Watch: Meteor Injures Hundreds, Griffith Observatory Astronomer Weighs In

The celestial object caused untold damage in eastern Russia. Orange County Congressman Dana Rohrabacher sees it as a wake-up call for Earth.

Space.com is reporting that a meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere above eastern Russia over the Urals Mountains early Friday morning U.S. time and the resulting sonic boom shattered windows, damaged buildings and injured hundreds.

Dr. David Reitzel, astronomical lecturer at Griffith Observatory, said Friday residents from locations like Brentwood, Westwood, Pacific Palisades, Venice, Culver City, Marina Del Rey or other spots on the Westside, would not have been able to view the meteor.

"No one knew it was coming," he told Patch. "Things this size your don't see until after impact. It was about 15 yards across."

Reitzel said a few years ago a meteor about one-fifth the size of Friday's came in over Sudan where it was predicted. The last time anything at all of moderate size came into California was in May 2012 over Sutters Mill in northern California. The largest meteor event of this nature, Reitzel added, was the massive 1908 Tunguska event, which again, occurred in Siberia.

"They're just too small for us to see," he added.  "If we pointed our most powerful military radars right at the spot where it was, we could have gotten a return signa;, but we don't have facilities to scan the sky every day for that."

Reitzel noted that local residents should prepare for the Lyrids meteor shower in April, the Eta Aquarids shower on May 5 and the Perseids in August, which is predicted to be the biggest and brightest to view.

"This should serve as a wake-up call,’’ said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, longtime Seal Beach and Newport Beach representative and the vice chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. "We have been looking forward to the close pass of asteroid 2012 DA14, which will pass between the Earth's surface and our communications satellites this afternoon.  We have calculated that there is no chance this asteroid will impact the Earth, and that we will get an opportunity for a close-up view as it flies past.  Unfortunately, we didn't see the one that exploded over Russia until it happened.’’

Rohrabacher vowed to work on legislation aimed at protecting the country from space debris.

"We have been spending millions to find and track asteroids and comets, but the indications are that this one was so small that we aren't even looking for objects of this size.  What concerns me even more, however, is the fact that we have no plan that can protect the Earth from any comet or asteroid.  So, even if we find one that will hit us, we might not be able to deflect it," he said in a written statement. "This is the only preventable natural disaster, and we have mounting evidence that this a real and tangible danger.  Our heartfelt prayers go out to all those affected by this event and this shows that we must protect ourselves, and the planet, from this clear danger. As Vice Chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, I'm working with the Chairman to expedite a hearing on planetary protection from these 'near Earth objects' as soon as we can."

According to Fox News, Russian officials are reporting over 400 people injured from the event, primarily from broken glass shattered in the sonic boom.

Monica Homer February 18, 2013 at 05:12 PM
I thought for years NASA had in place a system to track asteroids and the military could send a missle up to shoot it down- breaking it into smaller and less dangerous pieces. Isn't that true?


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