The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 6, 2013

Russian fireball shows meteor risk may be bigger

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists studying the terrifying meteor that exploded without warning over a Russian city last winter say the threat of space rocks smashing into Earth is bigger than they thought.

Meteors about the size of the one that streaked through the sky at 42,000 mph and burst over Chelyabinsk in February — and ones even larger and more dangerous — are probably four to five times more likely to hit the planet than scientists believed before the fireball, according to three studies published Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science.

Until Chelyabinsk, NASA had looked only for space rocks about 100 feet wide and bigger, figuring there was little danger below that.

This meteor was only 62 feet across but burst with the force of about 40 Hiroshima-type atom bombs, scientists say. It released a shock wave that shattered thousands of windows and injured more than 1,600 people, and its flash was bright enough to temporarily blind 70 people and cause dozens of skin-peeling sunburns just after dawn in icy Russia.

Up until then, scientists had figured a meteor causing an airburst like the one in Russia was a once-in-150-years event, based on how many space rocks have been identified in orbit. But one of the studies now says it is likely to happen once every 30 years or so, based on how often these things are actually hitting.

Scientists said a 1908 giant blast over Siberia, a 1963 airborne explosion off the coast of South Africa, and others were of the type that is supposed to happen less than once a century, or in the case of Siberia, once every 8,000 years, yet they all occurred in a 105-year timespan.

Because more than two-thirds of Earth is covered with water and other vast expanses are uninhabited deserts and ice, other past fireballs could have gone unnoticed.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State, national news
  • Allina drops celebrated birthing option MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Allina Health has pulled the drain plug on a celebrated birthing option at its 11 Minnesota hospitals and the Mother Baby Center in Minneapolis. Allina says it will no longer offer water births because of new guidance from the Ame

    April 24, 2014

  • Federal study finds mercury in trout caught in three Grand Canyon creeks PHOENIX — With their natural beauty and protected environments, the Grand Canyon and other national parks in the West would seem removed from having mercury in their streams and rivers. But a federal study found small levels of the contaminant in ra

    April 24, 2014

  • Post office sales fight grows SAN FRANCISCO — The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation has issued a report to Congress that criticizes the U.S. Postal Service’s disposal of historic properties and calls for a suspension of all sales until a host of recommendations are implem

    April 24, 2014

  • Lawmakers jockey over budget surpluses WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours after the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team beat cross-state rival Louisville to advance to the Sweet 16, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray asked state lawmakers for $80 million to renovate Rupp Arena, the iconic bui

    April 23, 2014

  • Minn. lawmakers seek to enhance privacy protection ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers are on the verge of cracking down on public employees who abuse their access to citizen data. A measure being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee would do more to expose and punish data snoope

    April 23, 2014

  • Republican activists push party on gay marriage LAS VEGAS (AP) — As bans against gay marriage crumble and public opinion on the issue shifts rapidly, some Republicans are pushing the party to drop its opposition to same-sex unions, part of a broader campaign to get the GOP to appeal to younger vot

    April 23, 2014

  • mfp church abuse Archbishop deposition on abuse made public Archbishop John Nienstedt says no one reprimanded who handled abuse

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Legislature takes aim at new lottery games Legislators angry lottery didn't tell of new games

    April 22, 2014

  • NE ski resort extends season Lutsen still has two to four feet of snow on its runs

    April 22, 2014

  • Mpls police looking for pit bull, owner Man injured, dog killed when attacked in park

    April 22, 2014