A global network that listens for nuclear weapons detonations
detected 26 asteroids that exploded in Earth's atmosphere from 2000
to 2013, data collected by the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
The explosions include the February 15, 2013, impact over
Chelyabinsk, Russia, which left more than 1,000 people injured by
flying glass and debris.
"There is a popular misconception that asteroid impacts are
extraordinarily rare ... that's incorrect," said former astronaut Ed
Lu, who now heads the California-based B612 Foundation.
The foundation on Tuesday released a video visualization of the
asteroid strikes in an attempt to raise public awareness of the
Asteroids as small as about 131 feet — less than half the size of an
American football field — have the potential to level a city, Lu
told reporters on a conference call
"Picture a large apartment building — moving at Mach 50," Lu said.
Mach 50 is 50 times the speed of sound, or roughly 38,000 mph.
NASA already has a program in place that tracks asteroids larger
than 0.65 mile. An object of this size, roughly equivalent to a
small mountain, would have global consequences if it struck Earth.
An asteroid about 6 miles in diameter hit Earth some 65 million
years ago, triggering climate changes that are believed to have
caused the dinosaurs — and most other life on Earth at the time — to
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"Chelyabinsk taught us that asteroids of even 20-meter (66-foot)
size can have substantial effect," Lu said.
City-killer asteroids are forecast to strike about once every 100
years, but the prediction is not based on hard evidence.
B612 intends to address that issue with a privately funded, infrared
space telescope called Sentinel that will be tasked to find
potentially dangerous asteroids near Earth. The telescope, which
will cost about $250 million, is targeted for launch in 2018.
B612 takes its name from the fictional planet in the book "The
Little Prince," by French author and aviator Antoine de
The video can be seen on the B612 Foundation website:
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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