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Local Astronomer Amazed By Russian Meteor

February 15, 2013, 4:55 PM by Perry Groten

Local Astronomer Amazed By Russian Meteor
Damage from meteor in Russia


The meteor that exploded over Russia on Friday had some witnesses thinking it was the end of the world.  But meteors are a common site in the night skies over South Dakota.   

The meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains had the force of a nuclear bomb. But the cosmic pyrotechnics over South Dakota are typically far less potent.

Brief streaks across the South Dakota prairie sky are the closest brush we usually have with meteors.

Also known as shooting stars, they aren't stars at all, mostly just tiny specks of space dust that burn up when they hit our atmosphere; light years in magnitude from the massive fireball that rocked Russia.

"I probably would have looked at it and said 'wow, I wish I had my camera!' And then afterwards, [it'd] be too late.  But that was amazing," amateur astronomer Wes Garcia said.

Many cameras were rolling when the meteor struck, providing the world with images that looked like a Hollywood doomsday movie.

"I can't ever recall one that had that much of an impact to the surrounding area. If it were more remote, where there wasn't a city nearby, it probably would have gone unnoticed," Garcia said.

Here in South Dakota, we're much more used to seeing snow falling from the sky and not meteors. In fact, the odds of a meteor hitting your house are something like 182 trillion to one.  You've got better odds of winning the lottery.

"We have accounts where a small meteorite, dime size or smaller, has gone through somebody's roof. But you look at the total history of that type of happening and it's rare," Garcia said.

But the meteor damage caused in Russia wasn't nickel and dime stuff; instead a powerful force of nature unleashed in a flash. 

The earth dodged another celestial bullet on Friday when a 150 foot asteroid passed within a little more than 17,000 miles of us. Scientists say it was not connected to the Russian meteor since both space objects were traveling in opposite directions.

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