“If you think the night sky is a tranquil place,” former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart says, “consider what may tumble down from the heavens.”
65 Million years ago, a Near Earth Asteroid (NEA) 6 miles in diameter, slammed into the Earth along the Yucatan peninsula, near Chicxulub. It had the power of a 100 Million megaton nuclear blast (the largest man-made nuclear bomb is only 50 megatons) and over 75% of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, plants, and other life forms vanished. Life hung by a thread.
The Discovery Channel created a stark video which detailed what would happen if a 500 km NEA crashed into the Earth.
There have been at least 5 ELEs (Extinction Level Events) during the last 500 million years of Earth’s history, not counting the Big Daddy of them all when a Mars-sized object slammed into a young Earth 4.5 billion years ago. The collision was so immense that the Earth’s surface melted, was blasted into space and the core was exposed. Over the next millions of years, the Earth slowly healed. However there is a nightly reminder of what took place; the gravitational pull of the debris coalesced into the current consensus of how the Moon was formed.
These events have happened before and they will most certainly happen again. “We live in a cosmic shooting gallery, Rusty Schweickart noted, “and that being hit by a ‘big one’ is simply a matter of time. We have in our sister planet, the Moon, an excellent history of the visitation record of NEAs and comets to our local neighborhood.” Those craters on the Moon are the results of direct strikes.
Consider this. On Friday April 13, 2029 (yes, Friday the 13th) 99942 Apophis, a Near Earth Asteroid, will pass within 24,000 miles of Earth, just under our geosynchronous satellite field. In astronomical terms, this is an incredibly close call. When first discovered in 2004, there were global concerns that it might hit the planet in 2029 or on its return trip on Easter Sunday 2036. NASA has since downgraded the strike percentage to 1:233,000 and they will better refine their calculations in 2013 when the orbit of 99942 Apophis next brings it within tracking range. While the NEA is only three football fields in length and no more than 300 meters across, its packs a punch. If it were to collide with Earth, it would unleash the equivalent of a 510 megaton nuclear blast. Continue reading