UPDATED: Transcript of NASA 15 February Teleconference on Russian “tiny asteroid” Explosion

[This article is under construction.  We’ll complete it later today eventually; it will hopefully, even in this partially completed form,  answer some questions our readers might have regarding the spectacular explosion of a “tiny asteroid” over Chelyabinsk, Russia yesterday.   The transcript was produced by us from the audio recording; all errors are ours.  UPDATE:  For more information:

This website is the online repository for the conference taking place in Vienna, Austria this week that is discussing future plans to discover, track and possibly intercept Near-Earth Objects, which is mentioned in the teleconference transcript below.  Love the name of this UN program…  the tinfoil-hat crowd will go crazy over this!  And it sounds like a double- or triple- entendre from a James Bond movie; you should always wink and wiggle your eyebrows when you say the name of this UN agency:

UN Office for Outer Space Affairs – Scientific and Technical Subcommittee: 2013 – Fiftieth Session – 11-22 February 2013


[Later on the 15th, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory issued the following update on the Russian meteorite explosion:

Update: February 15, 2013 7pm PST

New information provided by a worldwide network of sensors has allowed scientists to refine their estimates for the size of the object that entered that atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia, at 7:20:26 p.m. PST, or 10:20:26 p.m. EST on Feb. 14 (3:20:26 UTC on Feb. 15).

The estimated size of the object, prior to entering Earth’s atmosphere, has been revised upward from 49 feet (15 meters) to 55 feet (17 meters), and its estimated mass has increased from 7,000 to 10,000 tons. Also, the estimate for energy released during the event has increased by 30 kilotons to nearly 500 kilotons of energy released. These new estimates were generated using new data that had been collected by five additional infrasound stations located around the world – the first recording of the event being in Alaska, over 6,500 kilometers away from Chelyabinsk. The infrasound data indicates that the event, from atmospheric entry to the meteor’s airborne disintegration took 32.5 seconds. The calculations using the infrasound data were performed by Peter Brown at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.

“We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average,” said Paul Chodas of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “When you have a fireball of this size we would expect a large number of meteorites to reach the surface and in this case there were probably some large ones.”

The trajectory of the Russia meteor was significantly different than the trajectory of the asteroid 2012 DA14, which hours later made its flyby of Earth, making it a completely unrelated object. The Russia meteor is the largest reported since 1908, when a meteor hit Tunguska, Siberia.

[Source: JPL/NASA, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-061%5D

We have also come across a white paper published in August of 2012 [actually, it was published in 2009; we were misled by the name of the .pdf file – IWPCHI] by the “Committee to Review Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies, National Research Council”, entitled:  “Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report”.  In it . you can immediately see that the US effort is being wrong-headedly directed by the US capitalist class’ bought-and-paid-for ignoramuses in the US Congress at only larger asteroids.  They plan to “phase in” technology in future decades that could detect smaller asteroids, but so far their plans would not include any attempts to detect objects of the size of the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk on 15 February 2013.  Unless something is “profitable” in the eyes of the greedy capitalist class, it will not receive funding, or will receive the bare minimum necessary to cover the politicians’ butts.  Our assertion is that the defense of the planet from NEOs is far too important to be left up to the capitalist class and their penny-pinching “bottom-line” “what’s in it for us?” stupidity.  Unless we abolish the capitalist system, we will almost assuredly have to suffer a major calamity many times worse than the Chelyabinsk explosion before the greeedhead capitalists find the defense of Earth from NEOs to be within the range of affordability”.   Sticking with the capitalist system basically condemns the inhabitants of the planet to inevitable multiple natural disasters due to the inherent inability of a greed-based economic system to properly place global needs over those of the competing nation-states and their eternally warring capitalist castes seeking to increase their personal wealth at the expense of billions of their fellow men – and even their own children and grand-children.  The sad fact is: they just don’t care about anything except filling their own personal bank accounts with as much money as they can, for as long as they can.  The longer we allow them to continue to run the world as if it was their own personal piggy bank, the greater the calamity that mankind will have to face as a result.   The overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with an egalitarian, global, socialist economic model, we believe, is a prerequisite to the continued existence of the human race here on planet Earth, which is continually imperiled by the never-ending competition between capitalist nation-states, leading to low-level conflicts that grow into global ones, threatening the man-made disaster of worldwide nuclear war.  The future can move in two basic directions: toward international cooperation of egalitarian socialist workers republics or towards world war III.  We know which outcome we would prefer; “all we have to do” is give up our allegiance to the personal greed-based system of capitalism.  It’s a small price to pay in order to ensure the continued existence of the human race.  Workers of the World, Unite!



“What a day for near-Earth objects!”

That comment, made during a teleconference held on the afternoon of 15 February, 2013 by NASA scientists  – who had intended to be discussing a close fly-by of asteroid 2012 DA14, but who ended up talking about an actual impact on Earth of a previously unobserved mini-asteroid coming from the other direction – perfectly summed up the feelings of everyone in the audience.

These are our notes and a partial transcript of the news conference held yesterday afternoon, US Central Time, by NASA.  Thanks to NASA and its scientists for this timely clarification as to the nature of the amazing event in Chelyabinsk yesterday.  The names of the participants in the press conference are spelled phonetically and are undoubtedly WRONG in many cases; we haven’t had time to go look up everyone’s names yet. – IWPCHI



NASA News Audio Live Streaming

LIVE NOW: NASA Experts Discuss Russia Meteor in Media Teleconference

Scientists have determined the Russia meteor is not related to asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass safely pass Earth today at a distance of more than 17,000 miles. Early assessments of the Russia meteor indicate it was about one-third the size of 2012 DA14 and traveling in a different direction.

Panelists for the teleconference are:
— [Dr.]Bill Cooke, lead for the Meteoroid Environments Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
— [Dr.]Paul Chodas, research scientist in the Near Earth Object Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.


Bill Cooke:  Okay; my comments are gonna be with regard to the Russian meteor over, uh, Chelyabinsk – I’ll get it right in a minute – Russia that occurred approximately
9:20AM Russian time this morning.  What we know is at this time is as follows: a rock – a small asteroid or large meteoroid, depending on how you want to define it – entered the atmosphere.  This rock was about 15 meters in diameter, and was a weight of about 7000 metric tons;  It was moving at 18km per second.  And for those of you who deal with normal units that’s about 40,000 miles per hour. So it hit the atmosphere above Russia moving at that speed; it penetrated at a shallow angle less than 20 degrees; it lasted over 30 seconds in our atmosphere before breaking apart about 20-25 kilometers – which is 12-15 miles – above Earth’s surface.  When it broke apart, this produced a violent explosion, and there may have been several smaller events as well.  In the vicinity of 300 kilotons of energy, which produced a shock wave which propagated down as well as through the atmosphere; and when it propagated down this shock wave struck the city below, causing large numbers of windows to be broken, some walls to collapse and  minor damage throughout the city.  So, when you hear about injuries, those are undoubtedly due to the effects of the shock wave striking the city and causing walls to collapse and glass to fly, not due to fragments striking the ground.  There are undoubtedly fragments on the ground but as of this time I know of no fragments that have been recovered that we can verify with certainty.

A preliminary orbit for this object indicates it originated in the asteroid belt with a farthest distance from the Sun about two and a half times Earth’s distance and it does appear to be an asteroid in nature.

We are asked the question: “Well, why wasn’t it detected before?” And, based on this preliminary orbit,  the reason it wasn’t detected by telescopes on Earth was because it literally came out of the “day side” of our planet.  It was in the daylight sky; and as you know telescopes can’t see things in the day time.  So this object came out of the daylight sky, and as a result was not detected by any Earth-based telescopes.  So, that’s what we know at this time, and I’m gonna pass it over to Paul Chodas and let him talk about the asteroid 2012 DA-14 plus anything he might care to add about this event over Russia this morning.

Chodas:  Well, good afternoon. What an amazing day for near-Earth objects!  By an incredible coincidence we have two rare events happening on this very same day, with asteroid 2012 DA-14 passing very close to the Earth for an asteroid of that size (150 meters or a half-a-football-field in size); AND we have a small, 15-meter object – which I would call a tiny asteroid – actually hitting the Earth at a shallow angle and creating a significant explosion.  This is the largest recorded event since the Tunguska explosion in 1908.  This was very large for a meteor, a meteorite hit or fireball.

But let me talk a little bit about the DA-14.  It has already passed close approach; we are continuing to track it; in fact, I believe we have a live feed from this La Sagra Observatory, which is the place where it was discovered just about a year ago.  So we can see the object on the screen, as you can see right now; it’s moving; it’s a little streak because of the exposure that’s being taken; and it’s moving quite rapidly for an asteroid.  This is very unusual.  And the reason for that is that it’s passing so close to the Earth.  And it is passing the Earth at 17,500 miles an hour, but it’s on its way out now.

I should mention that USTREAM TV, USTREAM dot TV slash NASA dot JPL. JPL 2, excuse me.  So that’s where you can take a look and see a live shot of the asteroid.  The asteroid has passed the Earth, it’s on its way out, and it won’t return this close for many, many years.

Regarding the Russian explosion: there was a shock wave.  Why is there a shock wave from something coming in like this?  I have to say: an asteroid… asteroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere at a tremendous speed: 40,000 miles per hour, which, by the way, is actually much faster than the DA-14 is passing the Earth.  It’s an incredible speed; and in order for the tiny asteroid to slow down, the atmosphere will absorb that energy, O.K.?  So that it’s emitting the energy as heat and it’s emitting the energy as light.  The event must have been brighter than the Sun, if you were there to watch it.  It’s just incredible.  Asteroids… tiny asteroids the size of this one that hit over Russia this morning hit the Earth on average about once every hundred years.  So as you can see, the last recorded one that was of this size was a 1908, Tunguska explosion.  These are rare events  and its an incredible coincidence to have them happening on the same day; the Russians’ event – the fireball – is not related to the DA-14 asteroid in any way.  And that’s the end of my report.

Media questions:

Leonard Davis:  Space.com/Aerospace America; everybody calls this a wakeup call, what action should be taken by the Congress?

Paul Chodas: These are rare events, once every 100 years; I would say asteroid that hit over Russia was a very tiny asteroid; one like this from daystime sky virtual impossible to detect; NASA knows about 95% of asteroids but tiny ones like this are very hard to find

NBC News:  (Alan Boyle?)  DA14: On basis of observations that have come in is there anything new to say about this asteroid or is it what you expected?

It is too early to say; brightness profile close to estimates; most important immediate data Goldstone [radar?] measurements; [we hope to] release a picture of the asteroid tomorrow.

[Brian Asab] Wash Post: Paul; Colleagues in Vienna [meeting today] talking about international cooperation on international deflection efforts;

Paul: Yes there is meeting, this is international problem that has international implications; if asteroid hit it could hit anywhere; could we deflect? These questions being asked.  These are questions being addressed on intl stage.

Mariam Kramer Space.com:  How this blast ovr russia compares to Indonesia 2009?  How long trail from meteor over Russia was?

Bill:  The blast over Russia 4-5 times more powerful than Indonesia maybe more.  Meteor was abt 30 seconds, 10/mps, trail 300 miles long.

Irene Klaz Reuters;  When you said [an object the size of the] meteor over Russia could be found; what about if there was any observatory that could sense infrared was it too small to be detected by that?  If Congress says “what could we do about that” what would you say?

Paul: This object… IR detections from space is an option to detect these objects…

Bill:  NASA has recognized that asteroids that meteoroids and asteroid debris pose much greater problem than was previously thought.

Peter Speck, Christian Sci Monitor:: Paul; how do you work backwards from observation of event to estimate of size and mass; what was composition of this?

Paul:  The fact it broke up gives us some information on [the] composition; probably not iron-nickel like Chikoti-Malin 1947 over USSR

The principal source of info is by infrasound detectors on ground which measure pressure waves; give rough idea of amt of energy released.

Bill Harwood, CBS News;  What is infrasound network?

Bill: was established to monitor for nuclear explosions [after international] ban of surface explosions.  Detect big explosions in atmos; 300 kilotons, this is similar to nuke explosion in magnitude.

Naomi Sect, AFP: Can you sketch trajectory?

Bill:  Asteroid over Russia orbit indicates 2.1 yrs to go around sun once; out at farthest dist from Sun 1 yr ago in main belt 1 yr ago.

Paul: It was in orbit that crossed Earth’s orbit.  Asteroid belt is source of near-earth objects.  The asteroid belt would have formed a planet but large planets like Jupiter kept asteroid belt from forming [into] planet.

Leo Enreid, Irish TV;  Shock wave: was this “the shock heard ’round the world”? Was it a shock picked up by infrasound networks at great distances around world?  I heard 5 maybe 6 distinct explosions  I’ve heard about things like “pancaking”, what could have cause 5 or 6 distinct explosions?

Bill: As far as to 4 infrasound stations detections; haven’t polled all the infrasound stations; Early data from 4 infr stations nearest to event, whether it was heard on all we dont know

Paul:  I believe that [what happens is that the] atmosphere protects us so it disrupts asteroid as it comes in, divides [it] into multiple meteor[ites] so that is one possible source of multiple shock waves

Bill Dennison 21st Century Science and Technology:

Is there discussion of operation to defend planet?  Not looking for objects this small?

Russian Deputy Prime Minister responded to event by saying that the US and Russia should cooperate to stop impacts like this happening

Paul: Defending Earth from objects like this one is challenging, not currently our goal.  NASA is not looking 4 these; even DA14 is [borderline] too small for NASA search at this time;  In order to defend earth, the problem there would be to find these things early enough to do something; even though smaller ones [like this one are] easier to divert they are harder to detect; we are focusing on larger asteroids first, they are most hazardous.  One today was moderate destructive power.

Roxanne Palmer, Intl Business Times:  Is this just coincidence that these happen in Russia or is it because [Russia has] such a large land mass?

Paul: You hit the nail on the head, Russia is a large landmass, Tunguska, 1908, Malin 1947, and [again] today it is an amazing coincidence.

Ken Chang, NY Times;

Number of asteroids weight-wise per year?

Bill: 80 tons of meteoritic material per day; millions of very small meteors striking earth per day, big ones like this every 50-100 yrs

Paul: Small objects of basketball size every day, car-sized every month or two.

Paul Fraze , The Verge:  When it comes to detect an object like the one today, you require spacecraft we don’t have currently orbiting right now.  Private companies say they can do a better job of detecting.  Is private sector something you look to to do this?

Paul: Im not personally involved in these private efforts, they have potential, but funding is a question, an issue to discuss.  As far as getting resources from asteroids, is that viable? I can’t really speak to that.

Q: In spite of it being small, it caused a lot of damage on ground, so for purposes of detecting, not mining, the smaller size objects, what would the spacecraft need to be in order to pick up these things in terms of detection?  Is there any role private ssector could play?

Paul: I cant really speak to, its a challenging problem to find [something the size of] DA14 let alone the one over Ural Mountains.

Q: What kind of craft would be necessary?

Paul:  I believe a good way is to search for them in infrared, I can’t say what is the best way, [if you]call me later [we could discuss this in more detail].

Carolyn Johnson, Bost Globe:  [I just came in to the conference so this may have been answered already:] How much energy was released [in the explosion over Russia]? What would happen if something like this exploded over a densely populated area?

Bill: It was 300… I’m getting estimates now that it was up to 500 kilotons and it WAS over densely pop city.. 12 to 15 miles above ground

Jackie Goddard, Times of London;  Clarify 95% of meteors detected that have come through vs total number of meteors out there?  Is there an official search for this [Russian] object?

Paul:  When we talk of 95% completion rate Spaceguard Survey has been going on for 15 years, our original goal was to find 90% we have found 95% of large asteroids.  Near-Earth objects [are not objects that are going to hit the earth], [their orbits take them through the inner solar system as close as] 1.3 times the Earth’s distance to the Sun.

When we talk about near-Earth objects they are not all headed toward Earth.  “There are no asteroids that we know of that are headed towards the Earth for certain.”

Bill:  This meteor was not an iron meteor, it was a stony.  Its not a Martian meteorite, my guess this would be stony meteorite, maybe a chondrite, but we dont have the info to say what type this was, it’as probably going to be common, stony meteorite, 95% of meteorites found are common stony [type]

Andy Shostak ELS; How do you know there’s no relationship between DA 14 and the one that hit Earth today?

Paul: [In the event in Russia today] direction of approach was north-to-south [as best as we can tell from watching the videos] from YouTube; velocity was much greater than DA14.  [Russian meteorite] orbit was from asteroid belt; DA14 orbit is very Earth-like, orbits are very different.

[Source: NASA, USTREAM, http://www.nasa.gov/news/media/newsaudio/index.html%5D


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