Star watchers are anticipating the near-Earth fly-by of asteroid 2012 DA14 Friday afternoon. But residents in central Russia saw a far more dramatic site Friday morning when a meteorite hurtled toward the ground near the city of Chelyabinsk. The event was captured widely by smartphones and dash-mounted cameras. Morning commuters were surprised to see a bright light streaking out of the sky followed by a large explosion that blew out windows causing debris and injuring a reported 500 people.
It’s not clear if the meteorite crashed to the ground in one or several pieces, or exploded in the atmosphere. The Russian Academy of Science estimates that the meteorite weighed about 10 tons before it entered Earth’s atmosphere, according to a Russia Today tweet.
The meteorite could be seen as far away as 125 miles, according to Reuters. This purported video of the event (see below) shows a bright light streaking out of the sky. Many drivers in Russia have dash-mounted cameras in their cars to capture evidence for any possible traffic accidents, The Verge reports. But this also allows drivers to capture any other odd events that happen along the way.
As jumbled news reports of what appeared to be a meteor shower over Russia trickled out of the country, some of the best views of what happened were from the dashboards of Russian cars.
Over 400 people were injured in the event, many from broken glass, as explosions boomed across the region around the city of Chelyabinsk, according to news reports. Photos and video from the region showed buildings with smashed out windows and at least one factory with heavy damage to a large section of its ceiling and walls.
For those in other locations, however, the most dramatic scenes were captured by Russia's ubiquitous dashboard cameras, quickly uploaded to video sharing sites such as YouTube and copied among different users.
Many Russian drivers install and run dashboard cameras constantly to capture evidence in the case of accidents or scams involving pedestrians purposely getting hit. The cameras have long provided a steady stream of YouTube hits, which are now commonly combined into compilations.
Russia's defense ministry posted a short statement that said the event occurred at 7:20 a.m. Moscow Standard Time across the Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk and TyumenÂ regions, with the military creating task forces to send to the affected areas.
As traditional media around the world pieced the story together, quoting officials and locals at the scene, the story quickly became a top trend on Twitter, with many users adding the tag "#RussianMeteor."
As meteor fragments rained down on central Russia, locals huddles for safety in buildings and some cars pulled over during their morning commute, according to media reports.
The strike occurred less than 24 hours before the asteroid 2012 DA14, about 50 meters across, is predicted to pass close by the Earth, setting a record for the closest pass by an object of that size, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.