Russian Meteor Might Be The First In A Series

The Russian meteor which exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk in February could be just the first. New evidence shows that other asteroids could be on a similar path to Earth. Scientists say February’s house-sized meteor could actually be part of a gang of asteroids.

These findings come after many computer simulations were run by orbital dynamicists at the Complutense University of Madrid, reports Huffington Post. Because there is limited data on the orbits of asteroids in the solar system as it is, the pair of scientist brothers, Carlos and Raul de la Fuente Marcos, had to do it the hard way.

Some astronomers were able to calculate February’s Russian meteor’s possible orbit. Using this, the brothers found billions of similar orbits. These orbits would be the ones most likely followed by an asteroid aimed at hitting the earth. Running these through many computer simulations, the brothers found the ten most common orbits.

They then compared these orbits to data about known asteroid objects in the solar system from a NASA database. Looking over the database’s information about asteroid movement paths and matching it with their orbit data, they found 20 objects that could be aimed at Earth, reports Discovery News.

The researchers say that these asteroids could actually all be pieces of a larger object. As a much larger asteroid, it may have been broken apart sometime over the last 40,000 years. They say this gang of objects range from five to 200 meters across.

Don’t head for the bomb shelters and escape pods just yet, though. The researcher brothers say that even though their computer models are very advanced, they could be flawed. Over many thousands of years the various asteroid pieces could have had their orbits changed bit by bit. Gravity may have sent them all on different paths, and some may miss Earth.

After the 10,000 ton asteroid fragment exploded above a Russian town in February, scientists have been working to see if there are any others on the way. Below is footage of the Russian meteor as it explodes from earlier this year:

[Image via ShutterStock]