Whew! THAT was close!
Okay, so how much danger were we REALLY in?
Well first of all, the asteroid that grazed Earth’s scalp – ALSO on the 15th of February – was apparently a monumental FLUKE. It had nothing to DO with the meteorite at all.
NASA and others say the asteroid came from a completely different DIRECTION to the meteorite and was utterly unrelated.
(If it passes us, it is considered to be an asteroid, but if it lands, it is a meteorite. Unless it EXPLODES on contact with our atmosphere, in which case it was an asteroid. But if solid bits of the asteroid fall to earth, they are meteorites – got it? If so, you are wiser than me).
But TWO significant events in just fifteen hours – does the Universe have something AGAINST us?!
It might appear so. But the lump of space crap that HIT us was a lot smaller than the one that passed us with 17,000 miles to spare. And THAT was a lot smaller than the one that hit Tunguska in 1908. Which was a HELL of a lot smaller than the one that is thought to have hit the Yucatán Peninsula 66 MILLION years ago (give or take a year).
So let us put these events into perspective.
The Yucatán asteroid/meteorite has been estimated at 6-9 miles wide, with an energy release of 100 million, million tons (teratons) of TNT (which is around 6,ooo MILLION times the size of the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima) which wiped out most of the life on Earth.
But fear not – they do not happen often (although it could happen before I finish typing thi
Kidding – but they ARE rare.
On the other hand, events like Tunguska happen once every hundred years or so. But the chances these space-bombs will even land on LAND are only thirty percent – and the chances of them landing on a heavily populated area are way smaller than that.
The Tunguska object was probably about 300 feet wide, with an energy release in the neighbourhood of 10-15 million tons (megatons) of TNT.
And that is a VERY tough neighbourhood – had it fallen onto Piccadilly Circus, it would have LEVELLED London, out to the M25.
But Tunguska was REMOTE – there were few witnesses to the event and it took YEARS for serious scientists to even REACH it.
And upon finding no debris, they decided it had exploded, an estimated 5-10 miles up. But it felled an estimated 80 million trees (the fall pattern, when fed into a computer, revealed the altitude of the explosion).
Then again, in 1945 the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not so lucky. The nuclear bombs that fell on them were detonated at just 2,000 and 1,500 FEET. Thus, despite their yield being a mere 16,000 and 21,000 tons (kilotons) of TNT, the effect was catastrophic.
But back to NATURAL disasters: the extra-terrestrial body that missed us by just 17,000 miles had a diameter of around 130 feet – say the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
This was less than half the size of Tunguska’s one, but had it BELTED us, it would have left its mark. 2-3 MEGATONS-worth, in fact.
Which brings us to the Earthly event. The fiery terror that streaked over Russia exploded at an estimated height of 25 miles – a lot higher than Tunguska – and at just 45 feet across, it was merely the size of a branch of McDonalds.
But if THAT had impacted, it would STILL have had the clout of 3 to 500 kilotons – TWENTY-FIVE TIMES Hiroshima.
However, Russia’s luck was in. The concussion from the explosion blew out many hundreds of windows – right into the faces of those who had rushed towards them, to see what the bright light in the sky was.
Some thousand souls were injured – and if I had been there, I would have doubtless been one of them. Lesson learned for the future: a bright light outside means a shock-wave several seconds later.
Anyhoo, apart from those unfortunates (and the owner of an old factory whose wall collapsed – although whether from the shock-wave or a bit of space-crap, we will probably never know) injuries were minor.
And Russia’s security cameras and ubiquitous dash-cams (have you SEEN the footage from those?) caught the spectacle quite well.
And this being the age of the equally-ubiquitous Interweb, it did not take long for the highlights to make it to air. Here is a nosegay… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90Omh7_I8vI
It is from RT. (Russia Today – not Radio Times). They are a bit wanky, but their pictures are clear.
Go fullscreen and 1080 high def and enjoy the nearest thing to “War Of The Worlds” that you will ever see – for REAL!