Actually, it’s Asteroid Day that’s coming on Friday, June 30, and you want your children to be paying attention. You, too.
Seriously? As if climate change, Brexit, Trump, North Korea, potential trade wars and all the rest weren’t enough, we have to worry about asteroids hitting the planet?
Well, yes. In fact, earlier this month on June 6, a Near Earth Object – or NEO as they’re known – the size of a football field came as close to us as the Moon. In April, another one elegantly known as 2014 JO25 and about 2,000 feet in diameter, the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, passed by the planet at a relatively close distance of 1.1 million miles, or about 4 1/2 times that of the moon.
And while asteroids come this close to the earth several times a week, that one was the largest since 2004.
These rocks – most of them small and mostly pieces of the formation of the universe (get your head around that one) – pass nearby several times a week and generally pose no threat to the Earth. On average an asteroid about the size of a car hits Earth’s atmosphere every year, burning up in a spectacular fireball.
About every 2,000 years, a football-field sized asteroid hits the planet and does damage.
There have been two significant strikes in relatively recent times that show the sheer power of the threat. Most recently, on February 15, 2013, a 59-foot, 10,000-ton meteor moving at about 40,000 miles an hour burst in a blinding flash 14 1/2 miles over Chelyabinsk, Russia. People on the ground felt its heat.
In the 20th century, the largest known impact in human history was a meteoroid or asteroid that exploded somewhere between three and six miles above an area near the Tunguska River in Siberia, flattening some 770 square miles of forest. No humans were known to have been injured.
It was estimated to be between 200 and 620 feet in diameter. Its energy is thought to have been equivalent to 1,000 times that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Now, think about this: A strike by any meteor between just one and 1 1/2 miles in diameter would have global impact.
Not sweating enough yet? The meteor that hit the earth, eventually wiping out the dinosaurs and triggering mass extinctions, was only six miles across and released about one billion times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.