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Meteor in Russia injures hundreds

A meteor's vapor trail above  the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Friday.
A meteor's vapor trail above the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Friday.
Vyacheslav Nikulin /EPA /LANDOV

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A meteor struck the Ural Mountain city of Chelyabinsk, Russia early Friday morning, injuring nearly 1000 people. The meteor, estimated to weigh about 10 tons, was traveling at 10 to 12 miles per second, causing a bright flash and sonic boom upon disintegration.

Though there have been no reported deaths or critical injuries, 43 people have been hospitalized out of the 985-plus seeking medical attention -- most injuries were caused by flying shards of glass during the explosions. Although the event inspired initial concerns about spikes in radiation levels, tests show a normal amount of radiation in the atmosphere. The event also generated some conspiracy theories, with one member of the Russian Parliament claiming that the meteor was actually a U.S. weapons test.

Are there ways to predict meteoric events like the one in Russia? Can large meteors be deflected, can damage be prevented? How would you react in a similar situation?

Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology; author of "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming", a best selling memoir of the discoveries leading to the demotion of Pluto