Russian Meteor Explosion's Dust Cloud Lingered In Atmosphere

Atmosphere Russian Dust Cloud

When a meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in February, pieces of the bus-sized space rock hit the ground while its detonation shattered windows, set off car alarms and injured more than 1,000 people.

Masked in the chaos, however, was an enormous plume of dust that the Russian meteor left behind in Earth's atmosphere. This cloud, which had hundreds of tons of material in it, was still lingering three months after the Feb. 15 explosion, a new study has found. Scientists created a video of the Russian meteor explosion's dust cloud to illustrate the phenomenon.

"Thirty years ago, we could only state that the plume was embedded in the stratospheric jet stream," Paul Newman, chief scientist for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's atmospheric science lab, said in a statement. "Today, our models allow us to precisely trace the bolide and understand its evolution as it moves around the globe." [See photos of the Feb. 15 Russian fireball]

The Russian meteor, which weighed 11,000 metric tons when it hit the atmosphere, detonated about 15 miles (24 kilometers) above Chelyabinsk. The explosion sent out a burst of energy 30 times greater than the atom bomb that leveled Hiroshima during World War II.

Some of the asteroid's remnants crashed to the ground, but hundreds of tons of dust remained in the atmosphere. A team led by NASA Goddard atmospheric physicist Nick Gorkavyi, who is from Chelyabinsk, wondered if it was possible to track the cloud using NASA's Suomi NPP satellite ( via ).

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