Today’s Top Space Headline: “We are Overdue” –Saving Earth from the Next Chicxulub Impact, Equal to 300 Million Nuclear Bombs (WATCH Video)

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Sixty Five million years ago, the most famous asteroid in history slammed into Earth and most likely exterminated the dinosaurs. Disconcertingly, we are no less likely to be to hit by an asteroid today than our ancient reptilian counterparts were — but luckily we have helpful tools at our disposal.


The impact occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid approximately 12 kilometers (7 miles) wide slammed into Earth. The collision took place near what is now the Yucatán peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. The asteroid is often cited as a potential cause of the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, a mass extinction that erased up to 75 percent of all plant and animal species.

 

In 2015 European Southern Obsevatory (ESO) joined the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN). To find out what this entails, they talked to Andy Williams, ESO’s Institutional Relations Officer, and Olivier Hainaut, an ESO astronomer in charge of Near Earth Objects follow-up at the Very Large Telescope (VLT).

 

A 100-meter asteroid (with the same composition and speed as the 10-metre asteroid) would release 1000 Hiroshimas. An asteroid with a diameter of one kilometre would do much greater damage, and an asteroid of 10 kilometres would be like the one that killed off the dinosaurs. It would sterilise an entire continent and cause major global damage.

On average, one of these huge 10-km asteroids strikes Earth every 50 million years, and the last one was 65 million years ago — meaning we are now overdue. We know about most asteroids of this size in the Solar System – we’ve studied their orbits, their characteristics, and we can predict their chance of impact. But as the asteroids get smaller, the less we know of them.

The ESO team estimates that about 70–80% of asteroids from 500 metres to 1 kilometre in diameter are known, but only about 10% of asteroids 100 metres in diameter are known. The International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) is working to improve these numbers.

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