A video from YouTube channel MetaBallStudios shows how big some of the asteroids in our galactic neighbourhood are, and why we should be scared of them. The video begins with a small asteroid, 2008 TC3, which is just over double the size of the average man, before things truly get terrifying.
Things begin to get scary when the space rock 99942 Apophis is placed over New York, with its average diameter of 370 metres casting a shadow over the US city.
Among the other asteroids included is Hermes, which at 790 metres long dwarves New York’s largest building – One World Trade Center.
Finally, the video makes it all the way to Ceres which, being 939km in diameter, completely casts a shadow over the city of New York.
Ceres, located in the asteroid belt which falls between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, is technically a dwarf planet.
To qualify as a dwarf planet, an object needs to have three of four requirements.
It needs to have enough of a gravitational pull to form itself into a sphere, it needs to orbit the Sun, it is not a moon and it does not need to clear a path through other debris such as asteroids, which is what regular planets do.
Asteroids within the asteroid belt pose little danger to Earth, thanks to the role Jupiter plays in the solar system.
The massive planet has such a strong gravitational pull that it helps to keep the asteroid belt – located between Mars and the gas giant – in place so space rocks are not flying around the solar system.
There are also theories the planet draws loose asteroids, comets and meteors in.
NASA has said on its website: “Astronomers think that if it were not for the giant planet Jupiter exerting its gravitational force on the asteroids in the belt, the inner planets would be constantly bombarded by large asteroids.
“The presence of Jupiter actually protects Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars from repeated asteroid collisions!”.
The chances of a major asteroid hitting Earth are small – NASA believes there is a one-in-300,000 chance every year that a space rock which could cause regional damage will hit – but the devastating prospect is not impossible.
And when it does hit Earth, it could spell the end of humanity.
Physicist Rob van den Berg wrote on Q&A site Quora: “Small asteroids are of course pretty harmless, they evaporate in the atmosphere before they reach the ground.
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“If they do reach the ground they don’t do all that much damage (compared to what they can do).
“Sure, it will cost a lot to repair all the windows, but it’s extremely unlikely to actually get hit by one (as far as I know, only two recorded cases of that in all our history).
“The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs had a size of about 10 miles and such impacts only happen every several million years (since this particular one was the last, it has been 65 million years now).
“But no matter how small the chance of it happening in our lifetime, it is pretty much destined that another big one will eventually hit Earth again, some time in the future.”
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