was a powerful blast from the distance, where the ball fell.

People learned of the Vitimsky meteorite only a week after it fell down 700 kilometers off the Siberian city of Irkutsk. The bright polar streamer in the sky made people think that the woods were shining with radiation. Local residents sent a facsimile message to the Irkutsk Institute of Sun and Earth physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. People asked scientists to explain the strange phenomenon that happened in their region. Gely Zherebtsov, the director of the institute, made inquiries at EMERCOM departments.

Rumors about the mysterious glow above the Siberian forest could be read in almost every local newspaper for a month after that. A couple of weeks later it was reported that an American spy satellite detected the meteorite. The satellite registered the space object at the moment of its brightest luminescence. The meteorite was flying 62 kilometers above the ground. The satellite lost the object at the height of 30 kilometers. The satellite also determined the position data of the object as well. According to the information from Canadian scientists, it was the largest event of the kind that occurred above the land in the year 2002. The Irkutsk Institute of Sun and Earth physics decided to send an expedition to the spot, where the meteorite fell down. The idea was supported at the Irkutsk State University as well. A small group of Irkutsk scientists left for the settlement of Mama – the center of the area, above which the meteorite flew.

Eyewitnesses said that saw very interesting and unusual things. People said that lamps turned on in their houses for several seconds, although there was absolutely no electric power that night. This means that the Vitimsky meteorite can be categorized as an electrophone one. Its flight generated a very powerful, albeit alternating, electric field in the atmosphere. Those people, who saw the meteorite flying across the sky, said that they had an incredible impression of it. Someone fell down on the ground on account of horror, someone thought that the doomsday came.

The expedition reached the second spot, which was registered with the satellite. It was not possible to find anything, except several pine trees with broken tops. Explorers came to conclusion that there was no blast over there – the meteorite fell down somewhere farther. Unfortunately, the initial velocity of the meteorite was not known. The committee for meteorites of the Russian Academy of Sciences calculated that the meteorite could weigh 60 tons, if it had the minimum initial velocity of eleven kilometers per second. If it was really so, the meteorite, which fell down in the Irkutsk region was even more powerful than the one, which fell down on the Earth in 1947. The falling of the meteorite in 1947 was considered to be one of the largest phenomena in the 20th century.

Of course, scientists are not 100% sure of that. If the meteorite had a greater speed, for example, 25 kilometers per hour, it is possible to assume that there were only several kilograms left of the space object. The falling of the Vitimsky meteorite posed a lot of questions. First of all, all space monitoring means of the world failed to detect a huge meteorite that was rushing towards planet Earth. The meteorite fell down in the area, where no one lived, so there was absolutely no damage caused. However, things might have turned out totally different, if the falling took place in the densely populated Europe. It seems that Russian observing facilities turned out to be totally helpless. This means that the humanity is supposed to make certain conclusions about it.

Now the area of the meteorite’s falling is covered with a thick layer of snow. Irkutsk scientists plan to go to that place again in order to takes some snow samples. The expedition is going to happen in the nearest future, for if the snow melts, spring waters will wash away the space dust forever.

NASA specialists said that the Shuttle of Columbia was going to film the area of the meteorite’s falling, although the tragic crash of the shuttle brushed that opportunity aside. If scientists determine that it was a stone meteorite (up to 95% meteorites are referred to that class), spring waters might change the properties of the ancient space substance. Irkutsk scientists can not afford renting a helicopter and examining the area from above. Every large meteorite is extremely valuable for the abstract science, for the world outlook, for developing measures to struggle with the danger of asteroids.

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Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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