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The Chelyabinsk Meteor, February 2013

The Chelyabinsk Meteor, February 2013

Nearly all of us do it.

We get up in the morning, grab some coffee (well, some of us do, anyway), and stagger off towards the shower.

Now, imagine being a planet. It never gets to sleep, doesn’t drink coffee, though it does produce it, and taking a shower means getting pelted by rocks called meteors.

Bear in mind that Earth has been putting up with this for over 4,000,000,000 years, and the shower never really ends.

But it’s not all bad, at least not from our perspective, especially as most burn up and never reach the planet’s surface.

In fact, twice a year, the meteor activity gets so intense that huge numbers of people look to the sky to see the bright trails as the wayward voyagers enter our atmosphere and burn up.

The Perseid Meteor Shower occurs in early to mid August and presents a few meteors every minute.

The second major display, the Leonids, takes place in mid November, but approximately every 33 years, the Leonids become a meteor storm, presenting thousands of meteors every hour.

So what is the difference between a meteor and an asteroid, like 2012 DA14?

Location, location, location.

An asteroid is simply a rock that isn’t a planet or a moon and floats through space. Our solar system contains millions of them.

A meteor is simply a rock that isn’t a planet or a moon that enters a planet’s atmosphere. If it actually reaches the surface of a planet, it then becomes known as a meteorite.

Now, before you ask, let’s look at the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in Febuary 2013. Notice that it’s called a meteor and not a meteorite.

Why?

Although pieces of it were found on the surface, it exploded while still over 14 miles above the ground. So while most of it remained a meteor, some small meteorites were produced.

How powerful was the explosion? About 440 kilotons, or about 25 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Even from 14 miles away, the exploding meteor resulted in just under 1,500 injuries.

Remember, though, that events like that are very rare.

The odds of being injured by one are…sorry, there’s no other way to put this…astronomical.

So keeping looking up.

And, as always, dream.

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