Feeds

Asteroids as powerful as NUCLEAR BOMBS strike Earth TWICE YEARLY

Cold War tech detects worldwide hit rate

Intelligent flash storage arrays

A study using data from monitoring stations designed to enforce a nuclear test ban treaty shows that the Earth is enduring far more dangerous asteroid impacts than previously thought.

Between 2000 and 2013, the Earth was hit by 26 asteroids that exploded with a force of between one and 600 kilotons – an average of one every six months. Even more concerning is that in all cases the asteroids themselves weren't detected in space and only came to light when they detonated in Earth's atmosphere.

The study was carried out by the B612 Foundation, a group set up by three former astronauts who are worried about the threat of asteroids to life on Earth. The foundation's CEO (and former shuttle pilot) Dr. Ed Lu presented the report's findings at a press conference in Seattle's Museum of Flight on Tuesday.

"While most large asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire country or continent have been detected, less than 10,000 of the more than a million dangerous asteroids with the potential to destroy an entire major metropolitan area have been found by all existing space or terrestrially operated observatories," said Lu.

"Because we don't know where or when the next major impact will occur, the only thing preventing a catastrophe from a 'city-killer' sized asteroid has been blind luck," he concluded.

The study notes that four of this century's collisions have been larger than the atomic bombs that took out Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 2013, over a thousand people were injured when an asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, and 20 kiloton impacts were recorded over Indonesia, the Southern Ocean, and the Mediterranean.

All of these are dwarfed by the 1908 Tunguska impact, when the earth wandered into the path of a comet or large asteroid that exploded with a force of around 10 megatons – an explosion that leveled the surrounding forests and blasted down trees for 2,150 square kilometers (830 sq miles.)

NASA's Spaceguard project, named after the fictional asteroid-watching body described by Arthur C. Clarke, has done a good job at finding larger clumps of space junk that could seriously threaten human life on Earth, but it is missing a lot of the smaller debris that could just wipe out a city or cause a tsunami.

To spot this material, the B612 Foundation wants to build and launch a privately funded orbital asteroid detector, dubbed the Sentinel Space Telescope Mission. The designs have already been completed and the team estimates it could find 200,000 smaller asteroids a year after its planned 2018 launch.

The study shows that most of the kiloton-range explosions recorded this century resulted in very little debris striking the planet's surface. Asteroids are ablated by the earth's thick atmosphere and heat up to the point of explosion – most of the time – but sooner or later, probability suggests, one will hit and cause major damage. ®

Bootnote

The curious name of the B612 Foundation stems from the popular French book The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

In the fable, the author meets a small man after crash-landing his plane in the desert, who explained he lived on an asteroid named B612. The foundation used this name because, it says, the moral of the prince's tale was that what is essential in life is often invisible to the human eye.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.