Research Article

Chelyabinsk Airburst, Damage Assessment, Meteorite Recovery, and Characterization

Science  29 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6162, pp. 1069-1073
DOI: 10.1126/science.1242642

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Deep Impact?

On 15 February 2013, the Russian district of Chelyabinsk, with a population of more than 1 million, suffered the impact and atmospheric explosion of a 20-meter-wide asteroid—the largest impact on Earth by an asteroid since 1908. Popova et al. (p. 1069, published online 7 November; see the Perspective by Chapman) provide a comprehensive description of this event and of the body that caused it, including detailed information on the asteroid orbit and atmospheric trajectory, damage assessment, and meteorite recovery and characterization.

Abstract

The asteroid impact near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on 15 February 2013 was the largest airburst on Earth since the 1908 Tunguska event, causing a natural disaster in an area with a population exceeding one million. Because it occurred in an era with modern consumer electronics, field sensors, and laboratory techniques, unprecedented measurements were made of the impact event and the meteoroid that caused it. Here, we document the account of what happened, as understood now, using comprehensive data obtained from astronomy, planetary science, geophysics, meteorology, meteoritics, and cosmochemistry and from social science surveys. A good understanding of the Chelyabinsk incident provides an opportunity to calibrate the event, with implications for the study of near-Earth objects and developing hazard mitigation strategies for planetary protection.

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