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:


Anonymous
Meteorite crash in : A missile salvo blew the into pieces at an altitude of 20 km:


Grant McKinley
Just read Russia launched a missile to destroy the meteorite before impact. Wouldn't that create multiple, smaller fragments?

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".

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  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru a meteorite contrail is seen over Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • In this photo provided by E1.ru a meteorite contrail is seen over a vilage of Bolshoe Sidelnikovo 50 km of Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/ Nadezhda Luchinina, E1.ru)

  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru a woman cleans away glass debris from a window after a meteorite explosion over Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor exploded in the sky above Russia on Friday, causing a shockwave that blew out windows injuring hundreds of people and sending fragments falling to the ground in the Ural Mountains. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement hours after the Friday morning fall that the meteor entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 kilometers (18-32 miles) above ground. The fall caused explosions that broke glass over a wide area. (AP Photo/ Yevgenia Yemelyanova, Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • In this photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru municipal workers repair damaged electric power circuit outside a zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed after a meteorite exploded over in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/ Oleg Kargapolov, Chelyabinsk.ru)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Sergey Hametov)

  • In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a minivan passes a zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Valentin Kazakov)

  • zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly inju

    zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly inju

    zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly inju

    zinc factory building with about 600 square meters (6000 square feet) of a roof collapsed in Chelyabinsk on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • Screen Shot 2013-02-15 at 08

    In this photo taken with a mobile phone camera, a meteorite contrail is seen in Chelyabinsk region on Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

    A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

    A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass.

  • RUSSIA METEORITE

    Map locates Chelyabinsk, Russia, where a meteor caused explosions in the area;