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Physical Chemistry

Russian Meteor Was A Chondrite

Astrochemistry: Russian scientists report first analysis of meteorites that landed near Lake Chebarkul

by Elizabeth K. Wilson
February 21, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 8

The meteor that exploded over the Che­lyabinsk region of Russia on Feb. 15 was an ordinary chondrite, with a stony composition common to most of the meteorites that land on Earth, according to an initial chemical analysis by Russian scientists.

Viktor Grokhovsky, a professor at Ural Federal University and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Meteorites, led an expedition to retrieve remnants of the meteor that survived the plunge through Earth’s atmosphere. Grokhovsky says that the fragments his group analyzed at the university contain magnesium-rich chrysolite and sulfite, and are about 10% iron/nickel alloy. His group plans further analyses to fully characterize the meteorites.

The 10,000-ton meteor was 55 feet across and is the largest reported since the 1908 Tunguska meteor strike in Siberia. The recent meteor’s fall to Earth was captured by numerous car dashboard video cameras. Broken windows and debris from its plunge to Earth injured about 1,000 people.

The U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration helped estimate the size of the meteor, using a worldwide network of infrared sensors. “We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Because the meteorites were found near Lake Chebarkul, Grokhovsky says, they will be dubbed the Chebarkul Meteorites.


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