The Chelyabinsk superpulse explosion has been reconstructed in detail

A team of scientists has just modeled the behavior of the Chelyabinsk fireball in Earth’s atmosphere. This meteorite exploded over Russia in 2013, causing a powerful shock wave.

On February 15, 2013, a meteorite 20 meters in diameter entered the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The shock wave as it disintegrated was heard throughout the area, shattering windows and car windows. Then about 1,200 people were injured. This is one of the largest meteors to cross Earth’s sky in over a century.

To better understand what happened that day, scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory performed 3D numerical simulations of this atmospheric entry. The results show how the meteorite broke into several pieces and contacted by the shock wave.

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To get as close as possible to reality, scientists have used the data collected during the study of the fragments of this meteorite, in particular with regard to the nature of the materials from which it is composed. They also meticulously analyzed the numerous videos filmed by residents who filmed the meteor’s passage and explosion.

Thus, the simulations reveal that at the base there could have been a single mass that entered the atmosphere before splitting into multiple parts under the influence of heating and frictional forces. In this case, the strength of the material and the presence of pre-existing fractures certainly played an important role in the way the mass was fragmented, and in the generation of the resulting shock wave.

An explosion at an altitude of 30 km

The results showed that the explosion occurred when large fractures appeared in the back of the asteroid. These fractures then propagated forward before the mass separated into several pieces at an altitude of about 30 km.

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This study allows us to better understand the behavior and evolution of this type of meteorites that cross our atmosphere, but also to understand the impact of this on the Earth’s surface.

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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