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

The astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City talks about the meteorite that hit the Ural Mountains area in Russia, saying such an event could happen "perhaps once a decade," and explaining that it was the shock wave as the meteorite entered the atmosphere and exploded that broke so much glass.

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."

Buildings were damaged and more than 400 people suffered injuries, most of them minor, when chunks of space rock plummeted into the Russian Urals this morning. NBC's Duncan Golestani reports.

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