What happens if you fall to Earth a giant asteroid?




What happens if you fall to Earth a giant asteroid?

JHU asteroid

Almost two months ago, thousands of people from the south-eastern part of Russia have learned what happens when a meteorite the size of a bus comes to the “Earth station” without prior notice. But the broken windows and a total of 1,200 victims – it is nothing compared to what could happen in reality, if a meteorite fell to Earth as a whole. So that residents of Chelyabinsk, if you think to some extent even lightly.

It’s one thing when a 11-ton meteorite exploded over the city and produced by the explosion energy is distributed in the upper layers of the atmosphere (the angle of the trajectory of its entry into the atmosphere was such that the friction slowed him very much.) But what would have happened if this lump of iron (meteorites consist mainly of the material) has fallen to the earth entirely? And if she were a little more? What would happen if all fell asteroid or a comet incredibly fast?

All these questions will be answered in an interview with the portal Dvice professor at the University of Western Ontario and a member of the Committee of the Western studies of the physics of meteorites Margaret Campbell-Brown. The answers to these questions suggest, unfortunately, is far from encouraging developments.

Each year, falls to the Earth thousands of tons of various materials found within our solar system. But most of them are made up of micro-meteorites formed from the dust that disintegrate in the upper atmosphere of our planet. Large stones fall on us very often. History shows that the larger the asteroid, or other body size, the less they fall back to Earth. Basically it is the size of boulders up to a few tens of centimeters. They often fall into the oceans, and other uninhabited areas.

This does not mean that these stones are falling almost every week. The body size of a meteorite falling on the Chelyabinsk usually fall once in 100 years, but, unfortunately, no one can be sure that the same stone will fall to us, for example, tomorrow – said Professor Brown.

But let’s imagine what would happen if it did happen.

Chelyabinsk meteorite. 18 m in diameter (iron)

According to some scholars, exploding over Chelyabinsk meteorite was part of a larger asteroid, whose composition had a lot of iron. If this iron was even more likely that it would not be possible to split the asteroid into the upper atmosphere, and he would have reached the Earth, causing more significant damage.


Iron would cause the formation of a rather large crater. Now it is difficult to say something, but its diameter, was likely to at least several tens of meters – said Campbell-Brown.

If Chelyabinsk meteorite was a comet, it is only because of the speed it would have caused serious damage, – says Mark Bailey, an expert on comets and the head of the Arman Observatory in Northern Ireland.

Asteroid enters the atmosphere at speeds from 42 000 to 90 000 km / h, and comets in turn can move at a speed of 251,000 km / h Energy – it is a function of the square of speed, so if you increase the speed of an object twice, you get four times more energy.

You would not want that to happen – says Bailey.

Comets at the expense of the long-period orbit and its enormous kinetic energy have every chance of collisions at very high speed, regardless of the force of friction that can occur when entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

From all this it follows that they can cause very serious damage in the face of the Earth. Perhaps in some cases, much more serious than a collision with a large asteroid.

Asteroid 2012 DA14. Diameter of 30 meters

Flown on February 15 at a distance of 27,500 km from the Earth’s space rock was almost twice the size of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. If he had hit Earth, it would cause an explosion equivalent to 2.4-megaton bomb. For comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II, was the equivalent of “only” 17 kilotons. With this explosion instantly killed an estimated 70,000 people. They literally disappeared.


In addition to the giant shock wave, an asteroid of this size would be able to form a crater the size of a 1200-meter crater near Flagstaff, Arizona in the U.S., which was formed by a meteorite impact. But people, even at a distance of several kilometers from the center of the explosion, would feel that their clothes were beginning to flare up.

Tunguska meteorite. Diameter from 60 to 100 meters


Tunguska meteorite, or as some call it the Tunguska comet is still a matter of controversy many scientists. The bottom line is that in June 1908 in the area of ​​the river Stony Tunguska cosmic body of the unknown was the result of the explosion, which stood at about 10 times more energy than is the case with the Chelyabinsk meteorite. An explosion killed 80 million trees located on the territory of more than 2000 square kilometers. His blast wave power from 10 to 15 megatons was about 1,000 higher than in a bomb attack on Hiroshima. Scientists are still arguing about the same size as what was a cosmic body. And these arguments are complicated by the fact that blew up the body has not established any of the crater. The only thing we can say with confidence, so that’s what caused a huge blow up the body, but transient forest fire. On this occasion, the case dubbed the Tunguska phenomenon and put forward the theory that it was in fact not an asteroid and a comet.

The object was so bright, and its light is so intense that caused heat and fire trees. But the blast was so powerful that she also put out the fire, so the fire did not last long – says Brown.

As is known, a large part of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Therefore, if a celestial body of this size would have fallen into the ocean, it would likely cause of super-giant tsunami. And if such a body fell, for example, on any city, they would not have survived no one and nothing.

Not exactly pleasant feel when you light up clothes. If an object has fallen on the city, it would have caused a huge number of casualties and massive destruction. Perhaps he would not have destroyed the big city, but with such a small town like New Orleans, where he was Hurricane Katrina, have done it on time.

In addition, asteroids and comets of this size can serve to begin the processes of change at the global level. Although they are not persistent. In the hemisphere, where an explosion due to ice particles formed from the extreme temperatures, the sky a few days will be brightly lit.

Asteroid Apophis. The diameter of 350 meters


When the asteroid 99942 Apophis was first discovered, early studies suggest that there is a 2.7 percent chance of it hitting the Earth in 2036 . However, new studies of this issue, fortunately, they say that this will not happen. But if the situation went on the less optimistic channel, the point of entry into the atmosphere of the asteroid would pass over the northern part of South America. In the fall of this body, the number of victims could be as high as 10 million, according to one study. An asteroid the size of Apophis has also caused a devastating tsunami that nothing would stop on their way.

When you have a piece of almost half a kilometer, it is not quite matter where it hits the Earth – sadly says Bailey.

It will cause an explosion, resulting in him embark on a global climate change, because the water will evaporate into the atmosphere. With the explosion formed a crater and climb the giant mass of dust. Here we will have a global catastrophe.

Asteroid 1950 DA. Diameter from 1.1 to 1.4 kilometers


Asteroid 1950 DA is one of the few large kilometer of space objects in near-Earth space. Asteroids of this size have enough power to destroy entire nations. Kilometer asteroid is able to create a tsunami that will cover absolutely all the coastal areas of land. A rise in the atmosphere so much dust that climate change will begin. Plants due to lack of sunlight will simply cease to grow, there will be crops, people will start to feel hungry.

If you talk about asteroids of about 10 kilometers, there is question about extinction. For example, the diameter of the asteroid (or comet ) that killed the dinosaurs, was between 10 and 16 kilometers. This is shown not only your clothes, but also the entire planet. Encounter long-term changes in climate, many species will become extinct, including humans.

Fortunately, scientists have known for about 94 percent of the giant asteroid. And at their expense, we should not worry at least the next 100 years. Another thing, when it comes to the smaller volume of space objects. After all, due to their small size scientists still difficult to calculate how many of them where they are and represent a danger to the Earth.


The same 2012 DA14 was discovered with the observatory located on earth, but the Chelyabinsk meteorite could not be detected even if they knew in advance where to look. Only because he was moving towards us from the sun. However, new technologies, according to the same scientists who are already providing a high-tech infrared telescopes that can be installed in orbit around the sun and that will have to assist researchers in addressing such issues.
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