Parts of a massive meteor that crashed into Russia in February will be on display for the first time in Canada this week, at an exhibit in Edmonton.
More than 1,100 people were injured on Feb. 15 when the fireball streaked across the sky and exploded near the city of Chelyabinsk.
Five of the Chelyabinsk meteorite fragments will be display at the University of Alberta's Enterprise Square in an exhibit called "When the Sky Falls," coinciding with the 76th annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society in Edmonton, which brings experts from around the world.
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"The event of Chelyabinsk was absolutely fantastic, rare and unusual, unpredictable," said Marina Ivanova, a senior scientist at the Vernadsky Institute in Moscow who helped recover the pieces and now takes care of the collection.
"It's a big phenomenon."
The meteor was 20 metres in diameter when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere, making it the largest object to strike the Earth since 1908.
Shock waves from its energy broke half the windows in the city of one million.
Meteor, meteoroid, or meteorite?
Small pieces of space debris — usually parts of comets or asteroids — that are on a collision course with the Earth are called meteoroids. When meteoroids enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up in a flash of light, they are called meteors (or "shooting stars"). If they survive the frictional heating and strike the surface of the Earth, they are called meteorites.
Chris Herd, a professor and curator of the University of Alberta’s meteorite collection, is excited about getting a look at the Russian meteorite pieces. He said the strike was a very close call.
"If the Chelyabinsk meteoroid, the rock itself, hadn’t come in at such a shallow angle, people would have died," he said.
"If it had come in a steeper angle, it would have dumped more energy directly below and almost certainly would have caused fatalities."
Scientists say meteorites contain important information about the formation of planets, comets and asteroids.
"They’re really sort of like cosmic Rosetta stones," said Peter Brown, a professor and Canada Research Chair in meteor astronomy at the University of Western Ontario.
"Each one tells us something unique and new about the early solar system."
The exhibit runs July 30 to August 3 at the Enterprise Square Galleries (10230 Jasper Ave.). Viewing hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday,