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Are asteroid collisions more common than we think?


According to new research, Earth is impacted by asteroids much more regularly than previous studies have led us to believe. The recent study was carried out by the B612 Foundation of former NASA astronauts and it found that 26 major explosions of up to 600 kilotons of power occurred between 2000 and 2013. These were thought to have been from asteroids. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in the Second World War was only 15 kilotons by comparison.

Luckily, the majority of these ‘impacts’ were hardly felt on Earth as most of the space rock burned up in the atmosphere. An example of one of these strikes was the one spotted near Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013. This is one of the few instances where they have been seen over land rather than over oceans.

The foundation collected its data from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) who record asteroid strikes using bomb detection technology. As well as the 26 asteroids, the data suggests that Earth could be hit by a giant multi-megaton asteroid once every hundred years.

In response, B612 is developing a Sentinel satellite that will track large asteroids that are destined for Earth. Further information on the foundation can be found here.

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The location of some of the discovered asteroid strikes.

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A visualisation of an asteroid heading past the moon and toward Earth.

253 Mathilde which is around 50 kilometres (31 miles) in diameter.