The Chelyabinsk asteroid that exploded over Russia in 2013 was the result of a collision between two astronomical bodies, according to new research. The blast above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia injured more than 1,100 people, most of them victims of broken glass and falling debris.
Jadeite, a mineral recovered from meteorite debris from the blast, shows evidence the rocky body collided with another asteroid at a speed of around 3,000 miles per hour. This unusual form of jade was found in meteorite fragments in a formation known as shock veins. These are usually created after large asteroids collide, partially melt, and then cool once more.
Research "suggests that an impactor larger than [492 feet] in diameter collided with the Chelyabinsk parent body... This impact might have separated the Chelyabinsk asteroid from its parent body and delivered it to the Earth," investigators wrote in an article, announcing their findings.
The impact is believed to have occurred around 290 million years ago. That time on Earth was marked by the end of the Carboniferous period, during which the first reptiles evolved, and our planet experienced record high concentrations of oxygen. This was followed by the Permian Period, which started with an ice age and ended with the great mass extinction in the history of the planet.
When the Chelyabinsk asteroid raced through our atmosphere at 42,000 miles per hour, the 65-foot-wide rock was heated by friction, until it exploded over the city. The blast occurred 18 miles above the city of three-and-a-half million people. The explosion is estimated to have been 30 times as powerful as the atomic blast that destroyed the city of Hiroshima at the end of the Second World War.
By studying the chemical makeup and properties of the recovered pieces, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding of the trajectory and history of the asteroid. Near-Earth Objects (NEO's) are asteroids and comets that pass near our home planet. There may be millions of these bodies, of all different sizes and destructive potentials.
When the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded above the Earth, it produced the second largest blast recorded in human history. The largest explosion was in 1908, when another asteroid also exploded above Russia. This one, coming in above Siberia, was roughly equivalent to the explosive force of 13 million tons of high explosives. The Tunguska Event knocked down 80 million trees over 2.150 square miles. Fortunately, the blast occurred above a sparsely-populated region, and no one was killed.
Investigation of jadeite in the Chelyabinsk meteorite remnants was published in the journal Scientific Reports, managed by Nature.