Fireball Feb. 15 NEproskochil/via YouTube

Shouldn’t We Have Been Able To See This Huge Meteor Coming?

Space rocks are typically tiny and dark. Even if we could spot them, it wouldn’t be until they were already upon us, and by then it’s too late.

By Rebecca Boyle
Posted 02.15.2013 at 5:00 pm

Friday morning’s meteor, the largest object to strike Earth in more than a century, took the whole planet by surprise. But maybe it didn’t have to.

There’s a chance the space rock that careened into Earth’s atmosphere over Russia could have been spotted if the right telescope happened to be looking in the right place. That’s happened exactly once before. But it’s highly unlikely it could have been spotted in enough time to sound an alarm–at least not with our planet’s existing warning systems.

International scientists say it’s unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14, which flew past Earth today. That rock was found in a ground-based sky survey, but at roughly half a football stadium in width, it is much larger than the meteorite.

2012 DA14 was hard enough to find, but the chances of spotting something like this morning’s meteorite are really dismal, said Laurie Leshin, dean of science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and former research director of the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.

“The rocks themselves tend to be very dark. Most meteorites reflect only a couple percent of the light that hits them,” she said. “A lot of them are filled with carbonaceous materials, like coal, basically, so they can be very black.”

Read more: Shouldn't We Have Been Able To See This Huge Meteor Coming? | Popular Science.

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