Why NASA Didn't See Russian Meteor Coming

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A meteor that hit Russia has many wondering why NASA did not see it coming, but saw the DA14 asteroid, which did not make landfall, weeks in advance.

The meteor is estimated to weigh around 10 tons and be 100 meters wide. They believed it was traveling at 33,000 mph before it broke through the Earth’s atmosphere and released several kilotons of energy, the equivalent of a small nuclear bomb.

K.T. Ramesh, professor of science and engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering said that because it was such a small size, NASA did not detect it.

“This thing is probably pretty small compared to DA14. If you think about objects the size of the one that came into Russia, you’re probably looking at 100 million up there. Of those likely to intersect Earth, there’s less, maybe 100,000. Space is pretty big,” he said.

Early reports said the meteor hurt 500 people, but now reports estimate it hurt 1,000 or more, including 200 children. Around 3,000 buildings were damaged, and most people were hurt form shattering glass.

Though this meteor caused a significant amount of damage, asteroid DA14 would have caused even more if it had hit.

“DA14 - if that were made of iron, it would get to the ground and cause a significant crater, likely take out a city. Major impact events have the potential to create global catastrophes,” Ramesh said.

Steve Cole, NASA spokesman, said scientists determined the meteor and asteroid were on entirely different paths.

“They are completely unrelated objects - it’s a strange coincidence they are happening at the same time. This kind of object does fall fairly frequently, but when they fall into the ocean or desert, there is no impact on people - so this one is unusual in the sense that it’s come over a populated area,” Cole said.

He said he is also grateful that it did not cause people to think they were being attacked by another country.

“My great fear is that you have two countries on the brink of war and something like this happens...and someone reacts to it,” he said.