A team of Colombian astronomers have painstakingly reconstructed the path of the meteor that captured the world’s attention earlier this month after smashing into the Russian countryside, leaving hundreds of people injured.
The results of the study, announced Wednesday, reveal the 45-foot-wide meteor was destined to smash into Earth. Using evidence gathered by one camera at the Revolution Square in the city of Chelyabinsk and other videos recorded by witnesses in the close city of Korkino, the team was able to calculate the trajectory of the body in the atmosphere, which allowed them to reconstruct its orbit around the sun.
Relying on the collection of footage, the team was able to use the Naval Observatory Vector Astrometry Software (NOVAS) in order to determine the location, speed, and altitude of the fireball as it slammed into Earth’s atmosphere. The software system was able to add in various factors of influence, including the gravitational tug from the moon and that of the other eight planets. The resulting equation allowed the astronomers to posit that the Russian meteor was once an Apollo-class asteroid. Apollo-class asteroids are part of a well known collection of near-Earth objects that often result in close flybys of Earth. According to NASA, 5,200 Apollo-class asteroids are currently known, the largest being 1866 Sisyphus — a 10 kilometer-wide monster that was discovered in 1972.