My wife asked me why I hadn’t written an article on death from an asteroid as she held her fingers up in quote – unquote signs.
“Really?” I replied thinking she was kidding. One day I will learn not to think when conversing with my lovely wife.
“It’s happened before,” she huffed as she exited the room. I think she mumbled some other descriptive things about my intelligence or family roots or something, but I didn’t follow her to ask.
Besides being in hot water before downing my second cup of morning coffee, she had piqued my curiosity. Asteroid huh. The thing that killed off all those monstrous sized dinosaurs. Could it happen again? I decided to do a little research and what I discovered surprised me.
You don’t have to look very hard to find evidence that the possibility of earth being struck by an asteroid is real enough. On June 30, 1908, an asteroid struck the Tunguska region of Russia, completely devastating a nearby forested area, the size larger than the city itself. Had the asteroid hit the city, only a blackened twisted hole would have remained, as evidenced by the forest annihilation.
In 2013 an asteroid at 65 feet across (20 meters) exploded over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia. The energy released by the explosion, bear in mind it never actually hit the ground in tact, damaged buildings, blew out windows and injured 1500 people. The event was alarming, but fortunately not catastrophic, which it could have been should there have been an actual impact. Perhaps the scariest matter is nobody saw it coming. Sophisticated radar capable of spotting missiles or enemy aircraft were totally oblivious to this 65 foot across object hurling down from the sky. When question about the failure one official was quoted as saying “What good would it have done? There wasn’t time to escape.” That too is scary.
No Luck except Bad Luck
Dinosaurs may have been the most unlucky creatures to ever roam the planet. There’s little to no doubt the asteroid that struck the Yucatan Peninsula, creating the Chicxulub crater, 66 million years ago, brought about conditions that resulted in the extinction of the dinosaur and nearly three-quarters of all life on Earth. The asteroid was colossal, measuring 7.5 miles across (3657 meters) traveling at supersonic speeds with nearly enough energy to tilt the Earth’s axis. The impact resulted in the upheaval of enough sediment and other airborne substances, soot and hydrocarbons to chill the planet by the average of 14 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit, yet new studies show had the asteroid hit anywhere else on earth except where it did, humans would not exist.
Scientists have often questioned why other huge asteroid strikes, one in the Chesapeake Bay and one in western Bavaria in Germany, caused no mass extinction episode. The evidence is there, based on the actual crater sizes and fossil remains, that the asteroid(s) strikes should have created similar results as the Chicxulub strike, but they didn’t.
When the asteroid, which was at half the diameter and half the length of Manhattan, struck the coast of Mexico, it slammed into a rich source of sulfur and hydrocarbons, or organic fossil fuels. This resulted in the ignition of these fuels which burned at scorching hot temperatures. This combustion would have spewed soot and sulfur into the atmosphere in sufficient quantities to blot out the sun, changing the climate and setting into motion the collapse of an entire ecosystem, and extinction of three-quarters of all species on Earth.
Location, Location, Location
We often hear this phrase when dealing with real estate values, little did I expect to be comparing it to the very existence of mankind. Researchers at the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan created a map that reflected the measurements of sedimentary rocks and organic compounds, of earth 66 million years ago. They then recreated sample asteroid strikes in various parts of the world to see where these conditions existed that would eject hydrocarbons in the quantity required to cause climate cooling and catastrophic extinction levels.
The results were perhaps, surprising. Only 13% of Earth’s surface is made up of the combination of rocks required to burn off enough soot to affect climate change. In other words had the asteroid had hit anywhere in the remaining 87% of the Earth’s surface, dinosaurs would most likely still be roaming the globe. Good for them … bad for us. Mankind could have never evolved while competing with dinosaurs for supremacy.
Death From the Sky – an Asteroid
Little did I expect that by the time I finished my pot of coffee I’d be considering thanking an asteroid for me being here instead of fearing it’ll kill me. Obviously, I kinda veered off course during my research, but the research I did on the possibility of another life extinction asteroid collision netted little real results.
Has it happened before? Yes.
Will it happen again? Probably.
Do we know when? No.
I kinda knew those answers before opening a book. In summation, I’m more afraid of what my loving wife will do to me when she reads this article, than how an asteroid will effect me.