Scientists Study 53 Tiny Meteorites From Russian Fireball

Pieces of the Russian meteorite fall are seen in a laboratory in Yekaterinburg on Monday, Feb.18, 2013. Black shock veins are visible in the broken specimen in the background if you look closely. Credit: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov

Scientists at Urals Federal University in Yekaterinburg have examined 53 meteorite fragments taken from the perimeter of the hole in frozen Chebarkul Lake. The largest is only 7 mm (about a quarter-inch) across; the smallest about one millimeter. Many are covered with dark fusion crust, a layer of melted and blackened rock from atmospheric heating.

The majority of the 53 pieces of the meteorite picked up around the hole at Chebarkul Lake displayed in the lab at the university in Yekaterinburg. The insides of the stones shows the typical pale gray, concrete-like texture of certain common chondrites. Credit: AP / The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov

The little stones are a common type of meteorite called a chondrite (KON-drite) that originated in the crust of an asteroid. A long-ago impact sent a fragment of the asteroid flying toward the inner solar system where it ultimately encountered Earth last Friday.

The Russian meteorite, which may receive the name Chebarkul, after the lake and town where it was found, contains about 10% iron-nickel, magnesium-rich chrysolite and sulfite, all common materials found in stony meteorites.


Look at how small the pieces are. I have to believe there are many more to be found from the powerful fireball. The sign reads: Meteorite Chebarkul. Credit: AP Photo / The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov

Chondrites are classified according to their iron content. Those with 15-20% nickel-iron metal are iron-rich and named “H” chondrites. Meteorites with a 7-11% nickel-iron content are classified as “L” chondrites, and those with the lowest amount of iron are the “LL” variety. Based on the lab’s description, it would appear that the fireball left a trail of L-chondrite crumbs. Let’s hope the hunters and scientists can follow the trail to the bigger ones.

** Update: I’ve recently learned via Russia TV and the New York Times this morning (Feb. 19) that local people are finding hundreds of small fragments buried in the snow. Read the full New York Times article and see more photos HERE.

17 Responses

  1. This looks a lot like Park Forest. And I hope it is just as plentiful on the collector’s market (eventually) once science is satisfied first. 🙂

  2. Bernd Pauli

    Hello folks,

    I totally agree – it may be something like the heavily shocked Park Forest (S5) or maybe something like Chergach (S3) – an L5 or an H5. Cheers, Bernd

    1. astrobob

      Great to hear from you. You’re right about Chergach – that’s also very possible although the iron level is on the low side for an H.

  3. RC

    I was reading the article you linked on the 15th (clicking on the picture of the hole in the lake). They’re planing to bring out divers to explore the bottom of the lake. I’d estimate that the hole is about 30ft in diameter, so that’s about 700 square feet of broken up ice. Any speculation as to what they’ll find at the bottom? Would the hole be caused by a large meteorite (maybe 6-12in? maybe 2ft?) or would it be more likely that the hole is like a “shotgun” type blast with 100-250-500 meteorites in the 1/2″ – 2″ range?

    1. astrobob

      Good questions RC. I heard the first survey by the divers turned up nothing at the bottom. Maybe they were looking for something big when the hole could have been created by many smaller objects. Either that or the mass or masses buried themselves in the mud.

  4. Lynn

    Hi Bob
    I was watching a news item on the internet about the Russian meteorite, it was called Russia today, the guy on that included the asteroid Apophis and was saying that in 2029, Apophis will pass so close to earth that it’s going to skim across the atmosphere and knock out a bunch of satellite’s like a bowling ball, so I was wondering if this was true or not as I don’t know how reliable this news source is, but I thought everything was ok with Apophis in 2029, but I’m sure you can tell me what is right or wrong. Thanks Bob 🙂

  5. Lynn

    Thanks Bob, some of the reporter’s should really get information from a reliable source before broadcasting it on the tv as there will be people who will believe what he said, that’s why I’m glad i’ve got my wee nightly science news from you to keep me on track and have been reading your blogs for nearly a year and a half and wouldn’t miss one for all the tea in China 🙂

    1. astrobob

      Thank you – you’re so nice as usual. As a tea drinker however, I might compromise and miss a few blogs for some of that Chinese tea.

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