A devastating asteroid that could ‘wipe out’ human civilisation is ‘only a matter of time’ away – according to a leading astrophysicist.
Dr Alan Fitzsimmons said there is ‘nothing we can do’ to stop an asteroid hitting Earth, adding the impact would be ‘catastrophic’.
Astronomers are reportedly tracking nearly 2,000 asteroids, comets and other objects that pose a threat to Earth, with new ones found daily.
On June 30, 1908, an explosion ripped through the air above a remote forest in Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river, the BBC writes.
The fireball was believed to have been around 50-100m wide, flattening about 80 million trees.
Dr Fitzsimmons, who works at the Queen’s University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre, has warned a similar unexpected strike today could easily destroy a major city and a larger asteroid could be apocalyptic.
And he said it is a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ an asteroid will strike again.
It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting near-Earth asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them.
Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found.
Astronomers find near-Earth asteroids every day and most are harmless. But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise.
Although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them.
If an asteroid hit the ocean, a strike would trigger huge tsunamis that would devastate entire coastlines, with survivors likely to be ‘fried by UV radiation’ as seawater blasted into the atmosphere destroys the ozone layer. Lovely stuff.
Dr Fitzsimmons is a member of the NEOshield-2 project – a study on how to deflect dangerous asteroids which is funded by the European Research Council.
He will be joined by Professor Brian Cox, along with astronauts Rusty Schweickart and Nicole Stott at a global event to mark the anniversary of the asteroid which hit Siberia next Friday…
If we make it that far…