UA scientists keep close eye on sky, asteroids - Tucson News Now

UA scientists keep close eye on sky, asteroids

Tim Swindle, the director of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, says the asteroid over Russia today came in low and close. Tim Swindle, the director of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, says the asteroid over Russia today came in low and close.
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

There were some big events in the sky today that grabbed the interest of people here in Tucson and across the world.

A 150-foot asteroid hurtled safely past Earth today as expected.

It happened on the same day more than 1,000 people in Russia were injured by a different asteroid.

What University of Arizona scientists are calling an asteroid exploded over a small Russian city shattering glass and crumbling buildings.

Both asteroids are something scientists at the University of Arizona are watching very closely.

The good news is what happened in Russia doesn't happen often. So scientists all over the world, especially at UA, are anxious to see what we can learn from it.

A fireball, brighter than the sun, lit up the day over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Tim Swindle, the director of the UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, says it came in low and close.

"It blew up at just the right spot to do the maximum possible amount of damage it could," Swindle said.

It was the sonic boom that did the damage, blowing out windows that reportedly caused most of the injuries.

"People ran to the windows, but it was far enough away that it was a couple of minutes before the sonic boom came that broke a lot of glass," Swindle said.

Swindle says the Russian asteroid, possibly no bigger than a city bus, was small compared to the asteroid that passed close by Earth today.

That one is about half the size of the UA football stadium.

Swindle says the Russian event with an asteroid this size is rare, maybe happening once in a few hundred years.

But as we float through space, Earth is a constant target. We just don't notice much.

"Now there are many, many more small things than big things, so things the size of a sand grain hit once a minute, once every few minutes. And those turn into shooting stars," Swindle said.

Some are wondering whether the Russian asteroid and the one passing by Earth are closely related.

Once came from the south and one from the north, so scientists don't believe they are.

"They may have broken off the same asteroid a million years ago and have been floating around in space since then, but they didn't come off each other last night or even a year or 10 years ago," Swindle said.

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