The meteorite that fell near the Russian industrial city of Chelyabinsk on 15 February sent shock waves around the RuNet and social networks worldwide.
Images of the giant fireball streaking across the sky were captured by countless witnesses from around the region with phones and car dashboard cameras. And by the end of the weekend, YouTube was awash in some amazing footage of the event.
On Twitter, the hashtags #RussianMeteor and #метеорит worked their way up the trend list as early as Friday morning. Numerous people claiming to have seen the fireball (or heard the accompanying explosion) tweeted their first reactions:
@striginae: Meteorite exploded over the city, the blast wave shuttered the windows, cracks in the buildings, one could see the outburst from 100km distance.
@LeraLivonchik: Eyes hurt and it is terrifying. Meteorite in Chelyabinsk, wtf?
@korneef: A bright object with a white-green lightning. I was about to run from a nuclear mushroom cloud.
@ptena_mel: Why am I not surprised that meteorite fell exactly on our tough Chelyabinsk
As the initial shock of the event subsided, Internet users in Russia and around the world began to mine the meteor for humor and memes, especially on VKontakte.
Jokes ranged from the classic: Putin’s penchant for being photographed doing things:
…to celebrity/martial-arts expert Chuck Norris’s supposed superhuman abilities:
…to pop culture references, like this one about Bruce Willis’s asteroid-fighting character from the film “Armageddon”.
Memes also poked fun at Chelyabinsk’s reputation of being a tough place with even tougher inhabitants, according to Russia Beyond the Headlines.
@dimavrn: Meteorite dwellers view approach of Chelyabinsk with alarm.
@Kostya_Ivanov: Chelyabinsk blokes are so harsh that when they make a St. Valentine’s Day promise to reach down the stars from the heavens for their girlfriends — the stars actually drop. #meteorit
“Chelyabinsk rains are so hardcore they’re made of stone,” read another, RIA Novosti reports.
Perhaps the cleverest was this comparison of the effect the meteorite had on the industrial city. The text translates as, “Chelyabinsk: before and after the meteorite.”
In the West, the meteorite seemed to send media outlets into a tizzy trying to answer why there was so much footage of the event and why Russians are in love with their dashboard cams.
UPDATE: RIA Novosti is reporting that police are investigating a rash of online offers apparently selling chunks of the meteorite, which scientists found over the weekend.