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Asteroids are a class of planetoids found in the Solar System. They are typically lumps of icy-rock that range in size from the size of a pebble to over 1000km in diameter. Though some have been found within Earth’s orbit most are contained within the asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter. Some astronomical theorists claim they are shattered remnants of planets such the one that was struck by Niburu in antiquity.
The first asteroid to be discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801. This was followed by the discovery of other similar bodies, which with the equipment of the time appeared to be points of light, like stars, showing little or no planetary disc, though readily distinguishable from stars due to their apparent motions. This prompted the astronomer Sir William Herschel to propose the term “asteroid”, taken from the Greek word mean ‘star-like´ or ´star-shaped.’
Whilst the odds of an asteroid hitting Earth are around a 1 in a 1000 chance to a 1 in a 250,000, such a collision would cause widespread devastation and possible mass extinction. The greatest threat is posed by an asteroid called Apophis which has been calculated will enter the Earth´s orbit around 2036. Another asteroid that offers potential danger was spotted in 1999, but will not reach our planet until 2182. Scientists say that if action is taken at least one hundred years beforehand, it is possible we could divert the danger.
Though the threat of Earth suffering a devastating impact from an asteroid holds an outside chance, scientists suggest it would not be the first time Earth has suffered an apocalyptic catastrophe at the hands of celestial objects. An asteroid impact over 65 million years ago that caused the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan Peninsula in the south of Mexico is widely believed to have caused the extinction of dinosaurs.
The impact of the asteroid that caused Chicxulub had an estimated diameter of 10 km (6.2 mi) and delivered an estimated 96 teratons of TNT. To give you an idea of the scale, the the most powerful man-made explosive device ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba, had a yield of only 50 megatons of TNT. In other words the Chicxulub asteroid was almost 2 million times more powerful.
If an asteroid was to hit Earth, the impact would cause mega-tsunamis reaching thousands of feet in the air. A cloud of super-heated dust and ash would spread with hyper-boiling steam causing catastrophic environmental changes that would mostly likely wipe out 70% of all species. Some species wouldn´t survive the blast whatsoever. It would also cause colossal shock waves which would most likely trigger global earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The fallout of dust and other particles would last for several years, perhaps even blocking out the light from the sun causing almost perpetual darkness and causing the land to freeze over. Living conditions would be ultra-tough and the chances of survivors that escaped the blast would most likely succumb to extreme weather conditions and lack of food. Animals would not survive and the lack of sunlight would interrupt photosynthesis that plants need to grow.
Though Nostradamus does make reference to fires in the sky and rocks with tails, it is only the interpretation of scholars that suggest he is referring to asteroids. According to the current scientific community, Earth is a long way off the threat of an asteroid collision.
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