After exploding in the atmosphere with the force of 30 atomic bombs, the Chelyabinsk meteor of February 15 left a trail of dust that circled the globe and lingered in the atmosphere for at least three months NASA has learned.
The 59-foot wide space rock weighing 11,000 metric tons plunged into the atmosphere at 41,600 mph before violently disintegrating 14.5 miles high in the sky.
NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite detected a large dust plume 3.5 hours after the explosion as it flew close to the scene. The plume was zipping through the atmosphere at an altitude 25 miles high and at speeds at 190 mph NASA says.
It took just four days for the plume to circumnavigate the northern hemisphere.
Remarkably, the Ozone Mapping Profiling Suite instrument aboard the Suomi NPP satellite continued detecting the dust plume from the meteor for at least three additional months as it circled the globe, steered by powerful stratospheric winds.
“Indeed, we saw the formation of a new dust belt in Earth’s stratosphere, and achieved the first space-based observation of the long-term evolution of a bolide [meteor] plume,” says NASA physicist Nick Gorkavyi.
Watch this excellent movie about what NASA discovered about the meteor’s dust plume…
Additional reading: Around the World in Four Days: NASA Tracks Chelyabinsk Meteor Plume (NASA)