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Russian boffins race to meteorite crash lake as shard prices go sky-high

Space rock hunters flog fragments at $10,000 a piece

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Russian boffins have struck out on their own to find fragments of the meteorite that exploded in the sky over Chelyabinsk on Friday morning - amid reports that pieces are fetching as much $10,000.

An expedition found a crater in the ice over Lake Chebarkul, where the scientists believe pieces of the space rock landed.

"The fragments discovered come from the meteorite fusion crust, which means most of the meteorite mass is sunken in the lake," expedition leader Viktor Grokhovsky told news wire Interfax today.

Grokhovsky, of Ural Federal University and the Russian Academy of Sciences' committee on meteorites, said that no team has been officially sent out to look for the meteorite's landing site but as a committee member, he couldn't resist going to have a look.

He thinks that the fragment under the lake is probably 50cm to 60cm long, while the team has found tiny pieces around 50mm in diameter in the snow around the crater. That is likely to mean that there are other meteorite drop zones out there.

Some reports suggest that there's a "meteorite rush" around the city of Chelyabinsk, with groups of people searching for chunks of the space rock that could be worth thousands of roubles.

Russia's largest online classifieds site Avito.ru is filling up with ads for pieces of the Chelyabinsk meteorite, selling for anything from a thousand roubles (£21/$33) to 300,000 roubles (£6,400/$9,900).

NASA's revised estimates put the space rock's diameter at 17m (55ft) before it hit the Earth's atmosphere with a weight of 10,000 tons. The space agency said that nearly 500 kilotons of energy had been released when the meteorite streaked through the sky over Russia.

"The infrasound data indicates that the event, from atmospheric entry to the meteor's airborne disintegration took 32.5 seconds," NASA said. ®

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