So Uh, We May Have Slightly Underestimated the Chance of a Massive Asteroid Hitting Earth


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No need for alarm yet, folks but we just thought we’d let you know: your chances of being pulverized by an asteroid colliding with the Earth are greater than previously thought…like, 10 times greater.

Scientists who studied the Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded in the skies over Russia last February, made observations of the size, trajectory and impact of the space rock and determined that it weighed 12,000 to 13,000 metric tons, nearly twice as much as earlier estimates and packing lots more punch — about 500 kilotons of TNT (the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were about 15-20 kilotons). The risk of similar flying space rocks hitting earth is increasing due to the millions of smaller sized objects roaming the solar system, according to studies released in the scholarly periodicals Nature and Science.

“The residual impact risk — from asteroids with yet-unknown orbits — is shifting to small-sized objects,” said Peter Brown, a planetary scientist at the University of Western Ontario, and an author on the papers appearing in Nature. He noted that among all the millions of near-earth asteroids out there, about 500 have been cataloged.

Rocks like the one in Chelyabinsk only hit Mother Earth every 150 years or so, but the chances of object impacts exceeding 1 kiloton of TNT may be larger, Brown says.

In the past, scientists have had trouble recording events like this, but thanks to YouTube users, they now have real time evidence of the behaviors of crashing asteroids and were able to figure out what type of impact they may have, reported.

“Calculating meteor trajectories isn’t easy physics by any means,” said Timothy Spahr, director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Minor Planet Center. “I’m stunned at how the fairly good-quality YouTube videos have enabled such beautiful science.”

Maybe Lady Gaga can destroy some asteroids while she’s out performing in space.