Skip to main content

Russian divers find huge suspected meteorite chunk in Chelyabinsk

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 8:20 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A suspected meteorite fragment weighing more than 1,200 pounds is hauled from a lake
  • Divers raised the chunk of rock from the lake bottom in a televised operation
  • Chelyabinsk was showered with meteorites after a meteor blast on February 15
  • Amateur video showed a bright white streak moving across the sky, followed by a huge bang

(CNN) -- Eight months after a meteor blast rained meteorites down on Russia's Chelyabinsk region, what is thought to be the biggest chunk of the space rock yet has been hauled from the depths of a lake, Russian state media said.

The suspected meteorite fragment weighed at least 570 kilograms (1,257 pounds), the official Itar-Tass news agency reported.

It was recovered from the bottom of Chebarkul Lake in the Chelyabinsk region, in Russia's Urals, in an operation covered live Wednesday on Russian TV.

The chunk of dark rock, measuring about five feet in diameter, was dragged ashore by divers who hauled it from the murky water.

Mysterious rock might be from Mercury
Hunting for meteorites in Russian sea

It tipped and then broke the scales used to weigh it, before splitting into three smaller pieces, state news agency RIA Novosti said.

Andrei Kocherov, of Chelyabinsk University, said, "If it weighs more than 500 kilograms then the object is unique in itself and is likely to be one of the biggest meteorites ever found."

Scientists still have to examine the rock to confirm its origins in space.

Meteor tainted by ancient crashes

"The initial visual survey which we are talking about now doesn't give us 100% certainty, we still need to conduct more research, a structural analysis and other tests," said Kocherov.

Once scientists have had a chance to study its composition the giant chunk recovered Wednesday will be placed on display in a local museum, RIA Novosti said.

The lake was frozen over when, on February 15, the nearly 60-foot-wide space rock plunged into Earth's atmosphere and exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk with the force of about 30 early nuclear bombs.

Some meteorites were believed then to have melted their way through the ice, but scientists had to wait for warmer weather before they could more fully plumb the lake's depths.

Other, smaller fragments have also been recovered from the lake and other parts of the region.

Deafening bang

Amateur video footage from February 15 showed a bright white streak moving rapidly across the sky before exploding with an even brighter flash and a deafening bang.

The meteor was a once-in-a-century event, NASA officials said, describing it as a "tiny asteroid."

With an estimated weight of 10,000 metric tons, it was the largest to hit Earth since the 1908 Tunguska incident in Siberia, where a meteorite strike flattened a forest.

NASA estimates 4,700 'potentially hazardous' asteroids

The blast left more than 1,500 injured, mostly by glass from shattered windows, and raised concerns about humanity's vulnerability to stray asteroids.

Two months later, NASA announced a goal of sending a spacecraft out to seize and asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, where it could be studied by astronauts -- a project billed in part as a planetary defense mission.

But it ran into opposition in Congress, where a House committee voted to block any funding for the mission in July.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart.
Scientists are closer to seeing a vast, invisible universe as a spectrometer in Earth orbit picks up possible clues of dark matter.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Soviets sent stray dogs up to conquer space. This is what happened next
updated 5:20 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Scientists believe that a hot gas bubble was formed by multiple supernovas.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robonaut is the next generation dexterous robot
Life aboard the International Space Station.
updated 9:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
NASA's New Horizons mission hurtles toward Pluto in historic 3 billion mile expedition.
updated 4:44 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
Rosetta spacecraft arrives at its destination, Comet 67P after a 10-year journey around the solar system.
After a 10-year chase the Rosetta spacecraft is now orbiting a comet
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
"Here comes the sun" indeed, and it was just barely all right.
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 3:39 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
The U.S. Army brainchild "Project Horizon" was born. Its proposal to leap beyond the Soviets opened with the line: "There is a requirement for a manned military outpost on the moon."
updated 3:43 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
ADVERTISEMENT