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Monday, February 18, 2013 - 9:12am
What was in that meteor that exploded spectacularly over Russia's Urals region last week? Radioactive spores? Tiny Martians? Kryptonite?
Nope, just rock and a bit of iron, according to Russian scientists who tracked fragments of the meteor to the frozen surface of Lake Chebarkul.
Scientists from Urals Federal University found 53 small meteorites on the surface of the lake and believe a larger fragment is under water, said Viktor Grokhovsky, the scientist who led the effort.
The fragments point to a rocky meteor with about 10% iron mixed in, Grokhovsky told CNN.
The meteor exploded Friday in the air near Chelyabinsk, leaving behind nothing but meteorites, thousands of broken windows and some pretty spectacular video of it streaking across the sky before exploding in a noisy, luminous fireball.
The explosion startled residents going about their morning business and damaged more than 4,000 buildings, mostly apartments. Glass shattered across 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles), the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited the Chelyabinsk regional emergencies ministry as saying Saturday.
About 1,000 people suffered injuries, mostly from flying glass. One woman was flown to Moscow for treatment of a spinal injury, state media reported.
About 50 people remained hospitalized over the weekend.
Local officials have estimated the damage at more than 1 billion rubles ($33 million), RIA Novosti said. Chelyabinsk Gov. Mikhail Yurevich promised compensation to all those affected, the official Itar-Tass news agency said.
The U.S. space agency, NASA, said the meteor released nearly 500 kilotons of energy, about 33 times more than the nuclear bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945.
NASA estimated the meteor's diameter at 55 feet (17 meters) and said it was the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor exploded over Tunguska in remote Siberia, destroying 80 million trees over an area of 820 square miles.
"We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average," Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said last week.
"When you have a fireball of this size, we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface, and in this case there were probably some large ones."
The event was unrelated to the passage of another, larger asteroid some 17,100 miles from earth on Friday, according to scientists.