Scientists Seek More Information On Meteorite
Monday, February 18, 2013
Authorities in Russia are still trying to figure out what happened to the meteorite that came crashing to earth on Friday. More than 1,000 people were injured. Renee Montagne talks to Andrew Kramer, a reporter with The New York Times about the response from residents and officials.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And I'm Renée Montagne. Russian authorities are searching for a big chunk of that massive meteorite that exploded over Siberia last Friday. The people in the snowy city of Chelyabinsk are telling stories of how an otherworldly light streamed through their windows as a glowing ball passed across the sky.
And then suddenly, a stunning boom. More than a thousand people were injured, mostly by shattering glass, but miraculously no one has been reported killed. This morning we reached New York Times reporter Andrew Kramer on his cell phone. He's in a village just outside Chelyabinsk. Welcome to the program.
ANDREW KRAMER: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: What are people there doing today? I mean, it's a Monday morning. Where are they at in terms of cleaning up and still telling a story?
KRAMER: Well, in Chelyabinsk people have put the glass back in broken windows very quickly. This is Siberia. It's cold. People are concerned that water pipes will freeze. And yesterday we saw lots of glass going back up.
MONTAGNE: So glass getting back in - although you have reported that while the damage was widespread it was strangely uneven. How so?
KRAMER: Well, you drive down a street and you see one building with four or five windows broken, another with a few windows, and then one building where almost an entire façade is shattered, quite violently. And this is something of a mystery, at first, why it happened this way.
But apparently the shock wave from this meteor didn't move through the city evenly. It ricocheted off buildings and concentrated in some places more than in others. And there've been many mysterious instances - people reporting that vases have cracked in their houses.
And at first we were looking into confirming these, and actually as time has gone by, more of these stories have turned out to be accurate. I can't vouch for any one in particular but today, for example, we're in a village where there were reports yesterday that people had found small black pebbles in the snow.
And these were holes coated in ice, like an upside down icicle. And if you dig down into these holes you find a small black pebble. And they've found thousands of these in this village. Women would take them out in their kitchens and show you a handful. And now it seems that these are, in fact, meteor shards.
MONTAGNE: So they are finding some of the parts of that meteorite because it was expected that it would have shattered, it would have broken apart. But what about the hole that's been found in a nearby ice-covered lake? It was a perfect circle. And the thought was maybe a big sphere had crashed through there. What's come of that?
KRAMER: Well, the development today, is Russian authorities are now saying that small pieces of rock found on the ice around that hole have been confirmed to be meteor fragments. And these are black pebbles that have been burned on the outside and are about 10 percent metal.
If you hold them to a magnet they'll stick. And these small pieces of rock - people in the town near where this hole was in the ice, were calling them coal or pebbles. And at first we didn't report on this because it was unclear exactly what this phenomenon was, but in fact, now they've confirmed today that these are meteor fragments.
What went through the ice and into the lake is less clear. Divers apparently found no large piece of meteor in the water or on the lakebed.
MONTAGNE: So just another, for the moment, mystery of this meteorite. What's the mood of the people there? Are they afraid that something else is going to come crashing down from the sky?
KRAMER: Well, people were very, very concerned on Friday. I've talked to many people who said that their pulse rate went up, that they were nervous. They had no idea what this was. But by Saturday a lot of people were giddy. They were amazed that this danger had passed them by.
Russians really have a deep expectation of tragedy because of their history. And people often, here, think that things will end badly and this is exceptional. This is the Russia where a huge fireball fell out of space and missed everybody in the city. It could have easily obliterated the entire town or struck a nuclear facility. It was a near miss for this area.
MONTAGNE: That's New York Times reporter Andrew Kramer speaking to us from Chelyabinsk, Russia, which was hit by a meteorite last Friday. Thanks very much for joining us.
KRAMER: Thank you, Renée, for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.View this story on npr.org