It’s often disregarded that all of life exists on a massive rock 12, 714 km wide zipping through space at 30 km per second. All around the Earth day and night is the endless bounds of space stretching off into infinity in every direction. While the majority of space is empty, a lot of it contains similarly large masses that come dangerously close to Earth all the time. Fortunately, no massive meteors have completely abolished the planet- yet. Here is a video that serves of the reminder of the reality we live in, one that lies in the face of danger every second.
While the majority of encounters are completely harmless to life, there is still an estimated 3,000 meteors that impact the ground yearly. However, every few million years a massive meteor strikes the ground. In history, these meteorites have decimated the land, causing massive craters over 100 km wide. The biggest of which, known as the Vredefort Dome or Vredefort crater impacted the Earth at an estimated 2 billion years ago. The crater spans across an estimated 190 kilometers, marking it as the largest known impact structure on the planet. It is now largely accepted that these monstrous impacts lead to the extinction of millions of species, including the dinosaurs.
What can be done to stop it?
Fortunately, NASA and other space agencies around the world are collaborating on methods to safely divert the meteors before they impact. Unfortuanlty, it is not as simple as sending a nuke into space to blast it to smithereens. Doing so would result in a shower of meteors that could prove more deadly than one large one, not to mention it would be a hail of radioactive material, obviously an unpleasant scenario.
Other methods include building massive satellites to orbit beside the meteor to deflect it slightly off course. Just a fraction of a degree is enough to deflect it enough to miss the Earth. However, should the meteor approach dangerously close, or the satellite misses target, NASA is developing a massive laser to partially melt the meteor and push it away from an Earth-bound trajectory.
Till the systems are tested, though, it is largely unknown whether these defense mechanisms will work. There are thousands of meteors on NASA’s danger list and likely thousands more that have yet to be detected. It is not the size of the meteor that makes the difference, it is its density and speed. Therefore it is becoming increasingly imperative that humanity collaborates before the next big one arrives. Until then, everyone will continue to aimlessly float through the dangers of space, unaware of the impending doom.