Don't Worry, but Earth Could See a Lot More Asteroid Strikes in the Future

A new report states that a wave of asteroids could hit over the next 10-20 years.

This has been a busy time for meteors considering the exploding one spotted this time last year in Russia, and the one seen Wednesday night in California. And if you happened to miss those two, (or they missed you), don’t worry, because scientists now believe that large asteroids could strike Earth far more often than previous studies had once indicated. 

According to the New York Times, a soon-to-be-published study in Nature says that asteroid strikes are going to become an increasingly predictable and common event on our little planet, and could now take place every 10-20 years as opposed to the 100-200 year timeline historically believed to be the norm.

As you might imagine, the idea of more frequent meteor strikes has many experts concerned, with the prospect making “a lot of people really uncomfortable,” according to professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, Peter G. Brown. The asteroid that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia was just 60 feet wide, but detonated with the force of 500,000 tons of dynamite and managed to injure 1,000 people. 

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Only 10-20 percent of the 450-foot-wide asteroids near Earth have been spotted ahead of time by scientists. Though humanity is unlikely to get wiped out completely, the possible disaster of a serious meteor strike have spurred scientists to start calculating the unthinkable. 

“If you get unlucky, you could kill 50 million people or you could collapse the world economy for a century or two,” Edward T. Lu, a former NASA astronaut, told the Times.

Currently, scientists like Dr. Lu have begun crafting plans to launch a B612 telescope (to be called Sentinel) into orbit to specifically look for 450-foot-wide or larger asteroids. The telescope would be designed with the sole purpose of searching for asteroids and giving governments enough time to figure out a plan for the ones headed straight for Earth.

“When you find out how many there are, you also find out where the individual ones are,” Lu said. “Everything you discover you can either rule out as going to hit us or you say, ‘Hey, we ought to look at this one more carefully.'"

Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.