April 23, 2014
Nuclear Bomb Sized Asteroid Explosions Hit Earth Every Year

The B612 Foundation (which attempts to build public support for defenses against killer asteroids) has released a report claiming that asteroids with nuclear bomb level of explosive force hit the Earth's atmosphere every year.

...between 2000 and 2013 some 26 explosions on Earth ranging in energy from 1 to 600 kilotons were caused by asteroids.

To put that in perspective, the Little Boy nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima had 16 kilotons of explosive force (or possibly 15 kt with the Nagasaki bomb at about 21 kt..

The Chelyabinsk asteroid was many times larger than the nuclear bombs that ended World War II.

The Earth is continuously colliding with fragments of asteroids, the largest in recent times exploding over Tunguska, Siberia in 1908 with an energy impact of 5-15 megatons. More recently, we witnessed the 600-kiloton impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013, and asteroid impacts greater than 20 kilotons occurred in South Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2009, in the Southern Ocean in 2004, and in the Mediterranean Sea in 2002. Important to note as well is the fact that none of these asteroids were detected or tracked in advance by any existing space-based or terrestrial observatory.

But luckily the asteroid above Chelyabinsk exploded at about 18 miles (29.7 km) high. By contrast, the 1908 Tunguska event asteroid exploded at about 5-10 km and had a similar or larger size than the Chelyabinsk asteroid.

The B612 folks say the recent asteroids exploded too high up in the atmosphere to cause damage. Watch their video:

Count me in with the people who say we ought to build asteroid defenses.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 April 23 08:42 PM 

Matt said at April 24, 2014 3:45 AM:

How does one deflect an asteroid? Giant orbital rail gun?

Engineer-Poet said at April 25, 2014 5:20 AM:

Nuclear impulse drive, gravity tractor, kinetic impactor... all sorts of ways.

I like the idea of planting a low-thrust drive on the rock to adjust the trajectory just enough to do a Moon swingby for eventual capture.

Mike Street Station said at April 25, 2014 7:16 AM:

Asteroid defense is probably the best insurance policy the Earth could invest in. And by Earth of course I mean the US. The potential payoff of saving cities, lives, and maybe even civilization is worth far more than just going to Mars to plant the flag.

Brett Bellmore said at April 25, 2014 2:01 PM:

A nation which can't be bothered to harden it's electrical infrastructure against coronal mass ejections isn't going to build an asteroid defense system. Our political system is broken, it does not permit any but the very shortest return investments, and most 'investments' it does make are nothing of the sort.

We can only hope that private industry will develop the means to divert asteroids before the necessity arises. As for the CME problem, that's a difficult one, power generation and distribution not really being a private industry anymore, the political problem seems unavoidable.

David Friedman said at April 26, 2014 11:49 PM:

If you can spot the dangerous asteroid early and plot its path, a gentle shove should deflect it enough to miss.

Joshua Manne said at May 10, 2014 8:10 AM:

This is part of global warming, since a warmer atmosphere is less dense and provides less resistance to a falling rock. Deniers have a lot to answer for.

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