20 December 2013, 16:20

Russian mysterious Chelyabinsk meteorite hunter ranked among top 10 scientists of 2013

Viktor Grokhovsky

Viktor Grokhovsky

Viktor Grokhovsky

Prominent scientific journal Nature listed Russian meteorite specialist Viktor Grokhovsky among its ten top most important scientists of 2013. Grokhovsky, a professor at Urals University, got famous for leading research into the recovery of fragments of the biggest object to hit our planet in this century - a bus-sized asteroid that broke up over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk on February 15.

When a 13,000-ton celestial body exploded over Chelyabinsk it created a long-lasting puzzle on where the remains of the enormous rock could have gone. Even after a large suspicious-looking ice hole was discovered in Lake Chebarkul near Chelyabinsk, it was soon dismissed as having formed for other reasons, as the initial attempts to search the lake’s bed for meteorite parts proved fruitless.

Photo: AFP

"The event that made 2013 special for Viktor Grokhovsky came without any warning, reported Nature in its 10 list for 2013 article. The mighty meteor that fell to Earth on 15 February had approached our planet from a region of the sky that is inaccessible to ground-based telescopes, so it took astronomers by surprise... In the days after the impact, Grokhovsky worked feverishly to calculate the meteor’s trajectory and predict where fragments might have landed. He supervised searches that unearthed more than 700 pieces of the meteor, weighing a total of 5.5 kilograms.

But his greatest catch came later in the year. Calculations of the meteor’s trajectory and a large hole in the ice of a lake to the west of Chelyabinsk had convinced Grokhovsky that the biggest single chunk had landed there. When divers finally searched the lake’s muddy bottom in October, they recovered a 570-kilogram boulder."

Photo: Voice of Russia

Grokhovsky said that "it was a great satisfaction when it turned out that our initial calculations had been correct."

The Russian professor believes the importance of the meteorite is "hard to overestimate." International scientists studying the meteorite and its spectacular fall have concluded that the danger from space rocks smashing into Earth is much bigger than previously thought.

But for Grokhovsky, it was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

"I was lucky enough to play a part in this exciting story about a space traveller’s adventures on Earth," he told Nature.

Screenshot: Youtube

Other scientists honored in the list include Henry Snaith, a physicist from the University of Oxford, whose team has developed a more efficient solar energy cell, and Chinese scientist Hualan Chen, credited for leading a lab which successfully battled a new strain of avian flu. Nature’s top 10 list honors scientists not only for their scientific contributions but, in the case of American anthropologist Kathryn Clancy, for her social engagement.

The winners were chosen by Nature based on their work and connections to some of the biggest stories of the year.

Voice of Russia, Nature

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