Scientists say Russian meteor probably had previous cosmic encounter

Aug. 27, 2013 at 5:40 PM   |   Comments

FLORENCE, Italy, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- The meteor exploding over Russia in February either collided with another body or came too close to the sun before it fell to Earth, scientists said Tuesday.

Researchers at the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy in Novosibirsk announced the conclusion at a conference of the European Association of Geochemistry being help in Florence, Italy, based on an analysis of fragments from the meteorite, the main body of which fell to the bottom of the Chebarkul Lake near Chelyabinsk Feb. 15.

The researchers said the structure and texture of some fragments show the meteorite had undergone an intensive melting process before it was subjected to extremely high temperatures as it entered the atmosphere.

"The meteorite which landed near Chelyabinsk is a type known as an LL5 chondrite and it's fairly common for these to have undergone a melting process before they fall to Earth," institute researchers Victor Sharygin said. "This almost certainly means that there was a collision between the Chelyabinsk meteorite and another body in the solar system or a near miss with the sun."

Researchers said the melted material in the interior of the meteor fragments is distinct from the "fusion crust' -- the thin layer of material on the surface of the meteorite that melts, then solidifies, as it travels through Earth's atmosphere.

"However, many fragments of the meteorite were picked up by members of the public, so it's impossible to say how large a portion of the meteorite was affected," Sharygin said. "We hope to find out more once the main body of the meteorite is raised from Chebarkul Lake."

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