Today is Asteroid Day

Artistic depiction of asteroid impacts - Asteroid day

The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program.
-Larry Niven

About 65 million years ago a 10 km-wide asteroid hit the Earth.
That day the poor dinosaurs roaming our planet witnessed the beginning of the end of their species.

The impact generated an explosion that released as much energy as one million atomic bombs and an earthquake comparable to all of the earthquakes that occurred globally in the last 160 years, raging at the same time.
As if this were not enough, dust and debris blasted off right after the impact and covered the entire Earth’s surface – they were so thick the world plunged in absolute darkness for hours.
The air became less and less breathable as soon as carbon dioxide and sulphur liberated from the surface filled the atmosphere – besides being toxic, these gases caused severe climate change, which contributed to the extinction of dinosaurs and many other creatures.

About 75% of life on Earth was wiped out: millions of years of evolution were destroyed in an instant.

Luckily enough, asteroids of this kind are very rare (65 million years went by, after all), however it doesn’t mean similar events cannot happen again.

NASA estimates that each million years Earth could encounter lots of asteroids capable of putting the entire planet’s population at risk.
In the meantime, every day 100 tonnes of small space rocks burn up in our atmosphere!

How do they know that? NASA made this nice video explaining how Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are detected.

Our ingenuity helped us build instruments to investigate what our senses cannot perceive. It is of utmost importance for our survival to keep track of potential threats coming from space – one day our telescopes could prevent us from sharing the dinosaurs’ fate.

To some people, space research can seem like a nerd’s pastime with no real advantages to everyday lives.

Other people say we should focus on the problems we’re facing on Earth’s surface before reaching for the sky.

I say we should do that as well, because I strongly believe we should respect and safeguard our lives any way we can.

If we disregard what’s happening above our heads we may not have enough time to take action against threats coming from the skies.
We don’t want to end up like the dinosaurs, do we?

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