Meteorite Hits Russia, Asteroid Scrapes by Earth

This image provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows a simulation of asteroid 2012 DA14 approaching from the south as it passes through the Earth-moon system on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. The 150-foot object will pass within 17,000 miles of the Earth. NASA scientists insist there is absolutely no chance of a collision as it passes. (AP Photo/NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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An object from space burst through the atmosphere at more than 33,000 miles an hour, lighting up the sky over a Russian city. The shockwave broke windows and a piece of the meteor left a 26-foot wide crater in the ice on a reservoir in Russia.

So what causes these cosmic events? Dr. Nicolle Zellner, associate professor of physics at Albion College says it happens when a gravitational force knocks an asteroid out of its orbit in space.

"Every once it a while the Earth and the asteroid cross at the same place at the same time and when that happens we either get a meteor shower or if it actually hits the ground, if it's big enough we have a pretty bad day." said Prof. Zellner.

Coincidentally, on the same day a meteor exploded over Russia, an asteroid the size of an olympic swimming pool came within just 17,000 miles of Earth. Prof. Zellner says although at least 10 meteorites fall on Earth everyday, most don't have an impact and it's rare for us to witness one because the majority fall into the ocean or uninhabited areas.

"If material is left over, that's very exciting," said Prof. Zellner.

According to Prof. Zellner, any small fragment of a meteor that's found on Earth may contain valuable information about our planet and others around us.

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