PEOPLE AND PLACES

PEOPLE AND PLACES

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A surprise asteroid strike that could wipe out humanity is 'just a matter of time', warns leading astrophysicist


  • Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects in spacehave been discovered so far 
  • Top astrophysicist Alan Fitzsimmons said there are more asteroids to be found
  • In January an asteroid passed by Earth at a distance half that of the moon
  • We are much better at finding larger asteroids but 'that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them', the expert warned 
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A leading astrophysicist has warned the next asteroid strike is just a matter of time as thousands of potentially threatening objects circle Earth.
Dr Alan Fitzsimmons has said it is a case of when an asteroid collision will happen, rather than if it will happen, with more asteroids being discovered every day.
An unexpected strike in today's world could easily destroy a major city and a larger one could potentially wipe out humanity, the expert warned.

A leading astrophysicist has warned the next asteroid strike is just a matter of time as potentially thousands of threatening objects are circling in space
A leading astrophysicist has warned the next asteroid strike is just a matter of time as potentially thousands of threatening objects are circling in space

TUNGUSKA MYSTERY

Dr Alan Fitzsimmons is highlighting the threat for Asteroid Day, a global event next Friday.
On that day in 1908, a massive explosion ripped through the sky over the Tunguska region of Siberia, flattening trees nearly 31 miles around.
The blast is thought to have been produced by a comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth's atmosphere at over 33,500 miles per hour, resulting in an explosion equal to 185 Hiroshima bombs as pressure and heat rapidly increased.
Eighty million trees had been laid flat in the blast, and the charred carcasses of reindeer were found by the hundreds.
The object likely entered the atmosphere at 9-19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth.
But, with no impact crater and little evidence of such an object ever found, scientists remain perplexed as to what truly caused the event in which 'the sky was split in two'.
The possibility of an asteroid explosion was first proposed in 1927 by Leonid Kulik, 20 years after the event.
Others suggested the space-object may instead have been a comet, made up of ice rather than rock, meaning it would have evaporated as it entered Earth's atmosphere.'It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting Near-Earth Asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them', said Dr Fitzsimmons from Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre.
'Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found.
'Astronomers find Near-Earth Asteroids every day and most are harmless.'
'But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them', he said. 
Joined by scientist Brian Cox and astronauts such as Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott, Dr Fitzsimmons is highlighting the threat for Asteroid Day, a global event next Friday.
On that day in 1908, a small asteroid exploded over Tunguska in Siberia and devastated 800 square miles.
The blast is thought to have been produced by a comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth's atmosphere at over 33,500mph, resulting in an explosion equal to 185 Hiroshima bombs as pressure and heat rapidly increased.
The object likely entered the atmosphere at 9-19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth.
In January 2017, an asteroid as big as a 10-story building passed by Earth at a distance This one-mile-wide Metero Crater in Arizona was caused by a small 50-metre asteroid impacting 49,000 years ago. An unexpected strike in today's world could easily destroy a major city, Dr Alan Fitzsimmons said
This one-mile-wide Metero Crater in Arizona was caused by a small 50-metre asteroid impacting 49,000 years ago. An unexpected strike in today's world could easily destroy a major city, Dr Alan Fitzsimmons said
And experts have previously warned that humans are not prepared for an asteroid impact and, should one head for Earth, there's not much we can do about it.
Asteroids are hunks of rocky space debris, left over from the creation of the planets, which whizz around our solar system, orbiting the sun.
From time to time they cross paths with us and, while impacts on the scale of the infamous 6.2-mile (10km) 'dinosaur-destroyer' are rare, an asteroid a fifth the size could spell disaster for civilisation.
Dr Fitzsimmons (pictured) from Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre said it is a case of when an asteroid collision will happen, rather than if it will happen
Dr Fitzsimmons (pictured) from Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre said it is a case of when an asteroid collision will happen, rather than if it will happen
With energy greater than 10 million Hiroshima bombs, the impact shock would flatten everything within a 186-mile (300km) radius.
Dust and debris would cause an 'impact winter' and most living things would perish.
Alternatively, an ocean strike would trigger monumental tsunamis, obliterate entire coastlines and inject seawater into the atmosphere, destroying huge swathes of the ozone layer and exposing survivors to devastating levels of UV radiation.
Dr Joseph Nuth, is a researcher at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland, and proposed the idea.
Speaking in December 2016, he said: 'The biggest problem, basically, is there's not a hell of a lot we can do about it at the moment.'
'They are the extinction-level events, things like dinosaur killers, they're 50 to 60 million years apart, essentially.'
'You could say, of course, we're due, but it's a random course at that point.'








The annual Taurids meteor shower is hiding asteroids that could wipe out ENTIRE continents, experts warn

  • Taurids meteor shower happens each year at the end of October 
  • It is created by Earth passing through debris left behind by Encke's comet
  • Astronomers have discovered a previously hidden branch of the debris field
  • Dangerous asteroids from it could hit Earth in 2022, 2025, 2032 and 2039 
  • The largest explosion ever documented may have been caused by the Taurids 



A comet which lights up the night sky each year with hundreds of fireballs could be hiding doomsday asteroids.
That is the finding of a team of researchers who have been investigating the annual Taurids meteor shower.
And they are warning that the cosmic fragments of ice and rock could be large enough to wipe out whole continents.
One of these fragments could hit Earth in  2022, 2025, 2032 or 2039, researchers predict. 
Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Science have discovered a new debris field in an annual meteor shower that could be hiding asteroids which could wipe out whole continents (stock image)
Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Science have discovered a new debris field in an annual meteor shower that could be hiding asteroids which could wipe out whole continents (stock image)

DOOMSDAY DEBRIS

Each year, from the end of October, the skies play host to the meteor shower, dubbed 'nature's fireworks'.
The Taurids display is created by debris left behind by Encke's comet, named after the astronomer who discovered it's annual trajectory in 1819.
Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Science have been keeping track of these fragments.
They have found two asteroids, called 2015 TX24 and 2005 UR, which are part of a previously undiscovered branch of the Taurids' debris.
The space rocks measure 650 feet to 900 feet (200 to 300 meters) across and have been registered on the International Astronomical Union’s list of "potentially hazardous" asteroids.
But the Czech team is concerned that the hidden debris field may contain even larger objects. Each year, from the end of October, the skies play host to the meteor shower, dubbed 'nature's fireworks'.
The Taurids display is created by debris left behind by Encke's comet, named after the astronomer who discovered it's annual trajectory in 1819.
Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Science have been keeping track of these fragments.
They have found two asteroids, called 2015 TX24 and 2005 UR, which are part of a previously undiscovered branch of the Taurids' debris.
The Earth only passes through this potentially dangerous branch once every few years, causing greater numbers of shooting stars. 
Future encounters are predicted for 2022, 2025, 2032 and 2039. 
The space rocks measure 650 feet to 900 feet (200 to 300 meters) across and have been registered on the International Astronomical Union’s list of "potentially hazardous" asteroids.
But the Czech team is concerned that the hidden debris field may contain even larger objects.
Writing in a paper published on Arxiv, the study's authors said: 'Since asteroids of sizes of tens to hundreds meters pose a treat to the ground even if they are intrinsically weak, impact hazard increases significantly when the Earth encounters the Taurid new branch every few years.
'Further studies leading o better description of this real source of potentially hazardous objects, which can be large enough to cause significant regional or even continental damage on the Earth, are therefore extremely important.'
The biggest ever documented explosion, a blast in Russia the size of 185 Hiroshima bombs that was felt as far away as Britain and the US, has been blamed on the Taurids meteors.
Known as the Tunguska event, the blast happened after a large fireball was seen crossing the Siberian sky on June 20, 1908.
Each year, from the end of October, the skies play host to the meteor shower, dubbed 'nature's fireworks'. It is created by Earth passing through debris left behind by Encke's comet (stock image)
Each year, from the end of October, the skies play host to the meteor shower, dubbed 'nature's fireworks'. It is created by Earth passing through debris left behind by Encke's comet (stock image)
A large fireball was seen crossing the Siberian sky on June 20, 1908 before an eruption six miles above ground flattened 80 million trees and left charred reindeer carcasses. Some experts  believe this was a Taurids object (stock image)
A large fireball was seen crossing the Siberian sky on June 20, 1908 before an eruption six miles above ground flattened 80 million trees and left charred reindeer carcasses. Some experts believe this was a Taurids object (stock image)
 There were reports at the time that the blast was felt as far away as Britain while the explosion lit up the sky in the US
 There were reports at the time that the blast was felt as far away as Britain while the explosion lit up the sky in the US
An eruption six miles above ground flattened 80 million trees and left charred reindeer carcasses.
The blast is thought to have been produced by a Taurids comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth's atmosphere at over 33,500 miles per hour.
Whatever caused the event likely entered the atmosphere at 9 to 19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth.
If a Taurids object large enough to make it through the atmosphere in one piece struck the ground, the damage would be catastrophic. 

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