Cosmic Collisions

A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia's Urals region Friday morning, before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left hundreds of people hurt. The number of injured continues to rise as new reports come in from across a wide area. As of noon Moscow time, as many as 725 people had sought medical help, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency. Deputy Health Minister Igor Kagramanyan said 571 people had sought medical help, with 34 of them hospitalized, according to state-news agency Itar-Tass. For sky watchers, the reports bring to mind the famous Tunguska event of 1908 in remote Siberia, in which an asteroid entered the atmosphere and exploded, leveling trees over an area of 820 square miles -- about two-thirds the size of Rhode Island. About 80 million trees were felled, radiating out from the center of the blast, but no crater was left. Friday's Chelyabinsk meteor comes on the same day that a hefty asteroid is due to charge past Earth at a pretty close range, in space terms. Known as 2012 DA14, the asteroid is thought to be 45 meters long, about half the length of a football field. But scientists say it will come no closer than 17,100 miles from our planet's surface.

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