So, on the day when an asteroid the size of an office building is due to buzz the planet, there's this unsettling news:
"A meteor streaked across the sky above Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and injuring [hundreds of] people, many of them hurt by broken glass. At least three people were reported hospitalized in serious condition." (The Associated Press)
But scientists at the European Space Agency report on their Twitter page that:
"ESA experts confirm *no* link between #meteor incidents in #Russia & #Asteroid #2012DA14 Earth flyby of tonight #SSA #NEO"
The sounds and sights from Russia, though, may make you want to look up around 2:24 p.m. ET today, when asteroid 2012 DA14 is due to slip by "only" 17,000 miles above us.
"Yelena Smirnykh, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Emergency Situations, told Ekho Moskvy radio that she believed the meteorite broke apart and fell in several places. Another government expert, who spoke to Moscow FM radio station, said he believed it may have been a bolide, a type of fireball meteor that explodes in the earth's atmosphere because of its composition or angle of entry and can be observed from the ground."
Update at 12:55 p.m. ET. Meteor Was "Once In A Century" Event:
NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce tells our Newscast desk that "scientists only have preliminary information on the Russian fireball so far, but what they do have suggests that it was historic. Paul Chodas of the Near Earth Object office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory says, "it was indeed a large fireball, probably the largest fireball since the Tunguska event that hit Siberia in 1908."
Chodas also says the object that fell to Earth today was probably about 50 feet across before it hit the atmosphere.
As Nell has previously reported, the Tunguska event "leveled millions of trees in an area of more than 820 square miles."
Update at 12:35 p.m. ET. One-Third The Size Of Asteroid:
NASA tweets that: "#RussianMeteor was 15 meters in size prior to the Earth's atmosphere, larger than 1 over Indonesia on Oct. 8, 2009 & 1/3rd size of #2012DA14."
Update at 11:25 a.m. ET. NASA Camera Is Tracking Asteroid:
The NASA JPL Live webcast of 2012 DA14's approach is streaming here.
Update at 9:50 a.m. ET. NASA Scientist Concurs; No Connection To Asteroid:
"The meteor explosion over Russia ... was not caused by an asteroid zooming close by the Earth today (Feb.15), a NASA scientist says. NASA asteroid expert Don Yeomans, head of the agency's Near-Earth Object Program Office, told SPACE.com that the object which exploded over a thinly inhabited stretch of eastern Europe today was most likely an exploding fireball known as a bolide."
Update at 9:15 a.m. ET. Report Of 950 Seeking Medical Attention:
Russia Today writes that "around 950 people have sought medical attention in Chelyabinsk alone because of the disaster, the region's governor Mikhail Yurevich told RIA Novosti. Over 110 of them have been hospitalized and two of them are in heavy condition. Among the injured there are 159 children, [the] Emergency ministry reported."
Update at 8 a.m. ET. Sound:
We've added an audio player above that has a short sound clip from The Associated Press. You can hear the sonic booms, followed by the sounds of breaking glass and car alarms.
As for the asteroid fly-by, since it's around 2:24 p.m. ET the daylight over North America will keep those of us in the U.S. from seeing anything (we all hope). NASA, though, plans to have live commentary on its website and hopes to have "live or near real-time views of the asteroid from observatories in Australia, weather permitting."