The explosion of the Chelyabinsk Meteor, which nearly hit Russia in 2013, was a viral event captured by dozens of dash cams in the notoriously driver-unfriendly nation. However, the surprise arrival of the extraterrestrial invader, and the city-quaking explosion that followed, was no laughing matter. The Chelyabinsk Meteor’s size, a paltry 20 meters in diameter, might make it sound relatively harmless, but it had a massive impact on the city, without even touching down. Had the entirety of the meteor, instead of just a few meteorite fragments, hit Earth, Chelyabinsk would have likely been decimated.
The 2013 Russian meteor did a lot more than shock the citizens of Chelyabinsk and delight the denizens of the internet—it injured more than a thousand people and caused millions in property damage. With a flash brighter than the sun and a blast more powerful than an atomic bomb, the Chelyabinsk meteor provided humanity with a sobering reminder of the destructive potential of outer space.
The explosion of the Chelyabinsk Meteor was awe-inspiring, but what followed was frightening. The sonic wave caused by the blast hammered the city of Chelyabinsk, shattering countless windows and causing serious structural damage in many buildings. Over a thousand people were injured in the incident, most from flying glass or falling debris.
The meteor caused more than $33 million in property damage—one factory's roof even collapsed. Thankfully, no deaths were reported, but by some estimates more than 1,500 were injured.
The blast from the Chelyabinsk Meteor's explosion shattered windows and collapsed buildings, but that was just its local impact. The force of the blast was so powerful that it registered as far away as Antarctica by a nuclear monitoring system.
The meteor may have missed the Earth by 20 miles, but people around the world felt its effects.
The Chelyabinsk Meteor was not Russia’s first encounter with a nearly deadly meteor. A powerful explosion struck Siberia in 1908, which scientists estimated was more powerful than 15 megatons of TNT and flattened over 770 square miles of forest.
Though no one has ever discovered an impact crater, the leading theory speculates that a meteor burst over the area, similar to what occurred in Chelyabinsk. Luckily, thanks to Siberia’s sparse population, no one was killed.
If the Chelyabinsk Meteor actually struck the city, it would have been incredibly deadly. With the meteor's 20 meter diameter and speed of over 33,000 miles per hour, it would have decimated Chelyabinsk based on a number of scientific models, and the death toll could approach around a million people or more.
Perhaps it's the sort of threat on which humanity should really be focusing instead of petty Earth politics.