CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — NASA said that the 7,000 ton meteor that hit Russia today is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia. The Russian meteor was about 49 feet (15 meters) long when it entered the atmosphere at about 40,000 mph (18 kilometers per second).
The Russian meteor impacted the Earth at 10:20:26 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Feb. 14. The energy released by the impact is estimated to be in the hundreds of kilotons.
Based on the duration of the event, NASA scientists believe the meteor had a very shallow entry. The meteor was brighter than the sun and it’s trail was visible for about 30 seconds – so it was a grazing impact through the atmosphere.
According to NASA scientists, preliminary information indicates that the meteor that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia, was not related to asteroid 2012 DA14 that flew by Earth safely today.
NASA cautions that the data estimates are preliminary, and may be revised as more data is obtained.
What’s the difference between a meteor and a meteorite?
NASA defines shooting stars or meteors as bits of material falling through Earth’s atmosphere; they are heated to incandescence by the friction of the air. The bright trails as they are coming through the Earth’s atmosphere are termed meteors, and these chunks as they are hurtling through space are called meteoroids.
Large pieces that do not vaporize completely in the atmosphere and reach the surface of the Earth are termed meteorites.
Simply put, the name of the space material depends on where it is located:
While in space – a meteoroid;
While traveling through the atmosphere – a meteor (also called a shooting star); and
After hitting the Earth’s surface – a meteorite.