NRL Teams Up to Study Meteoroid Airburst Over Chelyabinsk, Russia to Improve Statistical Assessments of Meteoroid Impact Hazards

11/06/2013 13:15 EST - 116-13r
Contact: Donna McKinney, (202) 767-2541

Graph showing impactors at the Earth related to Chelyabinsk, Russia, asteroid explosion.The graph depicts the estimated cumulative flux of impactors at the Earth.
(Credit: Brown et al., 2013, The Chelyabinsk Airburst : Implications for the Impact Hazard, Nature, DOI:10.1038/nature12741.)

Dr. Douglas Drob, a member of the Geospace Science and Technology Branch in the Naval Research Laboratory's Space Science Division, is part of an international consortium that is refining estimates of the yield and damage of the recent asteroid explosion over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Their results were published online in the prestigious British science journal Nature on 6 November 2013.

This research effort, led by Dr. Peter Brown of Western University, compared airborne energy estimates from multiple technologies, including seismic, infrasound, plus the visual light curves from both U.S. government sensors and over 400 ground-based video cameras. The team concluded that the Chelyabinski event was anomalous with respect to the historical population of meteoroid impactors.

Dr. Drob, as an expert in long-range atmospheric infrasound propagation, provided atmospheric model data and interpretation of the event to support the team's effort. Ultimately, the team's work indicates that there is a second distribution of meteoroid impactors of 10-50 m diameter that is more prevalent than first thought. Meteoroid impactors of this size include the famed 1908 Tunguska explosion that leveled hundreds of square miles of Siberian forest.

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