title: Asteroid Impact
Asteroid impact - frequently asked questions

 

 

 

What is an asteroid?

Asteroids are material left over from the formation of the solar system. They can be rocky or metallic and range in size from 1000km to small pebbles. Most asteroids orbit the sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. Due to collisions in this main belt, large asteroids are constantly being broken into smaller fragments that may cross the earth's path. These are called Near Earth Asteroids (NEA).
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When is the next impact?

The probabilties can only tell us the chance of an event happening in any one year. It cannot tell us when that event will actually happen. We think the last 1-2km asteroid impact was 3 million years ago, yet the probability is one every 100 thousand to a million years. Maybe there is one coming soon?

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Will an impact cause millions of deaths?

The hazard caused by an impact depends on many factors. We have looked at the effects of the asteroid's size but it also depends on the material it is made up of and also the location that is hits the earth. In 1908, an asteroid estimated to be about 50m in size exploded in the air over Siberia. It was a remote region and so no humans were killed even though it caused widespread damage to the area. The same asteroid exploding over Moscow would have caused thousands of casualties.

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How could an asteroid kill the dinosaurs?


About 65 million years ago, a massive asteroid hit Mexico. It caused an enormous explosion and threw up millions of tonnes of debris into the atmosphere. This blocked out the sun for many years which cooled the earth and killed most of the vegetation. The dinosaurs could not survive in these conditions. Some plants, insects and a small group of tiny mouse-like animals called mammals survived and they now populate the planet. Humans are evolved from these first mammals.

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Can I get insurance cover?

Yes, the The First Collision & Casualty Insurance Company (USA) have a policy that will pay up to $10million dollars if you are struck by an asteroid (assuming you are still around to claim). They can also offer Alien Abduction insurance.

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