That morning I was on the balcony checking some antenna cable. Suddenly, a flare of a very bright star on the south-east attracted my attention. The star moved from east to west and quickly grew in size. In few seconds, it had transformed to a fireball similar to the sun in size and brightness. That was a dim dawn twilight but for a couple of seconds everything had brightened like under the midday sunshine.
In another few seconds, the fireball shrank and went out somewhere on the south-west leaving a thick cloudy trace illuminated by the rising sun. Still under the impression of this thrilling show, I rushed downstairs to grab the camera and back to make this shot:
After the shutter had been released, I heard the sound of a distant explosion and felt the vibration like of a slight earthquake.
For the first hour or so, the official news sources were silent while the local forum boards were flooded with standard WTF messages. At the same time, I noticed unusual activity of the air forces: the clear morinig sky was lined with tens of fighter jet traces like a grid. Eventually, the rumors leaked: something fallen from the sky had exploded in 1-million Chelyabinsk city at about 200km to the south. The rumours were about a crash of a military jet with ammunition and some believed that it was a missile.
My wife tried to get through to her niece in Chelyabinsk on the phone and succeeded after a countless number of attempts. Nastya confirmed that there was an explosion, the building of her university was damaged but she was okay and evacuated together with other students. The windows were smashed all over the downtown and many people injured by fragments of broken glass. The city mayor advised the citizens to grab the children from the schools and gather in their homes avoiding leaving the buildings. Nobody knew what happened and the people feared for repeated attacks.
Bit by bit, more information surfaced about what hit Chelyabinsk and what I observed: it appeared to be a huge meteor entered the atmosphere above Alaska and exploded in the skies over the Urals at 3:20 AM UTC (9:20 AM local time) 15 Feb, 2013. NASA estimated the size of the meteor as 17 meters and the weight as 10,000 tons, that makes it the largest recorded space object ever reached the Earth surface since 1908’s Tunguska meteorite (of which a little is known except that it was huge).
By weird coincidence, in 16 hours after this incident, another space body approached our planet as close as never before in the history of observations. The astronomers say that this was a completely unrelated object.