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Asteroid Collision & The Earth

There were speculations that an asteroid is about to collide with our planet by hitting Puerto Rico, and the impact will be the complete destruction of our Earth. NASA has denied such a claim and has declared it groundless.  It also says that there is a 0.01% or lesser chance of Earth being hit by such a potentially hazardous asteroid in the coming 100 years. 

The universe is a collection of such loosely bound celestial bodies that roams freely around, yet held intact by a force between them. But the possibility of such a cataclysmic collision cannot be completely ignored, if not now, in the future.

It will not be the first time! 

Our planet witnessed one of the worst asteroid collisions 65 million years ago; that brought the kingdom of dinosaurs to an end. The reason for the demise of dinosaurs was not clear until the 80s, during which scientists discovered traces of iridium on the rocks that belonged to the age of dinosaurs. Generally, Iridium descends to earth along with extraterrestrial bodies. 

In 1978, when two geophysicists named Antonio Camargo and Glen Penfield,-working for Mexican state-run Pemex- were searching for oil reserves, Penfield found two anomalous underwater arcs that together formed a circle of diameter 180 km. He speculated it to be the impact of a cataclysmic event. The centre of the circle was found near the town of Chicxulub, in Mexico and hence the crater was named as Chicxulub crater.    

Further investigations found that the impact occurred 65 million years ago and was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.

What happens when an asteroid hits the Earth?

The impact of the event largely depends upon the size of the asteroid. Anyhow, an asteroid of diameter 1 mile would cause serious damage to lives on Earth.

It is predicted that in 2028, an asteroid named 1997XF11 would miss colliding with the earth at a speed of 30,000 mph. If something happens to the asteroid that it doesn’t miss the collision, what would be happening is a cataclysm. The energy carried by a mile diameter asteroid at such a speed would be equivalent to a 1 million megaton bomb. 

Potentially Hazardous Asteroids:

An asteroid that can make a very close approach to the planet earth and has the potential to cause serious damage is called a potentially hazardous asteroid. NASA says that there are at present 1631 known such hazardous asteroids. 

NASA came up with a map of the orbits of all potentially hazardous asteroids along with the orbit of our planet earth and two other inner planets, Mercury and Venus. The map is swarmed with orbits, but none of them pose a serious threat to the planet, at least in the next hundred years, says NASA.

The Near Earth Object program of NASA has an Asteroid Watch project that studies the recently discovered asteroids and comets and their potential threat to the survival of our planet.

Recently researchers at the University of Southampton have come up with a software that predicts a severe threat of an asteroid event over the North Sea or the Atlantic Ocean that can result in bringing huge waves of tsunami ashore. The coastal areas of the UK could be washed away by the event of an asteroid falling over the coast of Norfolk, and it is claimed that this event may happen in the next 85 years. This is also considered to be the biggest asteroid warning to the United Kingdom. 

Do not think of meteorite cataclysms as miracles that can very rarely happen. On 15th February 2013, Chelyabinsk meteor exploded over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk at a speed of around 60,000 kmph to 69000 kmph, releasing energy equivalent to 500 kilotons of Trinitrotoluene. Within the next 24 hours another meteorite named 2012 DA14 flew past the earth surface.

Thus meteorite falls are not those once in a blue moon events, but may happen anytime. The threat they pose to human lives on earth is significant too. All that we can do is hope that our predictions for the next hundred years be true for all the eons to come ahead.

Image Source: NBCNews

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