We’ve all heard the mutterings of space analysts in regard to the threats that asteroids pose for us on Earth. But how likely is it that an asteroid could do damage on our home planet?
In order to understand this, we have to have a basic idea of what asteroids are and how often they come dangerously close to Earth. The truth is that the world of asteroids is more complex than most people understand.
What is an Asteroid?
An asteroid refers to any rocky body that orbits our sun. Asteroids can be the size of dust particles or several hundred miles long. Essentially, they’re minor planets, and in terms of their makeup, they’re quite similar to comets. They’re believed to be the remains of would-be full planets that have collided long ago and remain in orbit permanently. There are literally millions of asteroids in our solar system, and for the most-part, they’re harmless, and also carefully monitored by NASA specialists.
Today, asteroids are able to be detected using highly advanced photographic technology specially created by NASA for this purpose. The majority of asteroids exist between Mars and Jupiter, with a few crossing over into our orbit from time to time.
Are All Asteroids Dangerous?
No, not all asteroids are dangerous. Most remain in their orbits and don’t come into contact with Earth, or any other planets or space bodies for that matter. In order for an asteroid to be dangerous to us, it must enter Earth’s orbit and collide with us, or collide with another asteroid very close to our planet. And, an asteroid must be at least one quarter of a mile in diameter in order to have a significant impact on life here.
Many asteroids have collided into our planet throughout the billions of years that we’ve been here. Specialists have determined that asteroids have collided into our planet once every few thousand years.
If a significantly large asteroid were to crash into our planet, it would have several devastating impacts. For one thing, the dust produced by the collision could permanently damage our agricultural system. Additionally, large asteroids can trigger tsunamis that are capable of wiping out entire cities, or even countries, depending on the size of the asteroid.
Do Asteroids Ever Collide with Each Other in Space?
Asteroids do, in fact, collide with each other in space. In fact, researchers believe that some billion years ago, asteroid collisions were far more common. When asteroids collide, debris is produced, and it’s the debris that could be potentially dangerous to us. However, the risk of debris resulting from an asteroid collision having devastating effects felt here on Earth is extremely low.
Can NASA Stop an Asteroid from Impacting Our Planet?
NASA has the tools to detect and monitor asteroids, but it’s very hard to intercept them once they’re on a collision course. Currently, there are four major asteroids that are monitored by NASA due to their close proximity to our planet, and they follow similar orbits around the sun as we do. They vary in size, and they will each come into extremely close proximity to us within the next decade.
Thanks to modern space technology, NASA is able to gather more data on specific asteroids than ever before. This allows them to make far more accurate predictions regarding when they will be closest to Earth. Still, due to the nature of these space bodies, there are many that are undetected and will remain that way until they come closer into our orbit.
NASA Technology Against Asteroids
Asteroids are quite scary, but the good news is that a collision event that would impact our planet is very rare. And, now that NASA has evolved their technology, predicting these potential events is easier than ever before.