World | Science

NASA: Meteor In Russia Threw Up Globe-Girdling Plume Of Debris

NPR | Aug. 17, 2013 5:19 p.m.

Contributed By:

Scott Neuman

A meteor trail is seen above a residential apartment block in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, 2013.

A meteor trail is seen above a residential apartment block in the Urals city of Chelyabinsk on Feb. 15, 2013.

AFP, AFP/Getty Images

The bus-sized meteor that slammed into Russia in February, causing a massive shock-wave and injuring hundreds, sent a plume of dust into the stratosphere that circled the globe in just four days and lingered for months, NASA says.

The Feb. 15 meteor at Chelyabinsk near Russia’s southern border with Kazakhstan, which measured 60 feet across and weighed 12,000 tons, detonated 15 miles above the city.

According to Space.com:

“Some of the asteroid’s remnants crashed to the ground, but hundreds of tons of dust remained in the atmosphere. A team led by NASA Goddard atmospheric physicist Nick Gorkavyi, who is from Chelyabinsk, wondered if it was possible to track the cloud using NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite.

‘Indeed, we saw the formation of a new dust belt in Earth’s stratosphere, and achieved the first space-based observation of the long-term evolution of a bolide plume,’ Gorkavyi said in a statement.

Initial measurements 3.5 hours after the meteor explosion showed the dust 25 miles (40 km) high in the atmosphere, speeding east at 190 mph (306 km/h).”

Within four days, the plume had “circumnavigated the entire globe and returned to Chelyabinsk, creating a complete global belt,” according to the NASA video above.

Although the debris from the Chelyabinsk meteor was easy to detect, NASA researchers note that it was not particularly dense and that other natural Earth-bound sources, such as volcanoes, contribute far more material to the stratosphere.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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