(CHEBARKUL, Russia) — Scientists confirmed Saturday the first recovered fragments of the giant meteor that exploded over this region on Friday, according to Russian media.
The fragments were found on the edge of a giant hole in a frozen lake in this tiny village, thought to have been created when a sizable chunk of space rock came crashing down, RIA Novosti reported.
Earlier in the day, authorities called off the search for space debris that may have fallen into the frigid waters.
On Saturday divers looked for any evidence of a meteorite on the lake bottom, but came up empty. Some officials began to doubt publicly whether the hole had indeed been caused by falling debris.
Amateur explorers, meanwhile, have been scouring the countryside for their own fragments, which could be worth thousands of dollars.
Mikhail Udovinko, who is studying metallurgy at the university, found a small stone near the edge of the hole he thinks was part of Friday’s meteor.
He says the stone responds to magnets and even has some weak radioactive properties.
The hole in the lake, meanwhile, has become something of a tourist destination. A steady stream of people made the long trek across the ice to see it firsthand.
Locals were amused at all the attention their little town is getting.
“Our town is very small. Now it is very famous. Unbelievable,” a student named Svetlana said.
At a church near the lake, Father Dimitri says he believes God saved the village from the meteor strike and suggested its timing had religious significance.
“This event happened the day of the big Orthodox holiday that means meeting with God and this has to make people think,” he said.
The meteor was travelling at 46,000 mph when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded, according to new data from Paul Abell at the Johnson Space Center.
It exploded in the atmosphere because its composition is stony, rather than metallic, like the meteor that left a massive crater in Arizona, Abell said.
The Tunguska asteroid in 1908 was also stony, which is why it also exploded above the Earth’s surface.
The odd coincidence of the DA 14 asteroid flyby and the meteor explosion occurring in the same day has amped up concerns about what else is out there and whether the planet can be protected.
The White House, Congress, and the United Nations have all asked to be briefed on this event, Abell said.
Cleanup and repair of the damage caused by the explosion has been proceeding on schedule, Russian authorities said.
All the schools, pre-schools and hospitals that were damaged by the explosion have been restored, Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor said.
“All the medical, educational and social buildings have been restored. Studies at all children’s educational institutions in the Chelyabinsk Region will continue on Monday,” Rospotrebnadzor said in a statement.
The explosion blew windows at 700 schools and pre-schools and at more than 200 hospitals and social security facilities, while approximately 100,000 homes were damaged, Chelyabinsk region governor Mikhail Yurevich said, according to RIA Novosti.
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