According to physicist and former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, the Earth has been hit by “26 multi-kiloton explosions since 2001, all of which are due to asteroid impacts.”
This evidence — gathered by the asteroid-hunting B612 Foundation — demonstrates that “asteroid impacts are not rare, but actually 3-10 times more common than we previously thought.”
Just last week over the Russian city of Murmansk, a fireball came screaming across the sky around 2:10 a.m. local time:
Russian astronomers believe it was an early arrival from the annual Lyrid meteor shower, but its sudden and unexpected appearance underscores Lu’s point: “The only thing preventing a catastrophe from a ‘city-killer’ sized asteroid is blind luck.”
Lu and fellow former astronauts Bill Anders and Tom Jones will make a presentation on Earth Day tomorrow, in which they will endorse the construction of a sophisticated asteroid warning system around the Sentinel Infrared Space Telescope (SIST).
The SIST will be launched on a privately funded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in 2019, and will scan the solar system via infrared wavelengths to identify the trajectory of any near-Earth objects larger than 500 feet. The team hopes it will discover many currently undetectable near-Earth objects that could pose a threat to the planet.
The potential risk to the planet posed by impacts was magnified by the arrival of a near-Earth object in the skies above Chelyabinsk, Russia in February of last year.
The resulting explosion had a power nearly 20 to 30 times that of the atom bomb detonated over Hiroshima, and many scientists consider it fortunate that only 1,500 people were injured by the blast.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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