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For many centuries, the workings of the celestial realm were considered wondrous, and frequently indicated the intentions of a higher being.  Solar eclipses were times of fear, and fireballing meteorites could indicate a deity’s anger. One can only imagine what our distant ancestors would have made of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that ripped through the Urals regions in Russia in February of this year. Turning an otherwise ordinary morning chaotic with a blinding flash of light and a shockwave that splintered windows throughout Chelyabinsk and the neighboring towns, no superstition was required to make the meteorite’s arrival a frightening event.

However, it seems the old days aren’t quite dead. A cult has sprung up around the fallen meteorite, claiming it carries scriptural writings and can only be touched by psychic priests. RIA Novosti tells the story:

The meteorite that hit Russia’s Urals Mountains in mid-February contained “scriptures” that can usher in a new age on Earth, say followers of a new religious group in Russia, local media reported Monday.

But mishandling the meteorite could cause harm throughout the world and may already be fueling the bloody civil strife in Syria, said Andrei Breivichko, founder of the Church of the Chelyabinsk Meteorite, 1obl.ru news website reported.

The founder of the cult of the meteorite opposes the operation to bring the chunk out of the lake, claiming that only “psychic priests” of his church are qualified to handle the celestial body, which they want to be placed in a temple to be built in Chelyabinsk for the purpose.

The believers are already holding rites on the shores of Chebarkul, trying to protect the meteorite by projecting a sort of protective psychic energy toward it, though they have no plans to physically interfere with the divers trying to bring it up, online tabloid LifeNews.ru reported.

Scientists, on the other hand, are looking forward to retrieval of a large chunk of the chondrite meteorite, expected to be surfaced on September 25. Although the rock has been contaminated by its months at the bottom of the Chebarkul lake, it is quite large at approximately 50×90 cm, and core samples are likely to be relatively untouched. It is rare for scientists to be able to definitively identify the origin of the meteorites they study (rather than finding them lying on the ground long after their entry event), so when a meteorite is associated with a known fireball, it is in high demand for study. While the Chelyabinsk meteorite’s new acolytes are convinced that mishandling of the space rock is the cause of world strife, they might just want to watch out for some irate scientists if they try to stand in the way of their research.

Image caption: The biggest of seven major chunks of the Chelyabisnk meteorite ended up in Chebarkul Lake (Credits: RT.com/RIA Novosti).

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Merryl Azriel

Merryl Azriel

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Having wandered into professional writing and editing after a decade in engineering, science, and management, Merryl now enjoys reintegrating the dichotomy by bringing space technology and policy within reach of an interested public. After three years as Space Safety Magazine’s Managing Editor, Merryl semi-retired to Visiting Contributor and manager of the campaign to bring the International Space Station collaboration to the attention of the Nobel Peace Prize committee. She keeps her pencil sharp as Proposal Manager for U.S. government contractor CSRA.