On average the earth is hit once every two weeks by an asteroid measuring a couple meters or so across, in fact, the earth is being hit all the time by small meteorites, luckily most of these small objects burn up in the earth’s atmosphere appearing to us as shooting stars.
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However, as it was shown by the Chelyabinsk asteroid in 2013, there are larger objects out there that are big enough to pose a serious threat to those in the vicinity of an impact but small enough to go unnoticed until they actually hit the earth.
Then there are the monster planetoids as much as a several hundred kilometres across that if they struck the earth would sterilise it of all life.
Luckily these massive objects are very few and far between and well away from us, the biggest risk comes from ones up to several kilometres across.
But now for the first time in the earth’s history, we humans have reached the stage where we are now able to do something to protect ourselves, which is just as well because next big asteroid could have our name on it.
Between 2000 and 2013 there were 25 asteroid impacts with blast forces ranging from 1 kiloton to 600 kilotons. 8 of those equal to or greater than the Hiroshima atom bomb which was equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT. Of these 25 asteroids, only 1 was detected just 19 hours before it hit the earth.
It’s estimated that there some 500,000 asteroids in our solar system classified as Near Earth Objects on potential earth crossing orbits which if they struck the earth would have a blast equal to or greater than 10 megatons of TNT.
On October 31st, 2015 an asteroid about 600m across passed 486,000 km or about 302,000 miles from earth. That might seem like a long way from us but in astronomical terms it’s close. More worrying was that for such a large object, it was only discovered about 3 weeks before it was due to pass by.
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