Nearly 1,000 people were injured when a meteor exploded over Russia on Friday. (Photo courtesy YouTube)
By Eric Stock
NORMAL - A scientist at Illinois State University said astronomers were caught off guard by the meteor that exploded over Russia today.
ISU planetarium director Tom Wilmitch said it's not because there were consumed by tracing the asteroid that's whizzing past Earth today, but because the meteor was too simply small to trace.
"We are actively looking for what we call 'Earth-crossing asteroids. These objects that might be a little bit bigger. We're looking for those we are trying to survey them to determine potential threats," Wilmitch said.
He said the asteroid is no threat.
"We know precisely how it's going to pass the earth, with no chance whatsoever that it will strike us," Wilmitch said.
A 'pure coincidence'
There's apparently no connection between the meteor and the asteroid.
"They have a number of astronomers that scrambled to figure it out. They looked at the trajectory of this thing and it seems a pure coincidence, there's just no way this could be a part of the asteroid that's passing us," Wilmitch said.
Wilmitch said the explosion caused by the meteor was impressive.
"Having seen hundreds of hundreds of meteors over the years you don't even usually hear a whisper, this one is bending window frames and shattering glass," Wilmitch noted.
A health official in Russia said nearly 1,000 people have sought treatment for injuries, with more than 40 hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by shattered glass.
Wilmitch said while the asteroid is no threat to Earth, it's worth exploring. He noted an explosion near the Tunguska River in Siberia destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of largely uninhabited forest in 1908. The blast was estimated to be 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb.
Eric Stock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.