(TheRedWire.com) – It’s not uncommon for watchers to watch meteors and other heavenly bodies enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn themselves out when gazing across the night sky. They’re beautiful and interesting phenomena to watch. Yet, they’re a reminder that, on occasion, much larger objects approach the Earth and could have devastating effects.
On Monday, January 24, a massive asteroid measuring double the size of the Statue of Liberty, came uncomfortably close to Earth. NASA watched the enormous mass closely in the event it changed trajectory. Fortunately, that didn’t happen as it careened by at 9,500 miles per hour at a distance of 4.4 million miles away.
Impact of Asteroid Could Wipe Out Life on Earth
Every day, approximately 17 meteors hit our planet. The overwhelming majority go unnoticed or land in areas not inhabited by people. Sometimes, one catches the public’s attention. Fortunately, astronomers say for every one impact people see, 770 others fall in deserts, forests, or seas where no one will even know they fell.
NASA says the asteroid that just passed earth measures between 84 and 190 meters. Astronomers say asteroid 2017 XC62 is big enough to cause an explosion with the impact of a nuclear bomb or worse. In 1908, an asteroid hit Russia, generating an impressive 12 megaton explosion. The devastation spread for thousands of miles. Scientists say the destructive force of the Tunguska asteroid was 800 times stronger than the nuclear bomb the United States detonated on Hiroshima and 600 times stronger than the one dropped on Nagasaki.
To show the harmful impact of such an asteroid if it struck Earth, an asteroid over 140 meters in diameter could release around one thousand times more energy than the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima. An asteroid 300 meters wide could wipe out an entire continent.
Could Earth Defend Itself From a Massive Asteroid?
How often do powerful asteroids hit earth? NASA says that a car-sized asteroid runs smack into Earth’s atmosphere around once per year. They create an impressive ball of fire and burn up before hitting the ground. Around every 2,000 years, one the size of a football field causes significant damage to the Earth’s surface. Then there are the giants… Once every million years, an asteroid big enough to wipe out life on the entire planet hits the Earth’s surface, causing a massive crater.
NASA has been studying ways to defend the Earth from a potentially catastrophic asteroid. It’s testing rockets to change a space object’s trajectory or blow one up into small pieces.
As technology improves, NASA hopes it will be less likely researchers will be taken by surprise when a dark asteroid appears out of nowhere. For now, all seems safe for humankind. Perhaps the next time the weather person on TV says there will be a meteor shower, you’ll venture outside to check out the remarkable display of nature.
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