‘Observation gaps’ make asteroids dangerous: collisions will have dire consequences

They are leftovers Pieces of time from the formation of our solar system. Humanity might not have existed without it – but it’s also threatened: asteroids may have brought it on The foundations of all life on Earth Today’s impact can have disastrous consequences. However, humanity is not defenseless. “This is the only natural disaster we can calculate in advance,” says Detlev Koschny, an asteroid expert. European Space Agency ESA In Noordwijk, Netherlands, on the occasion of World Asteroid Day on June 30.

Bombing asteroids like in blockbuster movies is no longer just a fantasy. However, for some of the pieces, there are huge gaps of note.

20,000 so-called near-Earth objects in our solar system

in our area Solar System According to NASA, there are more than a million known asteroids, of which more than 20,000 so-called near-Earth objects (NEO) They cross our Earth’s orbit through their orbit. Two famous events show what such parts can do: Run June 30, 1908 The explosion caused by an asteroid explosion sweeps away – perhaps – millions of trees Tunguska in Siberia In an area about the size of Saarland. In light of this event, the United Nations later declared June 30 International Asteroid Day. In February 2013, an asteroid 20 meters in size and traveling 66,000 kilometers per hour exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk. About 1,500 people were injured in the blast, most of them from window shards. Thousands of buildings were damaged.

Millions of years ago, however, this was possible Pieces of rocks and minerals From space made life on Earth possible in the first place. Koschny explains that models said there would be much less water on Earth if there was no external supply. It does not come from comets. “The type of water is not suitable. What is left is this asteroids. » At least one popular theory is that they brought water to Earth.

“The next question is: Is it possible that they have already brought some organic parts to Earth?” expert says. The man as a foreigner, so to speak? Not right. Some of the organic matter may have come ‘from outside’, but the further evolution towards life then occurred on Earth.

60 million years ago: an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs

A later event certainly had a huge impact on the development of life on our planet: the impact of a rock 12 kilometers wide 60 million years ago in Mexico It is believed to be the cause The extinction of the dinosaurs. This was the only reason the mammals were able to establish their existence after that, says Koschny.

Amazon tip for amateur astronomers: With this telescope for kids and beginners, you won’t miss a thing in the starry sky

And today? Glowing objects constantly appear in the night sky – dust and small rock fragments from space that burn up in the atmosphere. “The total mass that reaches the Earth is estimated to be about 100 tons per day,” Koschny says. Large pieces are still a hazard. Warning protocols are in effect from a size of about 20 meters, says ESA’s Senior Asteroid Defense Coordinator Richard Moisel, whose team operates in Frascati near Rome.

Jesus and NASA You want to explore asteroid bombing as a potential defense option. NASA’s Dart probe, which has already launched, is set to collide with the smaller portion of a double asteroid in September and shift its orbit slightly around the larger asteroid. The European Space Agency (ESA) Hera mission You should start in 2024 and take measurements there.

Nuclear weapons as a last resort to fend off larger pieces

«This is called kinetic effect It is considered the most promising technology because we already have it,” says Moisel. The procedure depends on the advance warning time and the size of the object. “You see the last possibility in to use nuclear weaponsbecause this is the largest available amount of energy that can be deposited in an object in the shortest possible time.”

However, experts still see loopholes in asteroid monitoring. According to Koschny and Moissl, observations are still made almost exclusively from Earth. “In the future we will need space telescopes to have a better early warning system,” Moisel says. “We have to close the monitoring gaps.” Really big blocks aren’t the problem. “The things we all think we know,” Koschny says. “What is really a threat is the size range of 20 to 40 meters.” With an object 40 meters high above a larger city, you will have to evacuate – and in this size range, you know only a small percentage of potential candidates.

But people should not feel fear and anxiety right now. “I can rule out a danger to civilization for the time being.”, says Koschny. And Moissl doesn’t see anything serious coming down to Earth at the moment either. “I can actually sleep well right now.”

You may also be interested in: “It will hit Earth”: a hobby astronomer talks about the consequences of an asteroid hitting Earth.

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