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Russia Scientists Test Meteor Pieces After Chelyabinsk Blast

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Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) -- More than 50 meteor fragments are being examined after a rock from space exploded over Chelyabinsk last week and sent shock waves across Russia’s Urals region that shattered glass, injuring more than 1,200 people.

Scientists found 53 fragments ranging in size from 1 millimeter to 1 centimeter (0.4 inch) near Chebarkul Lake, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the city of Chelyabinsk, Alexei Ishchenko, a member of the expedition from the Urals Federal University, said by phone.

The meteor blast over the Chelyabinsk region, which has a population of 3.6 million people, was the largest recorded since the Tunguska event flattened more than 800 square miles (2,100 square kilometers) of Siberian forest in 1908. The object entered the atmosphere at 9:20 a.m. local time on Feb. 15, hours before an unrelated asteroid half the length of a football field hurtled past the Earth.

“The fragments were found deep in the snow and ice around the lake,” Ishchenko said. “They’re now being tested.”

Chelyabinsk police are investigating sales of meteor pieces via websites, the Interior Ministry’s local division said in an e-mailed statement. Supposed meteorites have been put up for sale at prices ranging from 10,000 rubles ($330) to 500,000 rubles, according to the statement. The police are seeking the people behind the offers.

Ice Hole

An 8-meter hole was punched through the ice on Cherbarkul Lake. Divers failed to find pieces of meteorite under water, Rossiya 24 reported Feb. 16.

The rocky pieces found around the lake contain about 10 percent iron, Victor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Science’s meteor committee who headed the expedition, said in a statement on the Urals Federal University’s website.

Before hitting the Earth’s atmosphere, the Chelyabinsk object was about 17 meters and had a mass of about 10,000 tons, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

Most of the injuries reported in the Chelyabinsk region were caused by flying glass, according to Governor Mikhail Yurevich’s website. About 200,000 square meters (50 acres) of glass were broken by the shock when the meteor disintegrated, with total damage estimated at 1 billion rubles, according to the governor’s website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anatoly Temkin in St. Petersburg at atemkin@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net

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