Russian scientists analyze meteorite

MOSCOW -- Russian scientists said yesterday they had established the composition of the meteorite that exploded Friday over the Chelyabinsk region, injuring hundreds of people and causing millions of dollars worth of damage.

During the weekend, scientists collected 53 tiny pieces of dark porous material recovered by people near Chebarkul Lake, 60 miles west of Chelyabinsk, the regional center, officials said. The biggest: 7 millimeters long.

Not everyone who found the objects turned them in, apparently: Some enterprising locals were offering what they claimed to be fresh meteorite pieces for sale online for as much as $10,000 a piece. Some attributed far-reaching (if bogus) powers to the space rocks.

"Improves male potency, reduces weight," one ad claimed. "Trade in for a car or real estate a possibility."

The pieces collected by scientists were described as bits of chondrite, a type of stony meteorite, which contained at least 10 percent metallic iron and nickel alloy as well as chrysolite and sulfite, according to Viktor Grokhovsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences meteorite committee.

"We sent our team to the lake as soon as we heard of the meteor falling, as it is extremely important to find and study fresh debris," said Grokhovsky, of Yekaterinburg-based Urals Federal University, said.

Scientists said they had submitted a preliminary proposal to the government for an early-warning system. Lidiya Rykhlova of the Institute of Astronomy told the RIA-Novosti news agency the plan had been put together with the space agency Roskosmos and involved new and larger telescopes to detect relatively small meteorites.

The meteorite, estimated at 55 feet wide and 10,000 tons, exploded Friday with the power of several nuclear bombs.

-- Los Angeles Times

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