A series of sharp aerial explosions injured a few hundreds people.
The numerous injuries and significant damage remind us that what happens in space can affect us all.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered that around 20,000 members of the nation's civil defense be deployed
to the area, alongside seven aircraft.
According to local authorities more than 3,000 buildings were damaged when the meteorite plunged to earth
in a blinding fireball, creating shockwaves that damaged windows and collapsed walls.
And according to NASA, the widely-filmed fireball had entered the atmosphere, measuring about 15 meters
(16 yards) across before disintegrating
Videos show a fireball and explosion consistent with an asteroid up to a few metres in size exploding in the atmosphere,
possibly several to ten kilometres above the surface.
In this type of event, if the explosion altitude is less than 10 km or so, the resulting shockwave can cause
damage on the ground, such as shattering windows. Debris from the object may be found later.
Click on image to enlarge
An image from the SEVIRI instrument aboard Eumetsat's Meteosat-10 geostationary satellite.
The vapour trail visible in the centre of the image was left by an asteroid that struck Earth near
Chelyabinsk, Russia, 15 February 2013, around 03:15 UT. Initial media reports included accounts of
injuries and property loss. This image uses data from the High Resolution Visible (HRV) channel of
SEVIRI that can produce images with both high spatial and temporal resolution. (Credit: Eumetsat)
"There is no way it could have been predicted with the technical means available today. What can be said with
near certainty is that this object has no connection with asteroid 2012 DA14," Detlef Koschny,
Head of Near-Earth Object activity at ESA's Space Situational Awareness (SSA) programme office, said.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 made a close flyby of Earth at 19:27 GMT (20:27 CET) today.
Finding objects that pass close to our planet and are large enough to do damage if they enter our atmosphere
is a major goal of ESA's SSA programme.
In addition to conducting its own sky searches using ESA's Optical Ground Station in Tenerife, Spain, SSA is
partnering with existing European and international asteroid survey activities.
It also sponsors astronomer groups in Europe, supporting surveys carried out with their own equipment or allocating
observation time on its Tenerife telescope. The office also provides access to orbit predictions, close flyby
details and related data via its technical website at http://neo.ssa.esa.int.
"Today's event is a strong reminder of why we need continuous efforts to survey and identify near-Earth objects,"
said Thomas Reiter, ESA's Director of Human Spaceflight and Operations.
"Our SSA programme is developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids and other
objects in solar orbits."
In cooperation with survey efforts worldwide, ESA's goal is to spot near-Earth objects larger than 40 m at least
three weeks before closest approach to our planet.
To achieve this, ESA, European industry and partner agencies are developing a system of automated 1 m-diameter
telescopes capable of imaging the complete sky in one night.
In addition to Russian media, who reported immediately, all media worldwide have published images of notable
damage around Chelyabinsk, and reports also mention numerous casualties.
"Our most sincere sympathies are with those suffering injury and property loss due to this event in Russia,"
added Thomas Reiter.
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