Earth may be more prone to large asteroid impacts than humanity previously believed. At least, that’s the suggestion made by a new NASA-funded study presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in early March. The study claims that larger asteroids are more likely to hit Earth than we previously believed, at least based on satellite data.
The finding is a bit scary, especially considering how much damage large asteroids can do to our planet. Despite the fear-mongering that this might cause, it’s important to note that these findings still need to be verified. While the study here shows the potential for large asteroids to impact Earth more than we thought, it isn’t 100 percent confirmed.
The study was led by James Garvin, chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Garvin used high-resolution data from Earth-observing satellites to examine the impact craters of three asteroids. The data showed the rings were larger than previously recorded, meaning the asteroids that made the impacts were probably more significant than astronomers previously estimated.
Of course, calculating how much damage a large asteroid will do upon impact is difficult, especially since parts of the rocks will burn up as it enters Earth’s atmosphere. As far as large impacts go, astronomers estimate that an asteroid at least 1 km (.62 miles) wide hits Earth every 600,000 or 700,000 years. This new study, though, claims the rate of large asteroid impacts is much higher.
As I noted before, though, this isn’t proven definitively at all, and even Garvin says that more insight and research are needed. However, if it proves true, it throws everything we thought we knew about the chance of large asteroids impacting Earth out the window. We’d essentially have to reset everything we thought we knew about these chances of large asteroids impacting Earth.
That, in and of itself, is a scary thought, especially when you consider the possibility of how many potentially hazardous asteroids breeze past Earth every year, as well as the asteroids that have a chance of hitting Earth in the years to come. If we prove the rate of large asteroids impacting Earth is higher than we estimate right now, it also means more asteroid defenses like DART need to be prioritized to help mitigate any damage to our cities and communities.
For now, though, it’s simply something for researchers to chew on and dig into more. Until we are given definitive proof, there’s no reason for people to be afraid, as astronomers constantly watch the night sky for any asteroids with even the slightest risk of hitting Earth.