BATON ROUGE, La -- Space and Earth collided on Friday, as a meteor sent powerful shockwaves across the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, damaging 270 buildings and injuring between 500 and 1,000 people. It was an event captured on video and observed around the world, including in Louisiana.
"By understanding how this debris moves and what it's made out of, we can get a better feel for where we came from," said Dr. T. Gregory Guzik, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at LSU and the assistant director of the Louisiana Space Consortium, a collective of scientists and researchers in Louisiana, who work with NASA.
The Russian meteor incident comes on the same day scientists tracked 2012 DA14, an asteroid passing within 17,000 miles of earth, in between the planet and the communication satellites it relies on.
"This is a very rare event that you would get an asteroid of that size coming near us," Dr. Guzik said.
Despite the timing of the meteor's dramatic descent in Russia, Dr. Guzik said it is not related to the asteroid passing near Earth.
"They are in completely different orbits," he said.
Scientists say it is not that unusual for meteors to fall from space to the Earth. People, though, don't tend to notice them because much of the earth is covered by water-- and they fall harmlessly into the ocean, far away from population centers. Scientists say a meteor of like the one in Russia can hit Earth about once every five years.
However, the fact that it happened just as an asteroid passed close to Earth is rarer, though, they say it is not something to worry about.
"Since we don't have to really think that our lives are at threat, it's more amusing to sort of watch these things and sort of wonder about our place in the universe," Dr. Guzik said.
Scientists estimate the last time a large asteroid crashed into the earth happened about 66 million years ago in the Yucatan Peninsula. That asteroid crash has been linked it to the extinction of the dinosaurs.