The largest remaining piece of the gigantic meteor that exploded over central Russia earlier this year before plunging into a frozen lake, was recovered this morning. And it's still a pretty healthy chunk of rock. Diving crews have spent most of the last month working to lift the the massive fragment from the bottom of Lake Chebarkul, where it settled after plunging from the sky and breaking through the then-frozen surface back on February 15. They hauled it to the shore on Wednesday morning to present to throngs of media and interested spectators.
Despite burning up and exploding in the upper atmosphere, the fragment that remains is still quite large. The meteorite is several feet wide and estimated to weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
Even though observers knew exactly where the rock landed, the recovery operation still took weeks to come together. It took salvage crews 10 days just to uncover it from the mud it was buried under on the bottom of the lake. Meanwhile, divers had to work in near blackout conditions, without spoiling the quality of the water, which is a drinking source for nearby towns.
It turns out that the meteorite was actually once part of a larger asteroid. Back in August, astronomers announced that they traced the apparent path of the fireball back to a known asteroid that's still circling the solar system, but was hard to see because of its "dark" surface. Researchers will now study the remains to try learn more about what it was made of and where it might have been before falling to Earth.
Meanwhile, Russian and American scientists continue to cook up plans to keep even bigger rocks from falling on our heads in the future, including maybe firing some of our nuclear missiles at them.
Inset photo: AP