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Could a Comet or Asteroid Hit The Earth?

 

A mosaic image of asteroid Eros at it’s north pole, taken by the robotic NEAR Shoemaker space probe February 14, 2000 immediately after the spacecraft’s insertion into orbit. After a year of circling and taking pictures, NEAR will touch down on asteroid Eros February 12, 2001, to capture surface details, which will be the first time any craft has tried to land on a tumbling space rock. (Photo Courtesy of NASA/Newsmakers) (Getty Images)

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We’ve all seen the movies right? Movies like “Deep Impact” and “Armageddon” keep us on the edge of our seats until the last frame when the earth is miraculously saved from certain destruction by a collision with a comet or asteroid. The hero in these movies usually bites the space dust in the end.

Is a Collision Imminent?

The universe is a monstrously big place. Distances and temperatures are beyond our comprehension. But the question remains. With all the objects flying around doesn’t it make sense that sooner or later one will make significant contact with us — hopefully in California?

A common theory is that a super asteroid took out the dinosaurs and every other living thing with a body weight of more than 40 pounds millions of years ago. Could it happen again and would you want to know about it in advance?

Our Super Telescopes Tell The Tale

In December 2009 the smart folks at NASA launched the “Infrared Telescope Facility,” or WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer). Due to space temperatures this infrared device was partially cooled with a ten-month supply of liquid hydrogen. It searched for both hot and cold objects in space that could possibly make contact with earth.

When the hydrogen ran out the explorer was still able to use two of its four other detectors that did not require cooling. The study area chosen was between Jupiter and Mars.

Survey Results

During it’s survey Project WISE collected 1.8 million images in the infrared range. They were looking for objects that are projected to pass within 28 million miles of earth’s path around the sun that could possibly collide with earth.

Currently scientists estimate that there are 33,000 asteroids and 20 new comets on a collision course with planet Earth. The scary part is that these 33,000 asteroids were previously unknown to astronomers. Sounds like it might be time to un-mothball those nuclear warheads.

More New Info

If the above new information was not enough to scare you, then you won’t want to know about 20 new comets and 134 “near-Earth” objects that were also found to be headed our way. And the study also confirmed info that we already know — 100 plus new comets looking for us.

Some Final Thoughts

No significant asteroid contact with earth in several million years. It should give us some comfort, that by space standards, we are very small target spinning around in a very big place. However, when you are talking about 33,000 possibilities those odds might not be a high as once thought.

Let’s hope Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall are available to get us out of this mess before our last frame. Keep an eye on the sky.

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