Houston, We Have A (10,000 Ton) Problem Elizabeth Entenman

Guys, do you ever look up at the night sky and feel incredibly insignificant? And you start to think about life’s big questions, and what we’re really doing here? And are aliens real and what are you going to do with an English degree and did you remember to pay that bill? And then your thoughts are cut short because the remains of a humongous meteorite go streaking through the sky? Because that happened last week in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

A meteorite exploded in the Earth’s lower atmosphere on Friday in Russia, causing a huge shock wave that knocked out windows, showered broken glass and caused injuries all around. Luckily, it didn’t physically hit the Earth, just broke up while in flight. If it had, I wouldn’t be lightly peppering this post with jokes.

Let’s start by being thankful nobody died. Then, let’s try to say ‘Chelyabinsk’ five times fast. I’ll wait. Okay, let’s talk about the facts. I’m struggling that the meteorite doesn’t have a name, so for no reason aside from a mild obsession with alliteration, I’m going to call her Meteorite Millie.

Meteorite Millie by the numbers:
- 55 feet across and 10,000 tons before entering the Earth’s atmosphere
- Traveled at 19 miles per second
- Released 500 kilotons of energy – that’s 30x the amount of the bomb at Hiroshima
- Injured 1,200 people
- Caused $33 million in damage

Again – really glad nobody died. Amazed, even.

Space had a big week last week. Remember 2012 DA14, the asteroid that was supposed to narrowly miss us? It didn’t get as close as predicted. Then, Millie came out of nowhere and stole the show. If rocks could talk, 2012 DA14 would say “Millie, you stole my thunder!” (Not that I’m complaining about an asteroid missing us.)

Were 2012 DA14 and Millie related? CNN asked Bill Nye for his expert opinion, naturally, and he told us it was pure coincidence they occurred so close to each other. We can chalk it up to cosmic coincidence, but it’s still pretty ironic. OR IS IT? I’m looking at you, Mayans.

For me, the scary part surrounding both 2012 DA14 and Millie is the lack of control we have on Earth. Says former astronaut Ed Lu, “We only know the locations and trajectories of about 1 percent of asteroids [the size of 2012 DA14] or larger. So for every one of these, there’s 99 out there we don’t know about.” Neat.

We may have predicted 2012 DA14, but where are the other 99 we don’t know about? We have some knowledge of asteroids, but clearly not enough yet. Even if we can predict a hit, there’s not much we can do to protect ourselves. There are still no guarantees of stopping it; the best we could do is evacuate.

So, let’s be thankful that Millie didn’t cause any deaths. And, be on the lookout! You know, for falling rocks, coming at you miles and miles per second. Maybe carry an umbrella or something, just to be safe.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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