On Feb. 15, 2013, an asteroid estimated to be the size of a six-story building shot through Earth’s atmosphere at around 43,200 miles per hour. Dragging through the air at such speed caused the object to heat, and it eventually exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia.
The airburst released energy equal to 500,000 tons of TNT—30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima nuclear bomb—sending a pressure wave to the ground that damaged buildings and resulted in more than 100 hospitalizations. Researchers using Sandia National Lab’s Red Sky supercomputer reconstructed the path and explosion of the asteroid to improve models for future trajectories and impacts.
Images courtesy Sandia National Lab. Gif courtesy Sandia/Nature.