U-Michigan experts available to discuss Russian meteor

February 15, 2013

ANN ARBOR—Several University of Michigan experts are available to discuss the meteor that exploded in the sky over Russia today, causing a shock wave that blew out countless windows and reportedly injured hundreds of people with flying glass.

The U-M experts are:

Ted Bergin, professor of astronomy. Bergin can discuss current approaches for detecting near-Earth objects, as well as the history of meteorite strikes such as the Tunguska event in Russia in 1908. “In general smaller things fall from the sky all the time,” Bergin said. “Bigger ones happen less frequently but nonetheless do occur.” He can be reached at (734) 615-8720 or ebergin@umich.edu.

Iain D. Boyd, a professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, can discuss how meteors travel through the atmosphere, how shock waves propagate, how they break apart and even explode. “While the meteor continues to move through the atmosphere faster than the speed of sound,” Boyd said, “it creates a shock wave around it that moves into the atmosphere. A shock wave increases both the temperature and pressure of the air that it moves through. The increased pressure is what people feel and even hear as a sonic boom. If the meteor is also ablating, or losing some of its material, the high pressure and high temperature mixture of air and meteor material may cause an explosion that again generates a high pressure blast wave.” Boyd can be reached at (734) 615-3281 or iainboyd@engin.umich.edu.

James D. Gleason, associate research scientist in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. Gleason is an expert on martian meteorites. “While fireballs explode in Earth’s atmosphere and rain debris on the land and ocean with regularity, it is extremely rare for people to be injured in such an event,” Gleason said. He can be reached at (734) 764- 9523 or jdgleaso@umich.edu.

Joel D. Blum, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, has studied meteorite impacts and has analyzed mercury and other elements found in primitive meteorites. He can be reached at (734) 615-3242 or jdblum@umich.edu.