Houston Astronomer: Meteor Not As Bad As It Looked

That meteor that exploded over Russia this morning is something that happens about once a decade. That's according to a Houston astronomer who says the object was too small for scientists to detect with radar.

At about 10 tons and traveling at 33,000 miles per hour, the meteor was small enough to sneak past radar, but big enough to create a huge shock wave.

Dr. Carolyn Sumners is head of astronomy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

"The reason it makes so much impact is that it explodes. It creates a pressure wave that blows out windows, makes a ferocious noise and sets off car alarms, but it's not being hit by the rock. You have to dissipate the energy that that rock is carrying because of its speed. They're estimating 33,000 miles per hour. That's a very fast rock."

Sumners says it isn't something that people need to worry about it and usually happens over oceans.

"These occur once a decade, but most of the time it's over water and nobody notices. It's not really terribly significant. Car size meteor. Then you go to the size of a house and that's maybe every 100 years or so."

She says something the size of the asteroid that's passing close to earth today can be tracked for months or even years in advance. She says something that size hitting earth would be a lot different than a relatively small meteor.

 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...