Asteroid Strikes Could Be More Common Than Originally Thought

Experts at first labeled the Chelyabinsk asteroid a rare event, explaining that the event could happen once every 100 to 200 years on average. However, a team of scientists suggests now that the Earth is vulnerable to many similar space rocks.

Peter G. Brown, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario and an author of the two studies, explained that the prospect of more Chelyabinsk sized asteroids really makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

The findings could result in more talk about planetary defense, including identifying and deflecting dangerous asteroids. Yahoo! News notes that meteors about the size of the one in Chelyabinsk are about four, five, or even seven times more likely to hit the Earth than scientists believed before.

NASA scientist Paul Chodas explained at a news conference that that means about 20 million space rocks the size of the one in Russia could be traveling through the solar system. Until February’s scary incident, NASA only searched for space rocks 100 feet wide and larger, believing there was little danger with smaller asteroids.

However, the Chelyabinsk meteor was only 60 feet across, yet managed to explode with the force of 40 Hiroshima-type atom bombs. In the recently released studies, Dr. Brown and his colleagues discovered that about 60 asteroid explosions happened in the past 50 years.

While most of the explosions came from smaller asteroids, the data suggested the somewhat larger ones impacted more frequently than expected based on sky survey estimates.