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Borderland professors break down meteor strike, asteroid passage

By Krystal Klei, Reporter
Published On: Feb 15 2013 06:48:57 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 16 2013 11:12:02 AM CST

Krystal Klei reports

Friday morning around the Ural Mountain region of Russia, a streak in the sky turned into a burst of light.

Dashcams, cellphones, and security cameras were rolling on the entire event.

YouTube instantly filled with videos of the fiery landfall.

"It's not uncommon, but it's not something that occurs weekly, or monthly, or even yearly," El Paso Community College physics professor Emil Michal said.

Michal said the size of the meteor, combined with a speed of an estimated 33,000 mph, created a massive pressure wave as the meteorite entered the atmosphere.

Upon impact, the meteorite broke apart into smaller meteors. Some made landfall over Russia.

The pressure wave contributed to blown-out windows, collapsed buildings, and reports of more than 1,200 injuries.

The Internet has lead to constantly updated information and photographs.

"This essentially is available in real time, previously this was not the case," Michael said.

As the internet changes astronomy, New Mexico State University is adapting.

"The All Sky Camera Network that's based at New Mexico State is a set of nodes, cameras, that were put together in association with Sandia Labs in Albuquerque," Dr. David Voelz said.

Voelz, an NMSU professor and program manager for the All Sky Cam Network, said the program tracks meteors around the globe. The camera feeds are left available online for anyone to view.

"We have around 50 to 70 nodes operating," Voelz said. "They run all night. If a meteor comes through their field of view, the cam triggers and saves the piece of video."

While the video data is available for a variety of research opportunities, such as preparing or understanding future events, both Michal and Voelz said we're safe, for now.

"l don't think there's much reason to be worried," Voelz said.

As for the asteroid, it was estimated to be around 150 feet wide. Friday it narrowly missed the Earth, in cosmic terms. 

The asteroid was around 17,000 miles away from earth, making it the closest asteroid ever recorded by astronomers. The distance was closer than some satellites. 

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