The tale of the meteorite which smashed into an Eastern Russian town on Friday seems strange enough – but now the internet is aflame with conspiracy theories that it was actually shot down by a Russian missile.
More than 950 people were injured when the meteor streaked through the sky at about 9.20 am local time in the Chelyabinsk region, near the Ural mountains.
The 10 tonne rock caused widespread panic as it tore through the sky, before an enormous explosion – thought to be a sonic boom – shattered windows and brickwork.
A crater about six metres across has now been found on the shore of a nearby lake.
But the story grew even stranger, after a Russian news website published claims that the meteorite was shot down by the government to prevent further harm.
Russia Today reported that an air defense unit at the Urzhumka settlement may have blown the meteorite to pieces at about 20 km above the Earth.
The rumour originated with the local Znak newspaper, quoting a military source – though it cannot and has not been verified.
The source said the vapor condensation trail of the meteorite showed it had been intercepted by a missile.
The regional Emergency Ministry denied the report, but it was too late for that corner of the internet dedicated to conspiracy theories, who latched onto the story almost immediately.
An account claiming to be part of the hacking collective Anonymous repeated the claims, which quickly spread:
However it is worth maintaining a sense of proportion: in the same story repeating the missile claims, Russia Today remarks that a previous incident of a high-powered meteor impact in Russia in 1908 was explained by both “a black hole passing through Earth and the wreck of an alien spacecraft”.