Asteroid Shock: Earth just narrowly avoided 'tragedy' but end of civilisation threat looms

EARTH narrowly avoided a cataclysmic tragedy in July when Asteroid 2019 OK shot past the planet but even bigger, civilization-ending space rocks pose a greater threat, a scientist has warned. Asteroid 2019 OK came scraping past our home planet on July 25, 2019, approaching Earth from a distance of just 45,360 miles (65,000km). The asteroid flyby took the world by surprise as it only appeared on our radars the day before. Measuring between 190ft and 426ft across, the space rock packed the potential power to wipe out an entire city, killing thousands in the process. Unfortunately, a scientist has warned there are even bigger asteroids that could end human life on Earth as we know it.

Dr. Anna Łosiak from the Polish Academy of Sciences told the Polish Press Agency (PAP), If the asteroid had hit Earth, a crater measuring 2km to 4km (1.2 to 2.5 miles) in diameter and 100m (328ft) deep would have appeared. The crater would have been bigger than the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona, which formed 50,000 years ago. The crater is evidence of a 164ft-wide (50m) space rock slamming the planet with brute force.

Dr. Łosiak, who is an associate research fellow at the University of Exeter, studies impact craters to better understand asteroid dangers. I want to understand, how dangerous these phenomena are. It is crucial to avoid a tragedy 

Dr. Anna Łosiak, Polish Academy of Sciences, So if we know, for example, an asteroid measuring 50m in diameter will hit a specific spot on Earth in three days, then we should know if we need to evacuate people from a five-kilometer (three miles), 100km (62 miles) or 10,000km (6,200 miles) radius. It is crucial to avoid a tragedy. 

If an asteroid-like 2019 OK hit Earth, the immediate blast radius would have only been one of the many worries to follow. The force of impact would have rained boulder-sized debris faster than bullets over a region measuring 13,000 square miles (35,500 square km). The asteroid would have also created a shockwave traveling outwards over “hundreds of kilometers”.

The asteroid expert said, most witnesses would have seen it as very strong winds breaking trees and blowing out windows. 

A bigger asteroid, measuring around six miles (10km) in diameter, would have dire effects on a global scale. Approximately 65 million years ago, an asteroid. This big hit the Yucatan Peninsula in what is modern-day Mexico.

The impact triggered a chain reaction of events that resulted in a nuclear winter and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Dr. Łosiak argued a repeat of the incident today could very well result at the end of human civilization. It was a very unfortunate event for the dinosaurs. The rocks the asteroid landed on released a lot of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which caused large climactic disturbances on the planet. A nuclear winter started.

Thankfully, the world’s leading space agency NASA knows of no asteroid or comet that could cause this level of destruction in the foreseeable future. 

NASA said no human in the past 1,000 years is known to have been killed by a meteorite or by the effects of one impacting. An individual's chance of being killed by a meteorite is small, but the risk increases with the size of the impacting comet or asteroid, with the greatest risk associated with global catastrophes resulting from impacts of objects larger than one kilometer. NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small. In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.

How big was the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs?

Approximately 65 million years ago, a large space rock crashed into the Gulf of Mexico near the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. The impact left behind the so-called Chicxulub crater, which measures around 93 miles (150km) across. According to the Planetary Science Institute, the crater was created by an asteroid measuring roughly six miles (10km) across. The force of impact created a monstrous explosion that threw debris high up into the atmosphere. As a result, the world’s climate was altered to the point where the planet became inhospitable to the dinosaurs. Some archaeologists argue the impact also triggered widespread volcanic eruptions around the planet, which further deteriorated conditions.

Quick facts about asteroids and comets:

  • NASA tracks asteroids and comets zipping past Earth through its Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS).
  • There are currently 796,541 known asteroids and 3,586 known comets
  • Asteroids fly by Earth on an almost daily basis but very few pose a genuine threat to our safety.
  • Asteroids and comets are the leftovers from when our solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Italian priest Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801 was the first to discover Ceres – a rocky body now classified as a dwarf planet.

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