A group of scientists, astronauts and rock stars have come forward to raise awareness about asteroids on ‘Asteroid Day’, urgently calling for an increase in their search as it could be pivotal for Earth’s survival. They called for a hundred times increase in search of asteroids.
The astronomer royal, Lord Rees, and Brian May, from the rock group Queen, added their signatures to the declaration. Other important names include Peter Gabriel, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and Eileen Collins – who holds the honour of being the first female commander of Nasa’s space shuttle.
Since around 70% of the Earth is covered with water, asteroids are more likely to strike over water. However, these can be the worst impact sites for asteroids of about 300 metres wide. If one were to hit in the mid-Atlantic, it would generate a tsunami wave that could engulf a lot of cities. Movie ‘Deep Impact’ dramatically covered that fear during its intense two hours.
“The aim is to ramp up public awareness and the awareness of governments to the fact that we are under threat from a meteor strike,” May told the Guardian. “It’s been made light of, and we’ve seen some great films, like Bruce Willis saving the day, but it is a very serious threat.”
Asteroid Day falls on the day an asteroid struck Earth back in 1908. Shockingly it was quite large – 40 metre-wide lump of space rock enter the atmosphere over Tunguska in Siberia at about 33,500 miles per hour. The rock shattered in mid-air and released enough energy capable of a large hydrogen bomb. It completely flattened a 2000 sq km of conifer forest. Imagination can only wonder if that could have been a residential area?
Possibly if such an asteroid were to explode over London, the blast could destroy much of the capital within the M25.
From observations with ground-based telescopes, researchers know that of the million or so asteroids that could one day strike Earth, only about 10,000 are known and tracked. That means we are in the dark about 99% of the asteroids that have the potential to crash into the planet.
“They are clearly a threat and for the first time it is possible for us to do something to reduce that threat,” Lord Rees told the Guardian.
“It is now feasible to do a survey of all the potentially Earth-crossing asteroids above 50m in diameter, and objects like that impact Earth about once per century. One could then check their orbits to see if any are on a collision course with Earth and within 20-30 years have technology to divert any that are on course,” he added.
Huge asteroids several kilometres across are estimated to hit Earth every ten million years or so
According to scientists, a ten kilometre-wide space rock which struck an area which is now Mexico – sparked the extinction of dinosaurs 68 million years ago.