MOSCOW – A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s Urals region Friday morning, before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left about 1,000 people hurt, state media said.
Amateur video footage showed a bright white streak moving rapidly across the sky, before exploding with an even brighter flash and a deafening bang.
The explosion occurred about 9:20 a.m. local time, as many people were out and about.
While NASA estimated the meteor was only about the size of a bus and weighed an estimated 7,000 tons, it exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs.
Luckily, “the atmosphere absorbed the vast majority of that energy,” said Amy Mainzer, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
CNN iReporter and Instagram user Max Chuykov saw the meteor trail from the city of Yekaterinburg. He shared on Instagram that it was “close to the ground.”
Witness Ekaterina Shlygina posted to CNN iReport and wrote on Instagram: “Upon Chelyabinsk a huge fireball has exploded. It wasn’t an aircraft.”
As many as 1,000 people had been hurt, including more than 200 children, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency said.
Most of those hurt are in the Chelyabinsk region, the news agency said. The vast majority of injuries are not thought to be serious.
The national space agency, Roscosmos, said scientists believed one meteoroid had entered the atmosphere, where it burned and disintegrated into fragments, according to RIA Novosti.
The resulting meteorites are believed to be scattered across three regions of Russia, one of them Chelyabinsk, as well as neighboring Kazakhstan, the news agency said.
One large chunk was discovered in a lake in the Chelyabinsk region, RIA Novosti cited the Chelyabinsk governor as saying.
For sky watchers, the reports bring to mind the famous Tunguska event of 1908 in remote Siberia, in which an asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees over an area of 820 square miles — about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island.
About 80 million trees were felled, radiating out from the center of the blast, but no crater was left.
Friday’s Chelyabinsk meteor comes on the same day that a hefty asteroid is due to charge past Earth at a pretty close range, in space terms.
Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is thought to be 45 meters long, about half the length of a football field.
But scientists say it will come no closer than 17,100 miles from our planet’s surface.