On February 15th, at about 9:22 a.m. local time, residents of Russia's Urals witnessed an unusual event that scared a lot of people. Explosions occurred in the sky, and according to witnesses, burning debris started falling on the ground. In the city of Chelyabinsk, problems with cellular communication started soon afterwards; a partial evacuation was conducted.
The falling of objects, similar to the wreckage of aircraft could be seen in the Sverdlovsk region too. Russia's EMERCOM, however, quickly established the true nature of the phenomenon. Scientists confirmed later that it was a very rare natural phenomenon indeed.
In pictures: Meteor explodes over Russia's Chelyabinsk
"According to preliminary data, the flashes, which local people saw, were a meteor shower," EMERCOM officials said. A little bit later, however, the information was corrected. "There was no meteor shower over the Urals, as it was reported earlier - there was only one meteor. It burned as it was passing through the lower atmosphere," officials told Interfax adding that the radiation level in the region remains normal.
Many people (in Yekaterinburg) also saw the falling meteor, but many of them thought that it was an aircraft. However, no aircraft has crashed in the Urals - all fly according to schedule."
In Chelyabinsk, partial evacuation was conducteded. The police of the city was set on high alert, "Fortress" plan was introduced, all vital facilities of the city were taken under additional protection. Currently, about 20,000 EMERCOM personnel and three aircraft examine the area.
In Chelyabinsk, explosions were heard in the area of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Plant. There was a flash of light and five explosions, eyewitnesses said. The blast wave broke windows, several cars were damaged.
One fragment of the space body hit the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant, destroying a part of the walls of the building. The falling object sent a plume of smoke and dust in the air; the debris blocked traffic on the nearby road.
It is already possible to assert that the fall of the meteorite on Earth has not caused considerable damage.
Experts agree with preliminary conclusions of law enforcement and emergency services. The director of the observatory Kourovsky Observatory, Polina Zakharova, said that it was only a sporadic meteor, which was quite a rare phenomenon. According to her, it was a meteor that was not associated with the flow of other meteors. They just wander in the atmosphere and sometimes fall. The Urals meteor has not reached the Earth's surface: it exploded in the air. According to the experts, local residents were lucky that the meteor exploded high enough.
A meteor is a phenomenon that occurs when small meteoroids burn in the atmosphere. It should be distinguished from meteorites: a meteor is not an object, but the phenomenon of the glowing trail of a meteoroid.
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