According to a pair of scientific studies published on Wednesday, the chances of an asteroid striking Earth are higher than previously assumed. Whereas an event like February's Chelyabinsk asteroid—which emitted a large burst of light, shattered windows, and caused hundreds of injuries from falling debris—was assumed to occur every one or two centuries, scientists now believe that they could occur as frequently as one or two decades apart.
According to one study, scientists found that over the past 20 years, more than 60 asteroids larger than 20 meters wide had collided with Earth's atmosphere. For reference, the Chelyabinsk asteroid was about 19 meters long, exploded with the force of half a million tons of TNT, and if one was right underneath, shone brighter than the sun by a magnitude of 30.
One scientist told The New York Times that with a 450-foot-wide object, "You’re not going to wipe out humanity, but if you get unlucky, you could kill 50 million people or you could collapse the world economy for a century, two centuries." So that's a fun hypothetical.
The supposed increase in giant space rocks hurtling towards the earth might spur more interest in setting up an infrastructure to detect and possibly deflect incoming foreign objects. The United Nations will likely adopt a resolution calling for an International Asteroid Warning Network, as well as ask space agencies to consider techniques for knocking asteroids and meteoroids away from the planet. Cue the Aerosmith.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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