The sky is falling? Kentuckiana experts weigh in - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

The sky is falling? Kentuckiana experts weigh in

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Alan Goldstein Alan Goldstein
Tom Tretter Tom Tretter
Image from a YouTube video showing the meteor in the sky over Russia. Image from a YouTube video showing the meteor in the sky over Russia.
Louisville home hit by a meteorite in 1977. Louisville home hit by a meteorite in 1977.
A meteorite on display at the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. A meteorite on display at the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The phrase "the sky is falling" took on new meaning Friday when a meteor exploded over Russia just hours before an asteroid made the closest recorded pass by the Earth for a rock of its size. The two events lit up our WAVE 3 Facebook and Twitter accounts.

For many scientists, it's bizarre to think these two incredible events could happen so close together and not be connected. But with two extremely rare events happening in the sky, it certainly has a lot of people in Kentuckiana asking why?

A blinding light shoots through the sky over Russia Friday and from cars to classrooms cameras captured what looked like something out of a movie. A meteor exploding with the power of an atomic bomb shattered windows and injured more than 1,000 people.

It came hours before another major event in the sky. A tiny dot on a NASA screen marked an asteroid the size of half a football field.

"First of all, "said Alan Goldstein, Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Naturalist, "I found it extraordinarily unusual to have something like this happen at the same time there's a near Earth asteroid passing over."

Goldstein, who's also a resident star gazer is amazed by the once in a lifetime events. He showed us a Chinese meteorite in the Interpretive Center's collection. It's likely similar to the size of pieces that will be found in Russia in the coming days.

Goldstein vividly remembers the meteorite that hit western Louisville in 1977. It went through the roof of a home on Greenwood Avenue. 

"It's like 3:00 in the afternoon," Goldstein recalled, "and I went outside looking up and it was like I was looking for a jet flyover with a sonic boom because it sounded exactly like a sonic boom with the double thump of the thunder sound."

As for the asteroid?  University of Louisville experts tell us, it's much bigger than the meteor that hit Russia.

"It's about 150 feet roughly in size in diameter," said Tom Tretter, director of the Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. "You could compare that to a 15-story apartment building, so imagine an apartment building like that flying through space, many many times the speed of sound."

Despite that, there's no need to be worried.

"With those," Tretter said, "there's no danger in the immediate foreseeable future and we project out many years that those will ever strike Earth."

As for the smaller ones, like Russia's 10 ton meteor? It's believed they hit every decade or so and because three-fourths of the Earth is water, hitting another populated area would be extremely rare.

For now, experts don't believe the two events are connected. They tell us, the events in the sky are defined by where they are. Asteroids circle the sun. If it enters the earth's atmosphere it then becomes a meteor. If it lands, like it did in Louisville in 1977, it's a meteorite.

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