Sixty-five million years ago, a Manhattan-size meteorite traveling through space at about 11 kilometers per second punched through the sky before hitting the ground near what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. The energy released by the impact poured into the atmosphere, heating Earth’s surface. Then the dust lofted by this impact blocked out the sun, bringing years of wintry conditions everywhere, wiping out many terrestrial species, including the nonfeathered dinosaurs. Birds and mammals thus owe their ascendancy to the intersection of two orbits: that of Earth and that of a devastating visitor from deep space.
We humans need not wait, like dinosaurs, for the next big rock to drop.
From a good piece in IEEE Spectrum analyzing the various methods available to deflect asteroids. Tyler and I have a special interest in this since we discuss asteroid deflection as a public good–a public good that as of yet neither private firms nor governments provide–in Modern Principles.
With better and more complete telescope coverage we are learning that there are a lot more near-misses than we previously thought. As the public becomes more aware of the dangers, I hope that we will see more action on this front.
Hat tip: The Browser.