Weather halts Russian meteorite hunt

March 1, 2013 at 8:15 PM
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CHELYABINSK, Russia, March 1 (UPI) -- Scientists seeking fragments of the meteor that exploded over Russia Feb. 15 say they're halting the hunt until the spring because of heavy snowfall.

"All traces have been covered with snow, and it would be hard to find anything until spring," Mikhail Nazarov from the Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry told RIA Novosti.

Institute scientists working at the site of the meteorite fall in the Urals region for almost two weeks found about 3.3 pounds of fragments, he said.

"But further search will be most likely suspended," he said.

Researchers from Russia's Urals Federal University, who have found the largest meteorite fragment so far at 2.2 pounds, said they also postpone their search until the spring thaw.

"The weather in the region is very bad with heavy snowfall," university scientist Viktor Grokhovsky said. "We will have to wait until the thaw starts."

Local residents had hampered the work of the scientific teams and gathered fragments without reporting the findings to the authorities, scientists said.

"The local population is actively involved in the search, and nobody knows how many fragments they have found," Nazarov said.

Grokhovsky said he estimated local residents could have gathered close to 33.3 pounds of fragments while his team discovered about 5.5 pounds.

More than 1,000 people in the city of Chelyabinsk were injured, mostly by flying glass, when the 50-foot meteor exploded above the city and sent a shock wave into buildings, smashing walls and windows.

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