Russia's surprise meteor and Earth's craters

The meteor that passed through Russian skies on Friday was the largest to reach Earth in a century. Its explosion was brighter than the sun and powerful enough to send damaging shockwaves to the Earth’s surface. Other meteors have impacted the world in big and small ways.
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The earth is marked with about 180 named craters that are scars from previous run-ins with asteroids like the one that exploded over Russia on Friday.

Crater diameter

99 miles

20 miles

The impact

Space shuttle

The meteor entered the atmosphere at 40,000 miles per hour. By comparison, the speed of the space shuttle was 17,000 mph.


Measuring about 50 feet wide, the meteor weighed about 7,700 tons, a little heavier than a U.S. nuclear-powered Los Angeles class submarine.


The energy released along its shallow trajectory was estimated to be about 300 to 500 kilotons, or the equivalent of 20 to 30 Hiroshima-sized bombs.

Although most of the meteor’s energy was consumed more than nine miles above the Earth’s surface, the resulting shockwaves collapsed roofs, shattered windows and injured some 1,200 people in Russia.

How to tell an asteriod from a meteorite

Asteroid A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the sun.

Comet A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.

Meteoroid A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.

Meteor The light phenomenon that results when a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.

Meteorite A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands upon the Earth's surface.

The meteor in Russia

asteriod diagram

SOURCES: Planetary and Space Centre's Earth Impact Database, NASA GRAPHIC: Darla Cameron, Gene Thorp, Alberto Cuadra and Emily Chow - The Washington Post. Published Feb. 15, 2013.