Simulation of Asteroid 2012 DA14 as it heads toward Earth.(Photo: NASA / JPL)
(USA TODAY) -- A Russian meteor blast that has reportedly injured more than 500 people appears unconnected to the flyby Friday of an asteroid passing
close to Earth, according to astronomers.
asteroid, 2012 DA14, passes within 17,100 miles of Earth around 2:24
p.m. ET on Friday before heading off into space. The Russian meteor,
likely about the size of a sports utility vehicle and weighing perhaps
11 tons, struck Russia's Chelyabinsk region, about 900 miles east of
Moscow late Thursday, according to news reports.
Earth travels about a million miles in a day and these are two events
separated by almost 24 hours, so it is unlikely they are connected,"
says asteroid expert Richard Binzel of MIT. Meteors the size of the
Russian one hit Earth every few years, Binzel says, but land near
inhabited places much less often. "We just have the incredible
coincidence of this happening just before the asteroid flies by," Binzel
Further, the Russian meteor landed in the Northern
hemisphere while Asteroid 2012 DA14 is approaching from the direction of
the South Pole, arguing against a connection. The damage in
Chelyabinsk, reportedly broken windows, was caused by the air pressure
wave created when the meteor zoomed into the Earth's atmosphere at
perhaps 33,000 mph.
"It's nice of Nature to give us the full
spectrum of possibilities," Binzel says. Astronomers will want to
recover whatever pieces of the Russian meteor remain for study in the
lab. The space rocks are thought to be leftovers from the era of the