segunda-feira, 14 de outubro de 2013

Chebarkul X-Files: searching for extra-terrestrial life

The space wanderer wasn’t found at the bottom of Lake Chebarkul. In spite of numerous attempts, divers failed to find a 500-kilogram piece of the meteorite which was believed to have fallen there after the celestial body had exploded over Chelyabinsk.

Many residents of Chelyabinsk and its suburbs, if not each one of them, are going to remember the morning February 15, 2013, for many years. A bright flash and an explosion made the Chelyabinsk Krai population freeze. A heat wave of unbelievable force that followed shattered window frames rather than windows themselves right inside the buildings, damaged balconies and rooftops. The immediate outage of mobile and Internet connection got people thinking about the worst – the beginning of a nuclear war. The only thing seemed strange – a typical mushroom cloud wasn’t seen anywhere.

Today, almost ten months after the meteorite explosion, few things remind of a catastrophe in Chelyabinsk. Amid severe Ural winter, people and authorities repaired homes and other damaged buildings over the shortest period of time. Due to a lack of glass in both the city and the region it was brought from other regions.

However, the meteorite fall on the territory of the small town of Chebarkul may be even considered some kind of luck. Chebarkul is almost 300 years but came to prominence only over the last two decades. The residents of the town don’t hurry to refresh their memories of February 15 going to a local museum as only a flash, panic and rumors come to mind recalling that day. And an ice-hole which became a site of pilgrimage. In the summer, authorities arranged excursions to the lake where a red memorable buoy bearing an inscription “Meteorite fell here on February 15, 2013” was installed.

Only few people, especially young ones, are still under impression. Eight-grader Maksim says:

“We had a physical education class when all of a sudden we saw a bright flash in the sky. Then an explosion followed. Everyone thought a plane or a rocket had crashed but a teacher explained to us that a meteorite fell. We were really scared. And later, during an IT class we started reading about meteorites on the Internet.”

The operation on raising the meteorite is being carried out at a distance from the town, on the opposite side of the lake. The entire operation was supposed to take up 28 days and to finish on October 4. Divers promised to raise everything they would find at the bottom of the lake. Few expected that a layer of slit had reached more than six meters and that the weather would be changing every half an hour. In spite of secrecy surrounding the operation, everyone in Chebarkul knows where divers live and work. A small wooden house, several iron storehouses and simple tents - that’s how modest water explorers live. All the necessary equipment is already on the lake.
Even though divers were lucky at the beginning of the operation raising small fragments of the rock from time to time, at some point the luck seemed to turn its back on them. First, weather began worsening which led to an abrupt water temperature drop. Besides, divers were forced to take off special gloves because of the slit and continue working like this, warming up their hands with sediment from the bottom of the lake.

Nevertheless, experts literally got their teeth into the slit. They didn’t lose hope until the very end as a sonar constantly detected large pieces of some hard foreign bodies. At some point they decided to expand the search area but the result left much to be desired as a big 20-kilo stone couldn’t pass for an extraterrestrial body.

However, this piece and 12 others were sent to Chelyabinsk Research University. Only four of them were identified as parts of the fallen meteorite. Thanks to the research, experts managed to establish the age of the “space visitor” which is about 4.5 billion years.


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