Must-see videos of spectacular Friday fireball over Russia


Video of a brilliant fireball over Russia on Feb. 15, 2013 local time

A spectacular fireball exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk more than 900 miles east of Moscow around 9:26 p.m. (CST) Feb. 14 or 9:26 a.m. Feb. 15 local time in Russia this morning.

Frame grab from the video during the early phase as the fireball rapidly brightened

Frame from a few seconds later as the meteor heads toward the horizon

The dashcam videos record one of the most brilliant and amazing fireballs I’ve ever seen. Watch as it becomes nearly as bright as the sun with a strong reflection off the roadway. Loud booms accompanied the spectacle and glass windows were shattered. There are reports of downed power lines and interrupted cell phone service. Some 500 people were treated for injuries, mostly from broken glass sent flying from the shock wave and sonic boom. The roof at a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk may have collapsed from the same.


Video from a different dashcam taken from a different location where the fireball is higher in the sky and approaching at a different angle with an insanely spectacular trail. Click to view.

In the second video, notice how long the smoke trail lasts as the car speeds along in a big hurry to get somewhere. In case you’re wondering, this is not related to the flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 expected around 1:24 p.m. CST today. One clue is the direction of travel. Had it been “leading” today’s asteroid, the fireball’s path would have been almost directly south to north. Instead it traveled from northeast to southwest.

But they do have one thing in common. Even though one will miss Earth and the other’s trajectory took it straight into our atmosphere, both are small asteroids almost certainly originating from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

A hole in Chebarkul Lake, west of Chelybinsk, made by meteorite debris. Small fragments of black rocks were found around the crater. Two other impact sites are reported. Click for more photos and further story. Photo by Chebarkul town head Andrey Orlov.


Great video of the smoke trail also called a meteor train 

In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru, a meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. The meteor, which streaked across Russia’s Ural Mts. Friday morning, was the largest reported fireball since the 1908 Tunguska explosion. Credit: AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru

The latest estimate of size for the original meteoroid – the name given to the object while still in space before entry into Earth’s atmosphere – is about 50 feet across with an approximate weight of 7,000 tones. The Russian Academy of Sciences released a statement saying the meteor traveled at 33,000 mph and shattered about 18-32 miles above the  ground. Three impact sites are now reported including one that fell through the ice in Chebarkul Lake. Dark, rocky meteorites have also been found.


Short video showing dramatic effect of the shockwave

I’ll be updating this blog with more information and photos throughout the day.

More videos HERE.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

16 thoughts on “Must-see videos of spectacular Friday fireball over Russia

  1. Two weeks ago I told you that it was impossible to forecast and predict that no meteor of significant size would hit Earth. Again I repeat: it is far too difficult to predict the effects of bodies in space when they are constantly crashing into each other. It is like predicting the exact path of millions of pool balls being racked up and broken at the exact same time.

    • Richard,
      I have no disagreement with that. Small meteoroids (mini-asteroids if you like) strike Earth all the time. The Russian one belongs in this category, weighing about 10 tons with a diameter of a few meters, according to estimates by asteroid expert Don Yeomans. We’ve found the majority of the really big ones (the one’s that pose a major threat) in Earth’s neighborhood, reducing our chances of not knowing in advance. Still there are ~7% of nearby large asteroids and a great many ones that could be called “regional destructors” we don’t know about.

  2. For a tiny rock (for an astroid anyway), it leaves behind quite a trail of destruction. Ho-ly crap. It seems like the Universe doesn’t give a flying rock about the ‘pinnacle of evolution’ called mankind :)

  3. AMAZING to see !!! Those dash cams can come in pretty useful. Thanks for aggregating and posting AstroBob, I watched it through your site first ! One question, would it be possible for a meteorite to travel straight down (90 deg.)?

  4. Aloha Astro Bob and Everyone!
    I don’t mean any disrespect by “updating” your answer to Mr. Stadem when you wrote the following, “(mini-asteroids if you like) strike Earth all the time. The Russian one belongs in this category, weighing about 10 tons with a diameter of a few meters, according to estimates by asteroid expert Don Yeomans.”
    It seems Mr. Yeomans “estimates” were a little off according to this after-the-fact analysis:
    “Researchers have conducted a preliminary analysis of the event.”Here is what we know so far,” says Bill Cooke, head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “The asteroid was about 15 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 7000 metric tons. It struck Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 mph (18 km/s) and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles (20 to 25 km) above Earth’s surface. The energy of the resulting explosion was in the vicinity of 300 kilotons of TNT.”
    Granted, Mr. Yeoman was making an estimate, but the difference between “estimate and actual” was quite significant. He was “only” 6,990 TONS and if “a few” equals 3, 12 meters or 39.37 feet shy of what this “unnoticed” meteor actually was!
    Not meaning to sound like a badly scratched record (or, for those that don’t remember “vinyl”, a ruined CD), we don’t have the capabilities (technology) to log or record every single asteroid, comet or meteor that is either a NEO or on a course for a direct strike.
    The irony of your opening remark to my previous “reply” is uncanny as you said, “While you’re correct that one could hit us any day, especially a small one that could cause regional destruction…”, who would have thought that the universe would actually show us an example in a few days of your saying that?!?
    I wonder if too much attention was directed at 2012 DA14 when we really should have kept a “sharper eye” out for ones that would strike earth directly. Even though we “think” we’ve recorded 93% of the “climate changing/life diminishing” NEO’s or 911 of them, that still leaves 70 “unknowns”. IMHO, when it only takes one (1) to change earth as we know it, that is a rather large number!
    I can’t help but wonder how many of the Russian people “under” the meteor explosion first thought that it was a nuclear attack? Of course, it’s been quite a while now since the so-called “cold-war”.
    Aloha For Now!

    • Wayne,
      It’s still comes down to probabilities. If there ONLY 70 left, that’s a very small percentage compared to the knowns. I think we’re in agreement about one thing – more needs to be done asap to find and track as many of these asteroids as possible. To that end, nations – and their taxpayers – should be funding spacecraft to put into orbit that can complement and complete the job astronomers are now doing from Earth.

      • Aloha Astro Bob!
        You’re absolutely correct about our agreeing on that, for sure!
        We should also be working on a “system” (by “we” I mean all nations that have space programs) that can do something with any NEO that may be large enough to cause catastrophic damage either by actually colliding with the earth or exploding above it.
        Although this is “off topic”, my only other “extreme wish” would be for nations who have abundant food supplies to figure out a distribution system of some sort that gives those nations that don’t have enough food, food to feed their hungry people. The amount of food that normally gets wasted/thrown away by grocery stores and restaurants (and some households) in our country and others similar to it is astronomically (pun intended) large!
        Back to NEO’s…I’m very anxious to learn of the “next” NEO that flies between the geostationary belt of communications satellites and the Earth. It seems to get the attention of those that would otherwise ignore what is going on “up there and out there”. The more folks involved and interested in Astronomy the better in my opinion.
        Aloha For Now!

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