The impact that meteorites and asteroids have had on the universe, both positive and negative



. 4 min read


An impact by a meteorite takes place when a stony, metallic (usually iron), or frozen body that had been circling the Sun crashes into the surface of the Earth after travelling through the atmosphere.

Meteors, on the other hand, are similar objects that are sufficiently small that they are entirely vaporized or burn up in the atmosphere rather than crashing into the surface of the Earth.

Craters are left behind by more significant impacts, and the most significant impacts induce changes on a global scale to the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere.

Meteorites provide astronomers and geologists with crucial information regarding the make-up, age, and history of the early solar system.

The great majority of meteorites are relatively small, with some being little bigger than a pebble, and as a result, their impact on the Earth's system is negligible.

The effects of meteorite impacts are contingent on the make-up of the impactor as well as the path it took upon entering the atmosphere.

Large asteroids (>200 meters in diameter for rocky composition and >50 metres in diameter for iron composition) that have a high impact energy are slowed down very little by the atmosphere and create large craters upon impact with a velocity of several kilometers per second (the typical impact velocity before entering the atmosphere is 18 kilometers per second).

In the case of smaller objects, the formation of a crater, a strewn field of several smaller craters, or the body of the object disintegrating in the atmosphere and producing a powerful blast wave takes place depending on the material composition of the object (iron or rock), as well as the energy of the object.

A number of the meteorites that were discovered on Earth have been traced back to their points of origin, which have been determined to be the Moon and even Mars in certain cases.

These meteorites are extremely valuable to us because they enable us to investigate the topographies of the Moon and Mars without the need to dispatch a trip to either of those locations and bring back samples.

In the past, some NASA experts were under the impression that they discovered evidence of ancient life forms in a meteorite that originated from Mars.

However, despite the fact that this result is still up for debate, it is no longer largely accepted within the astronomical community.

Even though there has been a more recent report regarding possible signs of life in a separate Martian meteorite, it is deemed highly unlikely that this information is accurate.

What would happen if the worst-case scenario played out, in which an asteroid collides with Earth?

The impact of an asteroid on Earth would cause dust and smoke to rise into the atmosphere, which would block the sun's rays from reaching our planet, resulting in a decrease in the average temperature.

This occurrence has the potential to result in the demise of a great number of living beings. If an apartment-sized asteroid were to crash into the Earth, the force of the impact would be enough to wipe out a sizable metropolis.

If an asteroid the size of a skyscraper with 20 storeys crashes onto Earth, the force of the impact might entirely level a small country.

It is highly vital, while trying to estimate the harm that will be caused to humanity, to determine where the asteroid will make impact. There are still many parts of the continents that are unoccupied, and the oceans encompass a significant portion of our world.

This leads us to the conclusion, at least at first appearance, that the chance of a fatality being caused by an asteroid impact is quite tiny.

On the other hand, if the asteroid were to crash into the water, it would likely cause the formation of enormous waves in the area surrounding the impact site, waves that would be capable of reaching coastal communities.

If the asteroid were to strike a landmass, in addition to producing a major shock wave, it would also unleash enormous quantities of particles into the atmosphere. This would result in severe harm to the ecosystem on a worldwide scale as well as the extinction of many species.

It is common knowledge that the impact of huge asteroids will cause widespread devastation no matter where they come to rest.

Chelyabinsk was an asteroid that exploded in the middle of the sky.

On February 15, 2013, a small asteroid estimated to be 65 feet (20 meters) in size broke the surface of the earth and entered the atmosphere.

When it collided with the protective blanket of air that surrounds our planet, which was travelling at around 19 kilometers per second (about 12 miles per second), the blanket of air did its job and caused the asteroid to explode.

The dazzling and intense explosion occurred only around 20 miles (30 km) above the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia. It carried 20 to 30 times the energy of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Its shock wave shattered windows and brought down sections of buildings in six different Russian cities. Additionally, it caused approximately 1,500 people to seek medical attention for injuries, the most of which were caused by flying glass.

The Russian super bolide that occurred on February 15, 2013, was very powerful; in fact, it was the most powerful explosion triggered by an asteroid since the Tunguska event in 1908.

In 1908, the Tunguska catastrophe wiped out a large section of Siberian woodland and caused the extinction of reindeer in that region.

NASA's asteroid-hunting efforts were combined into a new programme called the Planetary Defense Coordination Office last year. This organization identifies and tracks new asteroids and will send warnings about potential impacts.

It has allocated $50 million from its budget for the current fiscal year towards the surveillance of asteroids that are close to Earth and the defense of the planet.

But if we are unable to do anything about the problem, all of this effort to locate asteroids and go to them would be for naught.

There are a few different strategies to prevent an asteroid from destroying Earth. Either we can try to destroy the asteroid before it has a chance to destroy us by pushing it out of the way, which is effectively utilizing celestial mechanics to ensure that it won't be dragged in by Earth's gravity, or we can try to move it out of the way using celestial mechanics.

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