Asteroid / meteor hits Russia, huge shockwave (updated videos)

Note from John: The science-guy in me is just loving these videos from Russia of the meteor/asteroid that hit there in the last 24 hours. It’s really amazing to listen to the shockwave. In a few of these videos – I found some new ones – you can heart what sounds like multiple shockwaves. I’m not sure if this is the sound bouncing off mountains or what.

Here’s a video of an office when the shockwave hit:

Here’s a classroom in Chelyabinsk as the meteor shockwave hit – fortunately no one appears to have been injured:

And here’s a video that does a nice job of capturing the multiple shockwave sounds:

And here’s another one of some guys watching it happen, you can hear all the glass shatter everywhere:

In what had to be a scary and strange moment, a meteor shower dropped burning rock across a sparsely populated part of central Russia today. The region is to the north of Kazakhstan.  And the Independent is reporting that in fact it was a small asteroid that his Chelyabinsk:

The small asteroid that entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Chelyabinsk today took everyone by surprise; the fact that such an event occurs is not.

The anonymous chunk of rock that hit us today was much larger – possibly a few metres across – and was big  enough to punch its way to a much lower altitude in a spectacular fashion. Small asteroids this size almost never make it to the ground in one piece, as the increasing air pressure at lower altitudes acts effectively like a brick wall, breaking the rock apart. This releases the energy in a catastrophic fireball, leaving only a few small pieces to fall to the ground as meteorites, but with a tremendous shockwave that those near the impact point experienced first hand.

The asteroid/meteorite injured nearly 1,000 people according to NBC:

It was a once in a decade event, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, told TODAY on Friday, saying the impact was the physics equivalent of hitting a brick wall. “When you hit a brick wall, you basically explode, and that’s what happened here, and it exploded in midair,” Tyson said.

NBC also notes that an asteroid is doing a fly-by today as well:

The fireball reports spread just hours before a 150-foot-wide asteroid was due to make a close flyby, coming within 17,200 miles of Earth. It’s unlikely that there’s any connection between the fireball and the encounter asteroid, known as 2012 DA14. However, a bright flash and explosion in midair would be consistent with the atmospheric entry and breakup of a large meteoroid.

There are lots of dashboard videos from Russia that have been uploaded to YouTube, so below are a few of them. (From what I understand, Russians often have dashboard cameras to record the sometimes bizarre happenings on the roads for insurance purposes.) A big thanks to @Miro_Collas for finding so many amazing videos following the meteor or asteroid shower!

Great coverage from Al Jazeera:

This driver gets closer than he probably wanted to be.

Too close for comfort, as you can hear the crashing noises nearby.

And another loud crash followed by breaking glass.

Wait for it, wait for it…around 27 seconds in, they get a surprise with a very loud “boom” from the meteor.

A bit more distance from the meteor.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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43 Responses to “Asteroid / meteor hits Russia, huge shockwave (updated videos)”

  1. Jameika says:

    I think my favorite part points to one of my favorite things about Russia and Russians: people have an awareness of and appreciation for science. I loved that the reactions were “that was a meteorite” and not “the world is ending”.

  2. jumon jajaja says:


  3. Ninong says:

    Video showing the double sonic boom effect:
    The first boom is caused by the compression of air by the front of the object/aircraft and the second boom is caused by sound waves piling up on each other behind the object/aircraft because they can’t catch up with the source of the sound because it’s traveling faster than mach 1.

  4. BeccaM says:

    I remember. I believe the competing (non-crazy) theory is an exceptionally porous low-density but large sized chondrite, such that it almost completely disintegrated. However, that would require a rather rare asteroid composition, whereas comets are about as common as the dirt under our feet.

  5. BeccaM says:

    Neat. Thanks! I’d seen that clip a few times (among all the others) but hadn’t known to look for the bow-shock. You’re right, it’s definitely there.

  6. Ninong says:

    They still don’t agree on what caused Tunguska but I think there is consensus building for the theory that it was probably a small comet simply because they can’t find any fragments. Of course, they didn’t even start looking until years after the fact.

  7. Ninong says:

    Check out this video clip at 22-25 seconds into the clip.

  8. BeccaM says:

    In which of the videos can one see the blast cone? I’m very curious to see that.

    (I’ve been an astronomy buff since the age of five, during the Apollo program. Very nearly went into it for college, but alas I was pushed into “more practical” pursuits at the time.)

  9. BeccaM says:

    Of course. I know — much, much, MUCH larger.

    I was merely making the point about the quality of observations and multiple independent recording sources, and noting how a hundred years ago, most of us would have simply seen a report months after that fact. Perhaps appearing in Scientific American under the headline, “Mysterious explosion in skies over Chelyabinks, Russia shatters windows, has scientists baffled” — along with a few grainy photographs after the fact, showing broken glass and that hole in the ice in the lake.

  10. Ninong says:

    You can get all the latest updates and video clips here:

  11. dustyjerry says:

    So this event did qualify as an impact?

  12. A close encounter /cum closest approach Check out to know more about Asteroid DA14 :-

  13. Ninong says:

    John, this is probably my favorite video clip of the event. It’s 10 minutes long but what you have to pay attention to is the clock at the top of the screen. When the clock reaches 09:23:31 you see the brilliant flash of light. Then when the clock reaches 09:25:56 you hear the loud sonic boom. That’s a space of 145sec/3=48.3km distance between the camera and the impact with the atomosphere.

    It’s Russian but apparently he likes Australian music.!

  14. Ninong says:

    Shockwave/sonic boom are virtually the same thing, just names for two different aspects. The sonic boom is the noise made by the shockwave. What I described was the “blast” wave and sonic boom, two different things altogether.

    An object traveling faster than the speed of sound (like the space shuttle on reentry) creates shockwaves which are heard as sonic booms. As long as the space shuttle doesn’t explode with a tremendous amount of energy, there won’t be a blast wave.

    What happened with the tiny asteroid over Russia yesterday — and with the much, much larger “event” over Tunguska — was that an “object” exploded upon impact with the earth’s atomosphere, thus producing a blast wave. Mount St. Helens exploded with tremendous force, producing a blast wave. Nuclear bombs explode with tremendous force producing blast waves, but you see the explosion before you feel or hear anything.

    A blast wave is produced by matter exploding outward at supersonic speeds resulting in enormous changes in pressure. The tiny asteroid over Russia yesterday was estimated by NASA to be 17 meters wide with a mass of 10,000 metric tons. It broke up on impact with the upper atmosphere. That violent explosion produced a blast wave that you can very clearly see in at least one of those videos. You can see it’s cone shape beautifully. It looks like a brilliant white pyramid.

  15. That’s interesting about Tunguska. But if it was a small comet, and thus a lot of ice, and thus melted high up in the atmosphere, what flattened the trees, the shockwave/sonic boom (and are they two different things?)

  16. Well, everyone knows we don’t need a space shield to protect us against asteroids. We have Bruce Willis :)

  17. It’s a really good point, that others have noted. For once our 1984-record-everything society has benefited from the video over-abundance. This is awfully cool stuff.

  18. Phil says:

    Maybe a North Korean missile test with a really bad guidance system????

  19. Phil says:

    That would make sense then. The shuttle would be at the very end of its re-entry sequence, but was apparently still flying at supersonic speeds. We were about 150 miles SSW of the Cape. The first time I heard it, I thought a large man or a perhaps a bear had somehow fallen on the roof of the house and was outside on a ladder looking at the roof for damage. The neighbors thought it was hysterical.

  20. Phil says:

    Dashcams are very commonplace in some parts of Russia, due to a large number of traffic accident scams.

  21. Ninong says:

    When an object travels at supersonic speed, you will have two sonic booms — one in front of it and one behind. The booms are actually continuous and follow the path of the object as long as it’s traveling at supersonic speed.

  22. Ninong says:

    The Tunguska event was much, much larger than this tiny asteroid that exploded over Russia. Tunguska was probably a small comet, which would explain why they haven’t recovered ‘hard’ evidence. This one yesterday over Russia was a tiny asteroid (probably iron) that NASA estimates at 17 meters wide with a mass of 10,000 metric tons. The Russian scientists should finds lots of fragments, especially that large one that crashed through the ice in that lake. That would be the very first place to investigate.

    A comet would mostly vaporize when it exploded into the earth’s upper atmosphere. That’s why they can’t find any fragments from the Tunguska event. The little asteroid yesterday seemed to have quite a few fragments that probably survived impact.

    There are so many high quality video clips from this event yesterday that they should be able to pointpoint exactly where it made initial explosive impact with the upper atmosphere (probably 100,000 to 150,000 feet up) and exactly where to look for the impact trail.

    I watched a few of the videos that clearly show the initial explosion, followed by the blast wave and sonic booms. You can mark the exact time on each video clip when you see the light from the explosion and then mark the exact time when you hear the sonic boom and that will give you the exact distance from the point of the video camera to the point of explosive entry. Take the number of seconds between the light wave and the first sonic boom and divide that by 3 and that will give you the distance in kilometers. (330m/s = approx 1km every 3 seconds. If there are 135 seconds between the light wave and the first sonic boom, then the camera is 45km from the point of entry impact)

    P.S. — We’re very lucky that asteroid 2012 DA14 didn’t hit us. It’s 55 meters wide with a mass of 130,000 metric tons. That would have left a mark.

  23. Ninong says:

    It was a tiny asteroid (approx. 17 meters and 10,000 metric tons) that was probably iron.

  24. lynchie says:

    They have dash cams for two reasons so they can record a traffic accident and prevent insurance fraud, really everyone is drunk and driving to upload to youtube.

  25. lilyannerose says:

    The videos have been fascinating and it’s such a sense of wonder that technology has reached such a level that through these videos you can see and hear this event. It’s absolutely stunning. The first video I viewed was at work and I literally came up out of my chair the first time I heard the explosion.

  26. all these American space shields are good for humor. can you see now that if anything happens from sky nothing will stop it.

  27. colleen2 says:

    According to the folks who track these objects, this asteroid was too small to be able to predict: As far as I can tell, it affected 3 and a half million people (Al Jazeera). I wonder what the sonic boom from one that is large enough to track would do.

  28. pburns says:

    Imagine this happening at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. It wouldn’t have had a happy ending I’m thinking.

  29. 2patricius2 says:

    How right you are.

  30. Phil says:

    No expert here, but the two loud sounds appear to be sonic booms. When I lived in Florida, we’d hear that whenever the Space Shuttle landed at Cape Canaveral. Depending on the approach, it could rattle dishes, etc., so I imagine it could break windows.

  31. Yeah I thought of that too :)

  32. Ok that’s funny.

  33. no way lol

  34. theophrastvs says:

    and now we have “meteor truthers” suggesting that this hit in Russia wasn’t a meteor but some eeevil U.S. weapons test gone awry.

    i have to confess that i briefly wondered at the temporal coincidence of these two cosmic encounters and thought “hmh, i wonder if the Russian hit was a failed attempt to see what could be done about firing some sort of missile at ‘DA14′” …i’ve got better now.

  35. cambridgemac says:

    Well, if I see something like this, I’ve learned to start counting, as we do after lightening, and step away from windows!

  36. BeccaM says:

    Just 25 years ago, we’d have been lucky if one person managed to capture some shaky hand-held video of the meteor explosion. Today, we have dozens of relatively high-quality videos for an event nobody could have been expecting to happen.

    Just 50 years ago, we might have seen some film camera photographs. Maybe, just maybe someone would have captured it using a 16mm hand-held, but it’s not terribly likely.

    And 100 years ago, well, first of all there would have been conflicting accounts and theories as to what this was, and nothing but verbal descriptions of what happened, followed by investigations that take years to figure it out. Oh wait — that’s exactly what happened 105 years ago at Tunguska.

  37. Naja pallida says:

    Yeah, we just turn the hose on the media.

  38. Ron Thompson says:

    Uh, pretty sure that should be a meteor shower, not media shower.

  39. Jay Festa says:

    Looks like the rise of dash cameras is for insurance purposes in case of accident

  40. I wonder how often a bolide has successfully been filmed as it streaks through the sky. I can think of one famous case, the “Great Daylight Fireball” of 1972 ( But to have numerous videorecordings like this? It must be unprecedented. I wonder what sort of object it was.

  41. Bob says:

    Are these people all police officers? Why do so many Russians have dash cameras?

  42. rmthunter says:

    Well, there it is — God’s wreaking vengeance on us for accepting gay people. Oh, wait — this happened in Russia, didn’t it?

    On a non-snarky note, this had to have been scary, particularly since it happened so fast. I’m not at all sure I’d like to witness something like this close-up and personal, you know?

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