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The Effects of an Asteroid Impact

Many of us think that an asteroid impact can happen only in movies, such as “Armageddon”, “Lucifer’s Hammer”, “Deep Impact” and others. But did you know that every single day over 48 tons of debris falls into our planet’s atmosphere. In the 21st century, an asteroid striking the Earth is not just stuff of science fictions, it is a science fact. There are many proves of asteroids hitting our planet. There are obvious craters, which actually gave us the information about the most famous asteroid, which stroke the Earth 65 million years ago, which is also responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.

compare-asteroid-impact1The effects for the environment in case of an impact of a large asteroid depend on three important things – the prevailing climatic conditions, such as seasons, or stage of ice age; the characteristics of the asteroid, such as material composition, size, strength, trajectory, speed, mass and etc.; the characteristics of the impact site, such as latitude, land, types of rocks, ice or ocean and etc. As for the climate and atmosphere of our planet, a massive asteroid impact would create long-term changes. First of all, vaporized rocks and dirt would plug the atmosphere, blocking the light of the Sun, which for its part would create darkness and with the darkness – winter conditions. Once the particles settle in the atmosphere, greenhouse gases and released stores in the crater area would increase the temperatures. The duration of each of the phases would depend only on the size of the impact.

Scientists predicted that in 2028, an asteroid will come dangerously close to our planet but it won’t lean against it. But let’s imagine that the circumstances change and this asteroid actually hits the Earth. You would have an asteroid with width of 1 mile; drawing to Earth with a velocity of 30,000 mph. The amount of dust and debris thrown up into the atmosphere would block out the sunlight and make most living things on Earth rot. So, imagine an asteroid that big were to land in the ocean, it would cause massive tidal waves with height of a few hundred meters that would totally rub out the coastlines in the surrounding area. There is no doubt that an asteroid with sizes like these would make most of the life on our planet disappear.

Another serious and most importantly – dangerous effect, would be damage of the ozone layer, in case of an asteroid impact. The energy of the destructive object would cause a huge damage on the protective layer of ozone. This would lead to increasing the amount of ultraviolet light to the surface of our planet, which is more than dangerous. The consequences of this would be: affecting the growth of animals and plants; increasing global cancer rates; generic mutations and many others.

So, if you’re wondering with what to compare an asteroid impact, probably the closest answer would be – with a few hundred thousand atomic bombs blowing up all at once. In other words, if an asteroid with a diameter of at least 1 mile strikes, it would wipe out the population on Earth.

 

 

Asteroid/Comet Size (Meters)

Energy Released (Megatons TNT)Effects of Impact or Comparable Events
302Fireball, Shockwave, Minor Damage
5010Comparable to Largest Thermonuclear
Weapon in Existence
200600Destruction on a National Scale
50010,000Destruction on a European Scale
1,00080,000Global Effects, Many Millions Dead
5,00010 MillionGlobal Climate Change, Billions Dead
10,00080 MillionComplete Extinction of the Human Species

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

pics: schillerinstitute.com

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