Wednesday 7 December 2016

Earth 'long overdue' asteroid impact that could cause massive annihilation

Published 29/01/2016 | 02:30

A Nasa image of an asteroid hitting Earth 65 million years ago in the Caribbean region, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs. REUTERS
A Nasa image of an asteroid hitting Earth 65 million years ago in the Caribbean region, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs. REUTERS

The Earth is "long overdue" an asteroid impact which could cause massive destruction or annihilation.

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An astronomy conference 'Beyond Earth: Dangers from the Cosmos' will hear from a range of scientists and astronomers in Galway tomorrow. Organiser Brian MacGabhann has warned the planet is facing several "very real dangers".

He said that, while very large asteroids are being monitored, smaller asteroids which could cause massive tsunamis or wipe out cities are not.

He warned it is only a matter of time before one of these smaller asteroids hits Earth.

"The Earth has been bombarded by asteroids -traditionally, it occurs every 2,500 years," he said. "Our last event was around one million years ago, so we are long overdue."

Mr MacGabhann said monitoring of large asteroids, considered 'planet killers', is taking place, with around 97pc tracked. These pose "no imminent threat".

The greater threat is from smaller asteroids, similar to the Chelyabinsk meteor which hit Russia in 2013.

"We don't have any proper monitoring of these. They are relatively small and difficult to track but the results could be very serious," he said.

"The fact is we will be hit - there is no question - it's just a matter of when it happens."

While smaller asteroids would not eradicate life, they would cause major damage.

"If it were to land in the middle of Europe it would wipe out cities, or if it hit the Atlantic it would cause a tsunami larger than anything we've ever seen," he added. "It's very difficult to find a place on Earth that it would not do major damage if it hit."

He said we have the technology to deflect such asteroids if we get enough warning - around a decade.

For information, see www.galwayastronomyclub.ie.

Irish Independent

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