independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Fragments of huge meteor discovered

A scientist tests some of the meteor debris (AP)

Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of dozens of atomic bombs.

Viktor Grokhovsky, who led the expedition from Urals Federal University, said the meteorites plucked from the ice-covered Chebarkul Lake so far are less than a centimetre and had an iron content of about 10%.

Local people saw a big meteorite fall into the lake on Friday, leaving a six-metre-wide hole in the ice. Mr Grokhovsky said a meteorite up to two-feet across could eventually be found in the lake.

Russian health officials on raised the number of those injured from the meteor's arrival to nearly 1,500 people, with 46 of them still in hospital.

Local residents seem more interested in the black market value of the fragments. As they search for their own pieces of the meteor, sales offers already are filling the internet, and police are warning all purchasers to prepare for possible fraud.

Meanwhile, workers in the city remained busy replacing acres of windows shattered by a powerful shockwave caused by the meteor's strike, which NASA said released 500 kilotons of energy, the power equivalent to more than 30 Hiroshima bombs.

Lidiya Rykhlova, head of the astronomy department at the Moscow-based Institute for Space Research, said experts have drafted a programme that envisages building new powerful telescopes, including space-based ones, to warn against potentially dangerous asteroids, comets and other threats. The 10-year plan cost 58 billion roubles (£1.2 billion).

That huge price tag has raised many eyebrows, drawing a sarcastic post from Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption crusader and opposition leader. "You'd better fix roads in Chelyabinsk. Holes on them cause more damage than 100 meteorites," he said.

Press Association

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