Falling skies

| dbrennan@queenscourier.com |

Chicken Little has finally been proven correct. The sky is really falling!

A meteor landed in the Russian city Chelyabinsk, and in the age of “record everything,” there were plenty of different camera angles, all designed to terrify.

Experts say meteorites, as they are called when they enter the earth’s atmosphere, hit the planet all the time, but usually not in populated areas. More than 1,000 people were injured, mostly just cuts and bruises from flying glass. But the sonic booms and shock waves that triggered the damage have rattled nerves around the world.

As we like to say in the news business: Could it happen here? The answer is, it already has. In October 1992, a meteor came crashing down in Peekskill, New York, in Westchester County. It was the pre-YouTube age, but since it was Friday night, many video cameras were out at football games. The scene the cameras captured was eerily similar to the Russian meteor, if only smaller in size. The only casualty was a car, which got crunched.

The greatest meteor explosion recorded in our history was in 1908, also over Russia. It knocked down an estimated 80 million trees, and the shock wave would have registered 5.0 on the Richter scale.

According to some estimates, a blast this big could destroy a large metropolitan area. An expert has told me that many countries are studying “deflection strategies” which all sound like they are out of the “B” movies. (And plenty have been made: “Armageddon,” “Deep Impact” and the aptly-named “Meteor”).

As one UK professor put it, “The solar system is a dangerous place: Just look at the surface of the moon. We are being peppered all the time.”

But tragedy for some means profit for others: The meteor strike in Chelyabinsk has triggered a gold rush of sorts. Some say the chunks of the meteor could go for up to $2,200 a gram. That’s 40 times the price of gold.

Here’s the good news: The blast that wiped out the dinosaurs occurred 65 million years ago. But that kind of cataclysm occurs once every 100 million years. If you do the math, you find we are safe, for about 35 million years. So we got that going for us.