fireball

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Russian meteorite was 'once a decade' event

Feb. 15, 2013 at 8:10 AM ET

By Ian Sager, TODAY

A large fireball rocketed across the skies over Russia's Chelyabinsk region early Friday, reportedly injuring about 1,000 people. But according to astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the impact could have been much worse had it entered Earth's atmosphere above a more populated region.

"It's a shock wave ... this asteroid is coming in, it hits Earth's atmosphere, and it feels like a brick wall to it, because of how fast it's moving. When you hit a brick wall, you basically explode."

Likening the meteorite collision with our atmosphere to the impact of a bomb blast, Tyson explained that a shock wave of this magnitude "shatters glass, or anything fragile or breakable over a huge radius."

According to reports from Russia, the explosion and sonic boom broke windows in Chelyabinsk, 930 miles (1,500 kilometers) east of Moscow. About 1,000 were injured, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass.

Answering the next question on everyone's minds, Tyson implored the public not to draw links between this fireball and the "close shave" we're expected to get from a passing asteroid. "That will happen so many hours from now...it just happens to be a coincidence."

“We’ll survive the day, I promise."

MoreAsteroid's close shave ranks among Earth's biggest hits (and misses)

400 injured as meteor fireball screams across sky in Russia

Watch asteroid 2012 DA14 buzz past harmlessly, via streaming video

TOP