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Scientists trace origin of destructive Russia meteor

February 27, 2013 14:00 IST

Scientists have pinpointed the origin of the giant meteor that smashed into a remote region of Russia earlier this month, injuring around 1,200 people. Experts believe it probably came from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Researchers were able to plot the meteor's path through the earth's atmosphere and then reconstruct its orbit around the Sun with help of an amateur video footage.

Several videos of the destructive fireball were taken with camera phones, CCTV and car-dashboard cameras and subsequently shared widely on the internet, the BBC News reported.

According to the Colombia team details published on the Arxiv website, traffic camera footage of the fireball had precise time and date stamps. NASA estimated that the meteor's mass was between 7,000 and 10,000 tonnes and its size was about 17 metres.

Using the footage and the location of an impact into LakeChebarkul, Jorge Zuluaga and Ignacio Ferrin, from the University of Antioquia in Medellin were able to use simple trigonometry to calculate the height, speed and position of the rock as it fell to earth, the report said.

Researchers used six different properties of the meteor's trajectory through earth's atmosphere to reconstruct its original orbit around the Sun.

Most of these are related to the point at which the meteor becomes bright enough to cast a noticeable shadow in the videos. The research findings suggest the meteor belongs to a well known family of space rocks - known as the Apollo asteroids -- that cross earth's orbit. Of about 9,700 near-earth asteroids discovered so far, about 5,200 are thought to be Apollos.

"Its elliptical, low inclination orbit, indicates a solar system origin, most likely from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter," Dr Stephen Lowry, from the University of Kent said.

PTI