At least one meteorite crashed into Russia earlier today, causing several giant explosions and forcing schools and offices to be evacuated. The meteorite reportedly landed in the Chelyabinsk region of Russia, where witnesses said the explosions shattered the windows of nearby buildings and disrupted cell phone service. There were over 400 injuries (Update: now upgraded to 950), and damage was reported in six cities. Information is still coming in and we'll update accordingly, but for now check out the amazing videos and photos from the scene. (We'll be updating with new video and photo throughout the day, so check back for new stuff.)
UPDATE: RT is now reporting, citing unconfirmed military sources, that the meteorite was intercepted by Russian air defense forces, who reportedly used a missile to destroy it while it was still 20 km in the air. (Update: just to be clear, this pretty obviously did not happen. Also don't trust reports that Putin punched the meteor out of the sky, or that the meteor moved to Russia for tax reasons.)
UPDATE 3: As a commenter pointed out, a small asteroid was expected to pass by Earth early Friday, though there's no confirmation that this had anything to do with the meteorite crash in Russia. Russian Machine cites a Slate article by Phil Plait about the asteroid:
On Friday, Feb. 15, the Earth is going to get a very close shave by an asteroid*. Called 2012 DA14, this 50 meter (160 foot) rock will pass just over 27,000 kilometers (17,000 miles) from the Earth's surface. This is closer than our geosynchronous satellites, so this really is a close pass!
But, to be very clear: This asteroid poses no threat to us right now, nor in the foreseeable future. Friday's miss is just that: a miss. And, in fact, this is a good thing, since any time an asteroid gets close (but misses), we learn a lot, including how to find them, how to track them, and even how to talk about them to the public.
Plait's reaction to the news from Russia?
I don't *think* this meteor is related to #2012DA14; a solid 12+ hours ahead; DA14 is still pretty far out. Coincidence?
— Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) February 15, 2013
UPDATE 4: RT is now reporting up to 100 injuries. There are still conflicting reports about the meteorite itself. As CBS reports: "A spokeswoman for Russia's Emergency Ministry, Irina Rossius, told The Associated Press there was a meteor shower, but another ministry spokeswoman, Elena Smirnikh, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying it was a single meteorite."
UPDATE 6: The injury total is now at over 400, and buildings were damaged in six cities.
— RT (@RT_com) February 15, 2013
UPDATE 7: Regional governor Mikhail Yurevich says that the number of injured is closer to 950, most of them minor, though 110 required hospitalization and two were in critical condition. Of the injured, 159 are children.
The meteorite is thought to have landed in a lake and broken through the ice:
A local fisherman told police he found a large hole in the lake's ice, which could be a result of a meteorite impact. The site was immediately sealed off by police, a search team is now waiting for divers to arrive and explore the bottom of the lake.
Nearly 300 buildings were damaged, including a zinc factory that was almost completely destroyed.
Video and photos of the meteorite below:
[image via AP]
— Александр Корецкий(@a_koretsky) February 15, 2013
— Денис (@Dokhrimovich) February 15, 2013
— Vladimir Pestov (@KozzyKoder) February 15, 2013