Photo from policymic.com
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO News
The world awoke to news Friday morning that Russia had been showered by meteorites on the very day NASA predicted a large asteroid would fly unprecedentedly close to Earth. The combination of occurrences has a lot of people wondering: Are the two related?
Brown University’s Associate Professor of Physics, Ian Dell’Antonio said they’re not. He said the near-simultaneous meteor shower and approach of DA14, a 150-foot diameter asteroid, are merely a “coincidence.” NASA has even gone so far as to say the asteroid and meteorite were on completely opposite trajectories.
Dell’Antonio told Gene Valicenti on the WPRO Morning News Friday that meteor showers, like the one in Russia Friday morning, are “relatively rare.”
“Something like this happens a couple times a year,” he said, and they’re usually not splashed all over YouTube because they occur in more remote locations.
Dell’Antonio explained that meteors and asteroids are hypothesized to be rock or iron left over from the formation of the solar system.
“Earth just happens to run into them," he said.
According to the Associated Press, the Russian Academy of Sciences said a meteor, estimated to be about 10 tons, entered the Earth's atmosphere Friday morning going at least 33,000 mph. It then shattered at 18 to 32 miles above the ground and released several kilotons of energy. The latest reports say that roughly 1,000 people were injured as a result.
On Friday afternoon, at about 2:25 p.m. eastern time, Asteroid 2012 DA14 is expected to fly about 17,200 miles above Earth's surface – closer than satellites orbit.
“It’s the closest pass of something this big that we've predicted before,” said Dell’Antonio.
He said the occurrence is rare, and happens about every 50 years or so.
Dell’Antonio said people shouldn’t worry about the asteroid striking Earth, since the path of DA14 is well known. He also said this particular asteroid is not as big as the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, which is thought to have been roughly 6-miles wide.