A meteor streaked across the sky in Russia today, reportedly causing hundreds of injuries. The meteor, which was captured on video, came as many were focused on another space object, 2012 DA14, which will fly within a few thousand miles of Earth today.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is the director of the Hayden Planetarium and host of Star Talk Radio. He explains the meteorite as weighing 10 tons — the size of a Central Park boulder — and traveling at 7 miles per second. The air blast that so many witnesses in south central Russia caught on video was a result of the meteorite vaporizing upon impact with Earth’s atmosphere.
While the mounting injuries and structural damages are truly unfortunate, Tyson points out that it could have been much worse: "These don’t have to be large to be devastating to their environment, primarily because they’re moving so fast." Of course, it was a meteorite — albeit a larger one — that is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
These meteorites are in fact more common than most of us realize. They often occur over oceans and unpopulated land where they are never seen. "For all we know, this has happened often in the past decades in northern Canada, but the population density is so low,” says Tyson.