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Russians find meteorite fragments

AFP-JIJI

Scientists said Monday they had discovered fragments of the meteor that spectacularly plunged over Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday, creating a shockwave that injured 1,200 people and damaged thousands of homes.

The giant piece of space rock streaked over the city of Chelyabinsk in central Russia with a force equaling 30 of the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima.

It exploded a few dozen kilometers above Earth, and its pieces are believed to have fallen over large swaths of the region.

Recovery workers scouring a small lake where some of the fragments were believed to have fallen were unable to discover anything in their initial search. But members of the Russian Academy of Sciences who conducted chemical tests on some unusual rocks Sunday said the pieces had come from space.

“We confirm that the particles of a substance found by our expedition near Lake Chebarkul really do have the composition of a meteorite,” RIA Novsosti quoted Russian Academy of Sciences member Viktor Grokhovsky as saying late Sunday.

Grokhovsky’s Urals Federal University separately posted a statement on its website on Monday that featured a photograph of a person holding a tiny piece of porous black rock between his index finger and thumb. “This meteorite belongs to the class of regular chondrites,” the statement said.

Grokhovsky said the rock in question was composed in part of metallic iron as well as chrysolite and sulfite. Its iron content was estimated at 10 percent.

Russian space debris hunters have offered as much as 300,000 rubles ($10,000) for an authentic piece of the latest space rock to hit the planet.

Chelyabinsk authorities responded by cordoning off the area around the lake and not allowing any media or independent researchers hunting for meteorites near the hole that developed in its thick sheet of ice.

Grokhovsky said the tiny rock’s find and 50 others like it came in the snow not far away from the lake. He also expressed confidence that a much larger meteorite was buried in its waters, despite claims from the authorities that it was empty.