Asteroid Strikes (Even Big Ones) Are More Common Than We Thought

Asteroid researchers revealed that 26 asteroids hit Earth over a span of the last 13 years, a figure that is uncomfortably high and serves as a chilling reminder that asteroid impacts are a real thing. 

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Asteroid researchers revealed that 26 asteroids hit earth over a span of 13 years, a figure that is uncomfortably high and serves as a chilling reminder that asteroid impacts are a real thing.

The data was compiled by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) which operates sensors that detect atom bomb explosions. The group identified 26 explosions not caused by bombs, and determined that these were actually blasts resulting from asteroid impacts.

B612 Foundation, an organization that tracks and studies asteroids (not to be confused with B6-13, which is fictional) explains:

Between 2000 and 2013, a network of sensors that monitors Earth around the clock listening for the infrasound signature of nuclear detonations detected 26 explosions on Earth ranging in energy from 1-600 kilotons – all caused not by nuclear explosions, but rather by asteroid impacts.... To put this data in perspective, the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 exploded with an energy impact of 15 kilotons. 

In a video, B612 notes that "our current strategy for dealing with asteroid impacts is blind luck."

Ed Lu, the CEO of B612, told the BBC that we should be thinking about asteroids the way we think about earthquakes:

In the cities that have a major danger -- Tokyo, Los Angeles, San Francisco -- they know the odds of big earthquakes by observing how many small earthquakes there are. Because there's a known distribution of earthquakes, meaning that earthquakes come in all sizes, small to large - if I can measure the small ones, I know how many big ones they're going to be. And you can do this with asteroids.

He added that "these asteroid impacts in the last decade have been ones that we haven't had much data on until recently, and they tell us that in fact asteroid impacts are more common than we thought."

The scientists explain that while the 26 recorded asteroids did not cause serious damage, their prevalence suggests that a larger asteroid could very well hit the earth. They say that one large enough to destroy a city hits the earth every 100 years. But, they say in the video, there is a way for us to protect ourselves against the threat: 

An early warning infrared space telescope for tracking asteroids would give us many years to deflect an asteroid when it's still millions of miles away.  

B612's Sentinel Mission is trying to do just that, with the help of civilian funding. NASA has also appealed to citizen scientists to take the threat of asteroids seriously and support the mission, announcing an asteroid data hunter contest at this year's SXSW.

Just last year, a meteor injured nearly 1,000 people when it slammed into the Ural Mountains in Central Russia.

So it seems reasonable that we figure out a better method that "blind faith" to deal with the threat of asteroids.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.