Asteroid passing a 'once in a lifetime event'

Posted at: 02/15/2013 5:28 PM
Updated at: 02/15/2013 5:52 PM
By: Adam Camp, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A once in a lifetime experience is how one University of New Mexico researcher described the astronomical events Friday.

A 150-meter wide meteor went through earth’s atmosphere and landed in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Just hours later, an asteroid passed just 17,000 miles from earth and NASA tracked it.

Karen Ziegler is a meteorite researcher for UNM.

“It's something very, very special. I think this is a once in a lifetime experience to actually be able to observe and watch something like that happen,” Ziegler said.

The power of the meteor going into the atmosphere is also something to behold.

“It's like a bomb going off. This particular meteorite, they estimated the energy that was released when the meteor entered the earth's atmosphere was the size of a nuclear bomb going off,” Ziegler said.

The meteorite’s impact injured over 1,000 people as the explosion shattered glass and sent debris flying. Ziegler said that debris from the meteorite will send meteorite researchers flocking to Russia.

“Probably all the meteorite handlers in the world are buying their tickets right now to go out there and try to find some pieces so that they can analyze them,” Ziegler said.

As far as tracking the meteor before it came into the earth’s atmosphere, Ziegler said it was still too small for telescopes to pick it up until it started blazing a trail to the earth.