Asteroid SHOCK: Earth just narrowly avoided 'tragedy' but end of civilisation threat looms
Asteroid 2019 OK came scraping past our home planet on July 25, 2019, approaching Earth from a distance of just 45,360 miles (65,000km). The asteroid flyby took the world by surprise as it only appeared on our radars the day before. Measuring between 190ft and 426ft across, the space rock packed the potential power to wipe out an entire city, killing thousands in the process. Unfortunately, a scientist has warned there are even bigger asteroids that could end human life on Earth as we know it.
Dr Anna Łosiak from the Polish Academy of Sciences told the Polish Press Agency (PAP): “If the asteroid had hit Earth, a crater measuring 2km to 4km (1.2 to 2.5 miles) in diameter and 100m (328ft) deep would have appeared.”
The crater would have been bigger than the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona, which formed 50,000 years ago.
The crater is evidence of a 164ft-wide (50m) space rock slamming the planet with brute force.
Dr Łosiak, who is an associate research fellow at the University of Exeter, studies impact craters to better understand asteroid dangers.
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Asteroid shock: An asteroid narrowly missed the Earth on July 25 this year
Asteroid shock: A 64ft-wide rock created this large impact crater 50,000 years ago in Arizona
She said: “I want to understand, how dangerous these phenomena are.
It is crucial to avoid a tragedy
“So if we know, for example, an asteroid measuring 50m in diameter will hit a specific spot on Earth in three days, then we should know if we need to evacuate people from a five kilometre (three miles), 100km (62 miles) or 10,000km (6,200 miles) radius. It is crucial to avoid a tragedy.”
If an asteroid like 2019 OK hit Earth, the immediate blast radius would have only been one of the many worries to follow.
The force of impact would have rained boulder-sized debris “faster than bullets” over a region measuring 13,000 square miles (35,500 square km).
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The asteroid would have also created a shockwave travelling outwards over “hundreds of kilometres”.
The asteroid expert said: “Most witnesses would have seen it as very strong winds breaking trees and blowing out windows.”
A bigger asteroid, measuring around six miles (10km) in diameter, would have dire effects on a global scale.
Approximately 65 million years ago, an asteroid this big hit the Yucatan Peninsula in what is modern-day Mexico.
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The impact triggered a chain reaction of events that resulted in a nuclear winter and the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Dr Łosiak argued a repeat of the incident today could very well result in the end of human civilisation.
She said: “It was a very unfortunate event for the dinosaurs.
“The rocks the asteroid landed on released a lot of carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, which caused large climactic disturbances on the planet. A nuclear winter started.”
Thankfully, the world’s leading space agency NASA knows of no asteroid or comet that could cause this level of destruction in the foreseeable future.
Asteroid shock: The dinosaurs were wiped out 65 million years ago by an asteroid
Asteroid shock: NASA knows of no major asteroids currently poised to hit Earth
NASA said: “No human in the past 1,000 years is known to have been killed by a meteorite or by the effects of one impacting.
“An individual’s chance of being killed by a meteorite is small, but the risk increases with the size of the impacting comet or asteroid, with the greatest risk associated with global catastrophes resulting from impacts of objects larger than one kilometre.
“NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”