News: Russian Meteorite Shards Command ‘Stratospheric’ Prices


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Feb. 18, 2013: In this frame grab taken from AP video, a researcher touches a piece of a meteorite in a laboratory in Yekaterinburg. Researchers from the Urals Federal University, based in Yekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region Feb. 15. A total of 53 pieces have been brought for analysis to the university in Yekaterinburg.(Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)
February 18, 2013: Researchers from the Ural Federal University, based in Ekaterinburg, have determined that the small stone-like pieces found near Lake Cherbarkul in the Chelyabinsk region are pieces of the meteorite that exploded over the region on February 15. The university received a total of 53 pieces for analysis. (Source: AP Photo/ The Urals Federal University Press Service, Alexander Khlopotov)

The meteorite that streaked at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph across the morning sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia on Friday, February 15 at 3:20:26 UTC exploded and disintegrated about 18-32 miles above the ground. According to media reports, the shock wave from the explosion estimated as equal to 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs of August 1945, blew out the windows of 900 schools and hospitals, damaged around 100,000 homes, and injured nearly 1,200 people, It induced an undeniable trauma in many residing in and around Chelyabinsk. Fellow blogger, science fiction and fantasy author Bill Housley aptly wrote that it was similar “To Be Shot at and Missed.

Asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office said the object that streaked across the sky over this Russian industrial city was most likely a bolide – an exploding fireball.

The sonic blast shattered windows in and around Chelyabinsk. Scattered amid the broken glass are bits of space rock that sparked on a “meteorite rush.”

Amateur enthusiasts in Russia and scientists alike are scrambling to find bits of the meteorite worth more than their weight in gold. Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteorite Lovers said that enthusiasts will pay dearly for them. “The price is hard to say yet … The fewer meteorites recovered, the higher their price,” Kachkalin told Reuters. He estimates that chunks could be worth up to $2,200 per gram — more than 40 times the current cost of gold, the news agency said.

Within hours after the explosion, many residents of Chelyabinsk and its neighborhood  had listed shards of the meteorite on classified ads sites.

International Business Times reported that a person named Andrew advertised 18 pieces of the meteor for 500 rubles (about $16.61) each on avito.ru, – the largest Russian-language free classifieds site. “There are 18 pieces of size as a wristwatch,” Andrew wrote on the site. “You can choose as souvenirs or for stories. BOOK ME IN ADVANCE, to snap up FAST!”

Another Russian felt his rocks were more worthy, asking 300,000 rubles (roughly $10,000) for a piece of the rock. “A piece of the meteor for sale, it’s new,” Sergey wrote, with a photo of himself holding a piece of stone.

Russia’s Lake Chebarkul meteorite crater
The crater created by the meteorite in Russia’s Lake Chebarkul.

On Monday, scientists from Ural Federal University (UrFU) in Ekaterinburg found shards of the meteorite which fell on 15 February near lake Chebarkul near Chelyabinsk, about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The expedition team released a photo showing 53 tiny fragments of the meteor each about 0.2-inch-long.

Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of celestial body
Dr. Alexey Ischenko from UrFU Meteorite Expedition studying a piece of the celestial body
Shards of 'Meteorite Chebarkul'
Shards of ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’

According to Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences‘ Committee on meteorites and the leader of the expedition, told the Interfax news service that the meteorite belonged to the class of regular chondrites. “These stone fragments contain about 10% iron. The meteor is likely to be called ‘Meteorite Chebarkul’,” the scientist said.

He then added: “We have found tiny pieces, about 50-53 in all, and each measure in millimeters. That was all we could find in the snow around the crater. The fragments we found are traces of the outer layer of the meteorite – there is a melted crust and so forth – which mean that the basic mass lies there, in the lake.”

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