A massive meteor came streaming through Earth’s orbit early Friday morning, blazing across Russia and shattering above a central city, leaving hundreds of people injured in its wake.
Scientists estimate the flaming projectile weighed as much as 10 tons when it entered Earth’s atmosphere. The impact comes on the day that astronomers will be watching space for a massive asteroid passing near Earth.
Reuters reports that more than 500 people were injured when the meteorite exploded over central Russia.
The meteorite flew directly above the city of Chelyabinsk, where several citizens captured the streaming fireball on video.
"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," Viktor Prokofiev told the news service. "I felt like I was blinded by headlights."
The specifics of the strike are still fairly vague, but Russian officials said the projectile was travelling at a speed of 30 kilometres per second. The explosion caused a sonic boom, which shattered windows and buckling store fronts.
Some 500 people have sought medical help following the explosion, although no deaths have been reported.
The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth’s atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph and shattered about 30-50 kilometres above ground.
Officials believe the meteorite strike was linked to a massive asteroid passing by Earth today. Although a report on Slate.com suggests the meteorite is not related to the asteroid, known as 2012 DA14.
As Yahoo! Canada's Geekquinox reporter Scott Sutherland explains, our planet is locked in a "cosmic shooting gallery."
[ Geekquinox: Asteroid near-miss is only a hint of what’s really out there ]
Although meteorite crashes are more common than commonly known, with many of them buring up in the atmosphere and causing little to no damage, they rarely result in so many injuries.
In 2008, a meteorite blazed across the Canadian prairies and crashed in Saskatchewan without any injuries.
Randy Atwood, a space educator, told CTV News at the time that the meteorite was likely no larger than a grapefruit and either broke into small pieces or burned up entirely before striking Earth.