Skyfall Q&A: Meteorites strike Earth every few months
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Q: Is there any link between this meteor and the larger asteroid that passed Earth later on Friday?
A: No, it's just cosmic coincidence. According to NASA, the trajectory of the Russian meteorite was significantly different from that of asteroid 2012 DA14. "In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14's trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north,'' the U.S. space agency said.
Q: When was the last event like this?
A: In 2008, astronomers spotted a meteor similar to the one in Russia heading toward Earth about 20 hours before it entered the atmosphere. It exploded over the vast African nation of Sudan, causing no known injuries.
The largest known meteor in recent times caused the "Tunguska event'' – flattening thousands of square miles of forest in remote Siberia in 1908. Nobody was injured by the meteor blast, or by the Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell in eastern Siberia in 1947.
Scientists believe that a far larger meteorite strike on what today is Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula may have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago. According to that theory, the impact would have thrown up vast amounts of dust that blanketed the sky for decades and altered the climate on Earth.
Q: What can scientists learn from Friday's strike?
A: Bischoff says scientists and treasure hunters are probably already racing to find pieces of the space rock. Some meteorites can be very valuable, selling for up to $670 per gram, depending on their origin and composition. Because meteors have remained largely unchanged for billions of years – unlike rocks on Earth affected by erosion and volcanic outbreaks – scientists will study the fragments to learn more about the early universe.
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