Astronomy

Why Humans should Worry about an Asteroid Hitting the Earth



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It is now an accepted fact that Earth is being impacted daily by meteors. Once they actually touch Terra Firma, the name changes to meteorite. Thus you may witness a 'meteor shower', but if you are lucky enough to retrieve one those objects, you would be holding a meteorite. The majority of the meteors that collide with Earth burn more or less completely in our atmosphere, falling to earth as dust particles. Science has estimated that the Earth gains 20,000 tons of mass daily from this process. If the meteor is large enough and dense enough, some of its mass will make it to the Earth's surface. These immigrants from space vary in size from a few grams to the size of cars, but make no mistake, all of them cause damage at the moment of impact. The energy released varies with the meteors composition, speed and angle of incidence. The result of one infamous impact from a meteor the size of a loaf of bread was to slice through a car and imbed itself in the asphalt of the driveway underneath the car. Oddly enough, a year later another meteor hit a house a few blocks away.

Even so, the statistical probability of a single meteor hitting an individual person is so small as to be nonexistent. Yet every person on Earth is statistically more likely to die from an impact from space that to die in an airplane accident. How can this be true? Many people are afraid to fly and much attention is spent on airplane accidents and near-accidents in the media and by our governments. The reason that we are more likely to die from an impact from space is we must consider asteroid impacts. Asteroids are just very large meteors. They impact the Earth with much less frequency than meteors, but when they do, the results are usually catastrophic. An impact from a small asteroid could destroy a city completely and kill everyone living and working there. If the asteroid is large enough, the impact could cause the extinction or near-extinction of the human species. The possible number of deaths is so huge, that just the possibility of an asteroid impact skews the statistics.

Should humans worry about this eventuality? Yes we should. The reasons are as inescapable as an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

1) The results of an asteroid impact is so potentially devastating they cannot be ignored.

2) Humans most likely have the technology to divert an asteroid that might hit the Earth.

The important factor is early detection. Stated another way; If we knew that an asteroid would impact the Earth 10 years from today and that impact would release enough energy to cause the extinction of the human species, would anything else matter? Of course not. All of our other concerns would look petty by comparison.

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