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GVSU professor discusses Russia meteorite

7:17 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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A meteorite hit Russia, causing damage and injuries.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) - Just hours after a meteor exploded over Russia, Earth dodged another bullet, a large asteroid passing just 17,000 miles above the planet. It's a closer distance than even some manmade satellites. The two rare events have sparked renewed interest in astronomical phenomenon around the world.

The meteor's impact, a sonic boom blowing out windows and ripping off doors, was a complete surprise to bystanders and experts alike.

"I suppose it could happen again right now," says Doug Furton, a physics professor at Grand Valley State University. "These are very small and before they hit Earth's atmosphere, they're undetectable."

Furton says space particles hit Earth all the time, but rarely with this kind of impact.

"That ten ton rock moving at 30,000 miles per hour, relative to earth has an incredible amount of energy," says Furton.

Furton says most meteors or shooting stars could easily fit in a person's hand, but he says the one that streaked across the Russian skies was about the size of a car.

Furton says asteroids are even bigger.

"The meteor that exploded over Russia was really quite small in comparison to something we would term an asteroid," says Furton.

Just hours after the meteor hit Russia, a much larger asteroid missed the Earth by only about 17,000 miles.

"Earlier in the solar systems history there were lots of close encounters like this," says Furton. "I think it's a reminder that we live at the mercy of much larger forces and at any time our circumstances could be greatly altered."

For anyone interested in astronomy, the Ottawa County Parks Nature Education Center will host a program titled "Supernova and Black Holes" on Saturday, February 16 at 7 p.m. It's one hour long and there's no cost.

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