Asteroid are the small rocky bodies that in the inner Solar System, orbiting the sun. There are millions of them flying around space and their collisions – known as impact events – have played a significant role in shaping many planets. One of the most famous impacts on Earth, the Chicxulub crater, is believed to be the remains of a huge space rock that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Cosmochemist Dr Natalie Starkey is worried history may repeat itself.
In her new book, “Catching Stardust,” the Open University Outreach and Public Engagement Officer outlined why more attention needs to be given to these cosmic hazards.
She writes: “The United Nations has designated June 30 as International Asteroid Day, which to many people may seem like a strange thing to do.
“It certainly isn’t because asteroids are about to become extinct, like some endangered wildlife.
It is almost certainly going to happen at some point in the future
Dr Natalie Starkey
“Instead it’s because there’s a threat that we, as humans, could become extinct if an asteroid was to collide with Earth.
“The prospect of our planet experiencing a devastating, life-destroying impact by a comet or an asteroid may sound highly unlikely, but it is something that is almost certainly going to happen at some point in the future.
“The question is when?”
Dr Starkey went on to detail why mankind need to act now to secure a safer planet for our offsprings.
Nonetheless, humans may not be completely in the clear.
JUST IN: How ‘most luminous thing ever detected’ triggered NASA emergency warning
She added: “For those of us already here on Earth, luck seems to be on our side for now, with scientists predicting that we should be safe for at least the next 100 years as there are no NEOs predicted to be on a direct collision course with Earth in this time.
“Nevertheless, there is always the possibility a random object that scientists can’t yet see is lurking out there in the outer Solar System, in an orbit that intersects that of Earth within the next few decades.
“The problem is that it is currently impossible for astronomers to track every object in the Solar System, particularly the small and fast-moving ones that are on random orbits.
“Despite this, you may wonder why we should care about the Earth experiencing a large impact,particularly one that might not happen for more than 100 years from now.
“However, it is not a comforting thought that we may leave behind for our descendants a planet that’s ill-prepared to deal with a potentially cataclysmic, species-killing impact from space, particularly if we can work together now to do something to prevent it happening.”
Antarctica: Scientists make breakthrough over dinosaur-extinction [VIDEO]
NASA asteroid revelation: Space rock ‘threatens’ Earth – researcher [ANALYSIS]
Asteroid tsunami: Why scientist offered dire warning to US coast [COMMENT]
Dr Starkey rounded her point off by leaving a sobering example of what could happen to the Blue Planet.
She concluded: “Hence, Asteroid Day – the date of which marks the anniversary of the Siberian Tunguska event – is designed to get us thinking carefully about what our global plan will be if we discover that an object is heading straight for us.
“An impact from space could have globally devastating effects, so working out how to deal with it involves enormous international cooperation.
“We just need to look at the huge scar that comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 left in the side of Jupiter, when it careered through its atmosphere in 1994, to wonder what the same impact could have done to Earth.
“Luckily, scientists and governments have already began working on ways to protect our planet from such space threats, but it’s still early days.
The warning comes after NASA received a warning over the “most dangerous space rock” heading to Earth.
Asteroid 101955 Bennu, formally known as 1999 RQ36, is a potentially hazardous object listed on the Sentry Risk Table with the second-highest cumulative rating on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale.
Investigators have already warned the space agency that it could be devastating if they do not act.
According to a study by scientist Maria Eugenia Sansaturio the 1999 asteroid may impact the Earth.
Dr Sansaturio warned in a report for the Solar System journal Icarus that there is a good chance of the asteroid striking.
She told Universe Today in 2010: “The total impact probability of asteroid 1999 RQ36 can be estimated as 0.00092, approximately one-in-a-thousand chance, but what is most surprising is that over half of this chance (0.00054) corresponds to 2182.”
However, like all asteroids that pose a threat to life on Earth, NASA has a plan to tackle it.
The space agency is currently running a mission with its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to find out more about the rock.
The spacecraft spent two years chasing Bennu down, before orbiting it for another two years and taking samples.
Then, in 2023, it will blast back to Earth to allow scientists from around the world to study it.
The mission team is particularly interested in learning the role that asteroids like Bennu – dark, primitive and apparently carbon-rich – may have played in creating life on Earth.
It will also help scientists to refine the odds of a strike on Earth.
Source: Read Full Article