On Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring over 1,200 people as it shattered glass across the area. Two years after the incident, scientists still do not know where the space rock came from.
Originally, the 66-foot-wide meteor was believed to have come from 1999 NC43, a near-Earth asteroid about 1.24 miles in width. However, a closer examination of the orbit the asteroid took and its mineral composition showed that 1999 NC43 and the Chelyabinsk meteor had very little in common.
According to a study published in the journal Icarus, 1999 NC43 and the Chelyabinsk meteor shared orbits similar to each other, going around the sun. Further link between the two is, however, unlikely because the Chelyabinsk meteor's composition is closer to a type of meteorite known as LL chondrites.
"However, the near-Earth asteroid has a composition that is distinctly different from this," said Vishnu Reddy, a research scientist from the Planetary Science Institute and the lead author for the study.
Researchers also added that it's difficult to link asteroids together because most are so small and feature chaotic orbits that are problematic to track.
Alongside Reddy, David Vokrouhlický, William F. Bottke, Petr Pravec, Juan A. Sanchez, Bruce L. Gary, Rachel Klima, Edward A. Cloutis, Adrián Galád, Tan Thiam Guan, Kamil Hornoch, Matthew R. M. Izawa, Peter Kušnirák, Lucille Le Corre, Paul Mann, Nicholas Moskovitz, Brian Skiff and Jan Vraštil also participated in the study called "Link between the Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (86039) 1999 NC43 and the Chelyabinsk meteoroid tenuous"
The Chelyabinsk incident sparked interest in asteroids and the dangers they bring, leading to the creation of a European Space Agency asteroid warning center, among others. The B612 Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to reduce threats from asteroids, urged agencies all over the world to step up and contribute to the effort to keep tabs on dangerous space rocks. The organization hopes to launch the Sentinel Space Telescope by 2018.
B612 co-founder and former astronaut on the space shuttle Ed Lu explained that impacts from asteroids can be avoided and prevention can easily be carried out using technology already in existence. With costs more manageable, keeping asteroids at bay is actually more practical than other efforts at preventing globally catastrophic events.
Aside from improved asteroid detection efforts, the Chelyabinsk incident also gave rise to Asteroid Awareness Day. It will be held every Jun. 30, with the first one scheduled this year.