- ‘Meteor hunters’ are out in force as collectors offer large sums
- But they may have to wait for spring for snow to thaw to search
- Astronomers say meteor could have hit UK if the it struck at a different time
The meteor that crashed in central Russia on Friday has sparked a modern-day gold rush as treasure hunters flock to the area for fragments worth more than £10,000.
Just a day after the 40-tonne meteor, which injured more than 1,200 people with flying fragments of glass and rubble, hurtled across the sky above Chelyabinsk, locals were out in force seeking fragments to sell to collectors desperate for a piece of the celestial body.
Enthusiasts took to the internet to let locals with a fragment know they could make big money. One Russian buyer was offering 500,000 roubles (£10,700) for a single rock.
Meanwhile, experts say the meteor could have hit a UK city with the force of a nuclear bomb if it had entered the atmosphere at a different time of day.
The meteor penetrated Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 33,0000mph.
As it raced through the sky, the 50-foot wide chunk of space rock compressed the air ahead of it, creating the enormous temperatures that meant it exploded in a fireball somewhere between 18 and 32 miles above the ground at around 9.20am local time on Friday.
Although some debris fell to earth, ‘whipping up a pillar of ice, water and steam’ and creating a 20-foot-wide crater, the damage in nearby towns was actually caused by shockwaves created by the meteor breaking the sound barrier and then exploding.
METEOR SPARKS A RARE SENSE OF COMMUNITY IN ‘TANKOGRAD’
The meteor was undeniably traumatic, but it also brought a sense of co-operation in a troubled region.
Large numbers of volunteers came forward to help fix the damage caused by the explosion and many residents came together on the internet.
Many joked yesterday about what had happened in the troubled pocket of Russia, with one of the most popular jests: Residents of the meteor were terrified to see Chelyabinsk approaching.
Chelyabinsk, nicknamed Tankograd because it produced the famed Soviet T-34 tanks, can be as grim as its backbone heavy industries.
In 1957, a waste tank at the Mayak nuclear weapons plant in the Chelyabinsk region exploded, contaminating 9,200 square miles and prompting authorities to evacuate 10,000 nearby residents.
It is now Russia’s main nuclear waste disposal facility and a vast plant for disposing of chemical weapons lies 50 miles east of the city.
The focus of the meteor hunters’ efforts was a frozen reservoir outside the nearby town of Chebarkul, where the largest meteorite pieces are thought to have crashed, reports The Sunday Times.
Russian authorities stopped a group of locals searching around a hole in the ice as they want people to stay away from the fragments until scientists from Moscow have tested them. Russian authorities also said the search for the meteorite may have to wait until spring when the region’s ice and snow thaws.
‘The web is awash with people saying they want to buy this stuff,” said Oleg Karpov, a Chelyabinsk local. ‘Maybe this thing was not that bad after all if a few of us make some money out of it.’
Collectors from around the world will be keen to get hold of a piece. Film director Steven Spielberg is a noted collector. In October a 9in piece of the Seymchan meteorite found in Siberia in 1960 sold in New York for $43,750 (£28,200).
Astronomers have also revealed that the meteor could have hit UK cities if it had hit at a slightly different time of day.
Nasa said that when the meteor entered the atmosphere, it exploded with the force of a nuclear weapon.
The revelation, based on an analysis of the earth’s rotation, comes as scientists reveal that they are planning a state-of-the-art detection system to give warning of incoming asteroids and meteorites, reports the Observer.
The announcement of the decision to build the Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Last Alert System, or Atlas, on Hawaii was made following the meteorite crash in Russia.
‘STREAK OF LIGHT’ SEEN OVER NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Hours after a meteor exploded over Russia and injured more than 1,000 people and an asteroid passed relatively close to Earth, people in California reported seeing an unusual flash of light over the San Francisco Bay area that left many startled and thrilled.
Based on reports, the light streaking in the Northern California sky was a sporadic meteor, or fireball, and not a major event, said Mike Hankey, operations manager for the American Meteor Society in Genesee, New York. The group recorded at least 35 reports of the event, he said.
‘Fireballs happen every single night, all around the world,’ he said.
Experts say smaller meteorites hit earth five to 10 times a year but chances of a large meteor passing, such as the one that streaked over Chelyabinsk, Russia, are much rarer.
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