‘Meteorite Rush’ Begins as Russian Scientists Find Fragments

A meteor that blew apart over Russia has set off a rush to find its fragments that hunters hope could fetch thousands of dollars apiece.

Tiny fragments of the space rock that exploded over Russia’s Ural, about 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday may be worth more than their weight in gold. Photo: RIA Novosti

Numerous enthusiasts and scientists alike are searching for pieces of the meteorite that burst in the morning sky over the city of Chelyabinsk at a hypersonic speed of at least 33,000 mph and shattered into bits about 18-32 miles above the ground.

One amateur space enthusiast counted that a piece of the meteorite could worth up to 66,000 roubles ($2,200) per gram – more than 40 times the current cost of gold.

“The price is hard to say yet … The fewer meteorites that are recovered, the higher their price,” said Dmitry Kachkalin, a member of the Russian Society of Amateur Meteorite Lovers.

Scientists at the Urals Federal University were fist to find multiple piece of the space rock – 53 small, stony, black objects around Lake Chebarkul, near Chelyabinsk, which tests confirmed were small meteorites.

The fragments were only 0.5 to 1 cm across but the scientists suggested that larger pieces may have crashed into the lake, where a crater in the ice was found later in the day with diameter about eight meters (26 feet).

“We just completed tests and confirm that the pieces of matter found by our experts around Lake Chebarkul are really meteorites,” said Viktor Grokhovsky, a scientist with the Urals Federal University and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

“These are classified as ordinary chondrites, or stony meteorites, with an iron content of about 10 percent,” he told reporters.

As Reuters writes, he didn’t give any further information considering whether something we had been discovered about the origins of the meteor, which the U.S. space agency NASA estimated was 55 feet across before entering Earth’s atmosphere and weighed about 10,000 tons.

Meanwhile, people are already trying to sell their findings which came from the space. Thus, a user named Andrew advertised 18 pieces of the “meteor from the news,” for 500 rubles each (the equivalent of $16.61) on a specialized Russian site.

“There are 18 pieces of size as a wristwatch,” Andrew wrote in Russian on the site. “You can choose as souvenirs or for stories. BOOK ME IN ADVANCE, to snap up FAST!”

Another seller set a higher price for the findings asking for his rocks 300,000 rubles (roughly $10,000) for a piece of the rock.

“A piece of the meteor for sale, it’s new,” Sergey wrote, with a photo of himself holding a piece of stone.

A warehouse wall at a zinc factory in the industrial city collapsed from the force of the shock wave and almost 300 buildings had their windows blown out.

About 3,000 buildings were damaged – mostly with broken glass – as a result of the shock waves caused by the blast.

Vladimir Stepanov, of the National Center for Emergency Situations at the Russian Interior Ministry, earlier told state media that hospitals, kindergartens and schools were among those affected.

Meteorite fragments have damaged 2,962 buildings including 34 healthcare facilities, 11 social security institutions and 361 school and pre-school educational institutions, Russian Emergencies Ministry said.

The Interior Ministry said about 1,100 people sought medical care after the shock wave and 48 were hospitalized. Most of the injuries were caused by flying glass, officials said.

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