Can we predict the next asteroid strike?

An artist's concept of a near-Earth object.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Date:29 June 2017 Author: Jorika Moore Tags:, , , ,

It’s Asteroid Day on 30 June. And on this day in 1908 an asteroid struck Tunguska in Siberia and destroyed well over 5 000 square kilometres of earth.

Thousands of meteorites of different sizes are thought to fall to Earth every year, but many of these events go unnoticed. In January, an asteroid passed by Earth at a distance half that of the Moon.

NASA predicts another giant asteroid will come close to Earth on April 13, 2029. The prediction of the Apophis asteroid have scientists debating whether these chunks of rocks hit the Earth at regular intervals due to the particular asteroid’s reoccurring nature.

Asteroids are pieces of rock leftover from the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. The Vredefort Dome is currently the largest and one of the oldest known meteor impact site in the world. The crater is 300 kilometres wide and was named a South African World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Astrophysicists have made great strides in detecting near-Earth asteroids. Examining Earth’s impact craters, studying historical records and going over satellite data to estimate the impact frequency of different sized asteroids contribute to determine a timeline for attacks.

Scientists speculate that the Nemesis, a theoretical dwarf star thought to be a companion to the sun, affects the orbit of space rocks in our outer solar system sending asteroids on a collision course with Earth every 26 to 30 million years.

However, a recent study confirmed that there isn’t any evidence of periodic impacts because such a star doesn’t exist. One thing scientists could predict is that it’s unlikely that the next strike would be as big as the one which caused the dinosaur extinction somewhat 66 million years ago.

An asteroid collision is imminent in the future, but there is not much we can do about it for now. Perhaps when it comes to facing the apocalypse, it’s best not knowing when it will strike.

The Asteroid Day global event will involve a live stream from Luxembourg were experts will answer questions across social media.

Sourced: Scientific American