Ever since the Earth was born it has been bombarded with meteors and asteroids. We all know that it was an asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and we are all aware that it is nothing more than a matter of time before we are hit by another asteroid capable of just as much damage.
We might all be aware that an asteroid impact is just a matter of time but we all seem to assume that we will all be okay and find a way to avert disaster. Well, I hate to break the bad news but there are a million and one reasons we won’t survive an asteroid and one reason we will survive. Here are just four.
Some are Just too Darn Big
It can be hard to get a realistic idea of just how big an asteroid may be. To put things into perspective the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was approximately 10km in diameter. It left a crater in the earth that is 10km deep, 180km in diameter and when it made impact it did so with around 100 million megatons of force. The atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima exploded with a tiny 0.2 megatons of force. The point here is that because of the speed of these asteroids and the actual force they can potentially smash in to us even a small rock can cause us some pretty serious problems.
While most asteroids that we are lucky enough to spot are of a similar size there are some asteroids out there that are so huge they are actually classed as planets. Scientists have actually found several asteroids which are terrifyingly huge. One asteroid known as Ceres comes in at a huge 950km (590miles) in diameter and while there is little chance Ceres will collide with our planet there is a chance there are other asteroids this size, very possibly bigger, that are out there on a collision course with us. If an asteroid 10km in size can wipe out nearly all the life on earth imagine the damage an asteroid 60 times that size could cause. There would not be much of our planet left.
We’ll Never See it in Time
It is currently estimated that despite all of our efforts we are only able to track about 10% of the night sky for asteroids that are heading our way. This leaves a rather worrying 90% of the sky open for something to slip though the net.
You might well think, like most people do, that we are capable of spotting an asteroid as it nears the earth then a week or two later we send Bruce Willis into space to sort out the problem. This is all well and good in a blockbuster movie but the reality of an asteroid heading our way is somewhat different.
Because of the sheer speed that any asteroid travels through space it would quite literally take in the region of 100 years to alter its path. An asteroid named RQ36, according to scientists, has a 1 in 1000 chance of hitting the earth on 24th September 2182. It is estimated that if this asteroid is indeed on a collision course with the earth we will need to come up with a way to alter its path at least 100 years in advance to stand any chance of success. That means if this asteroid had not been discovered until 2080 then it would quite literally be impossible to alter its path in time.
We Don’t Have the Technology
If Hollywood movies are to be believed then all we need is Bruce Willis with a black and decker power drill to save us from an asteroid strike. Unfortunately for everyone concerned in the real world not even Bruce can save us. The harsh truth is if we were to find out today that an asteroid was heading our way we have no definite methods for protecting the earth.
There are plenty of ideas and suggestions as to how we might change an asteroids path but it all sounds more like science fiction and is very unlikely to work. Suggestions that have been made to alter an asteroids path include firing nuclear bombs, attaching rocket boosters and even trying to melt bits off. Even these farfetched ideas are currently beyond our capabilities and are highly unlikely to work. One thing Hollywood did get right was saying that firing an atom bomb at an asteroid would be like using a fire cracker to bomb Hiroshima.
The Hysteria Would Kill Us
When most people think about surviving an asteroid impact they fail to realise they may well perish long before the moment of impact.
If and when a definite asteroid impact is announced it is highly likely, if not 100% certain, society and social order would collapse. As people realised exactly was going to happen they would quickly panic and there would not be a police force are army that could keep the peace. You just need to look at what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Karina to get an idea of the civil unrest to expect.
There would be wide spread looting and riots everywhere as people began to panic and this would be quite literally everywhere on the earth. Pretty much everywhere on the planet would become a very unpleasant place to be where the survival of the fittest rule applies. This means even if we were to come up with a way of diverting an asteroid there is a good chance you would perish in the inevitable panic.