The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Fund Asteroid Deflection Research!

            On July 30, 2015, a meteorite over two meters long landed in Qazvin, Iran, shattering windows and damaging buildings, luckily missing Tehran which is only 50 miles from Qazvin.[1]  Just two years earlier on February 15, 2013, a 20-meter-long meteorite landed in Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring more than 1,200 people and damaging more than 7,400 buildings, even though it landed in a relatively remote area.[2][3]  This meteorite had the brightness of 30 suns, causing many skin and retinal injuries.[4]  This 11,000-ton meteorite entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 40,000 miles per hour and crashed with the force of 30 to 40 Hiroshima bombs.  Dust from this impact remained in the Earth’s atmosphere for months.[5]  When the air-blast wave reached the ground, seismographs recorded it as a 2.7 magnitude earthquake.[6]  At the time, Russian officials called for international work to protect the Earth from future meteorite strikes.[7]  The most famous meteorite to arrive in the 20thCentury crashed in Tunguska, Russia on June 30, 1908.  This meteorite was estimated to be as large as 190 meters long, releasing 185 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.[8][9]  The resulting shock wave measured 5.0 on the Richter scale.  Fortunately, as this meteorite landed in remote Siberia, there were no recorded fatalities.  However, over 80 million trees were destroyed in 830 square miles of forest.[10] Some scientists say that this meteorite could have destroyed an entire metropolitan area.[11]  Although none of these meteorites were as large as the 7.5-mile-wide meteorite, whose impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, they suggest the potential for smaller but still devastating event. Astronomers currently believe that there are approximately 1,000 asteroids near our planet that are larger than one kilometer, a size that would result in “a global disaster.”[12]

            NASA and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab jointly created the mission DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) in 2016 to try to reduce the threat asteroids pose to Earth.  As its name suggests, this project’s goal is to deflect the path an asteroid using a kinetic impact.  In October 2022, the 500-kg spacecraft DART will crash into the asteroid Didymos B at a relative velocity of 13,000 miles per hour, transferring 9 billion Joules of its kinetic energy to the asteroid.  While this seems like a lot of energy, this impact will only change the speed of the 150 meter Didymos B asteroid by less than one percent. However, this slight decrease in speed is enough for telescopes on Earth to observe the impact.  If successful, the DART mission will be the first mission to deflect an asteroid by using a transfer of kinetic energy, paving the way for future research.[13][14]

            The data and graphs below confirm the consistent presence of meteorites landing on Earth over the last millennium and demonstrate the need to fund and conduct further research along the lines of the NASA/JHU APL DART project.

            Using a NASA database that tracks the mass, location, and date of meteorites since 860,[15] I created multiple maps to show the prevalence of meteorites.  On each of these maps, the size and color of each circle corresponds to the mass of the meteorite.  The larger the circle, the larger the mass.  The following legend indicates the mass of the meteorites represented by the color of each circle:

            This map plots the entire database of 31,705 meteorites.  It is clear from this map that meteorites fall throughout the planet. It is likely that the areas without any meteorites simply represent terrain that is too difficult to explore (Himalayan Mountains, Amazon Rainforest, Oceans, Antarctica). Conversely, it is interesting that areas like southern Africa and parts of South America, where there is extensive mining, show that many meteorites have been discovered there.  The wide distribution of these very large meteorites shows the possibility that a large, dangerous meteorite can land anywhere.

            In order to show greater detail, the map below shows all the meteorites that landed in North America.  This map shows the potential for a large meteorite to land in a largely populated area.

            The graphs below provide information about the dates of meteorites.  Note that in many cases, the dates represent when the meteorite was found, which may not necessarily be when the meteorite fell.  The following graph plots the mass and year of each meteorite in the respective ranges indicated.

            The following graph shows the number of meteorites in each year from 1959-2000.

            I showed these charts and maps to some of my friends and relatives, all of whom were surprised to see the extent of meteorite activity.  As they learned about the possible danger and prevalence of meteorites, they became more supportive of funding the ongoing research.

            Time for you to take action! Consider the damage that meteorites have caused since the beginning of the 20thCentury!  Look at the charts to show the consistent frequency with which meteorites crash towards Earth!  Examine the maps to see that no place is out of reach of a meteorite! Think of how much more devastating the damage would have been if the 1908 Tunguska meteorite had landed in Moscow or New York or London!  In the 21stCentury we are fortunate to be able to develop technology to locate, track, and possibly even deflect meteorites.  Everyone has a responsibility to support research to protect our Earth!  You must encourage your representatives to fund NASA’s research!  Spread the word about the need to fund scientific research! Share the information in this article with your friends and family to show them the prevalence and danger of meteorites!  Ask your friends to guess how many meteorites have fallen within 100 miles of their home and show them these graphs to convince them of the need to support and fund asteroid deflection research!

-Adam Kenet




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  1. April 27, 2018 by Alison Selman

    Very interesting article! I had no idea asteroids fall that often. I agree that government funding of research is very important!

  2. April 28, 2018 by Nakul.Bajaj

    Wow! I particularly love your data expressed in the form of a thermal graph layered on top of Google Maps. I also was not aware that meteorites fall enough to injure and destroy so many peoples’ environments, and am definitely interested in learning more about the issue.

  3. April 29, 2018 by Lauren

    Thanks for choosing such an important subject that isn’t talked about enough! Your graphs and maps conveyed your arguments excellently and were a wonderful supplement to the statistics presented in the written material. After exploring your page, I am now interested on what exactly can be done to prevent a catastrophic asteroid collision.

  4. April 29, 2018 by Esther Bedoyan

    I really like the one visual where you have the world map and the number/intensity of meteor landings on Earth. I thought it really did a good job of emphasizing how meteors can strike highly populated and familiar areas. Your visuals are also really thorough!

  5. April 29, 2018 by Naoya.Okamoto

    Loved the article! I always thought that asteroid landings were the stuff of sci-if films but I now realise how much of an impact that they could have on the places we live in

  6. April 29, 2018 by Jimmy Chen

    Very interesting article! Didn’t know there are that many. The graphs are great in helping us visualize.

  7. April 29, 2018 by Jason Chen

    Very cool article! I’m so impressed by your data analysis. I was surprised by the numerous asteroid landings.

  8. April 29, 2018 by Ananth J Josyula

    This is a unique presentation indeed. I would especially be eager to understand the steps that could be taken to reduce the impact of such a catastrophe.

  9. April 29, 2018 by Justin.Chen

    Asteroid landings are an extremely cool concept and your article fully exhibits that. Especially the map graphic, your article is amazing and thorough!

  10. April 29, 2018 by Melle.Koper

    Super interesting article, but kind of scary.

  11. April 30, 2018 by Huy Tran

    Very well-written. It definitely gave me some insights and goosebumps. The graphs and data plots are very creative.

  12. April 30, 2018 by Peter.Wess

    I like to learn about topics I know little about, and this was no exception. I had no idea there were so many meteorite landings, but as shown by the other graph, many are very small. I was curious as to how much the DART ship costs. I had also heard rumors about asteroids possibly being destroyed by missiles if it is coming straight toward earth. I was wondering if you knew anything about this as well.

  13. April 30, 2018 by Cole.Biafore

    I didn’t realize how active Meteors were given that over 3000 meteorites were found in 1979. It’s also really interesting that Meteorites became more active after 1973 but I wonder if thats because technology made observing them easier. You are definitely right about NASA Research. They do so much that is very useful to society and no one even realizes it and this article helps bring some justice to that problem.

  14. April 30, 2018 by BBracker

    The map makes it look like there aren’t many meteorites that land on the poles. Is that just because of the Mercator map projection causing size illusions and/or nobody being in those places to find them, or is that a real effect?

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