Keeping an Eye on Space Rocks
Part II: Size Matters
Artist concept of Earth being hit by particles spacer Artist concept of a large object approaching Earth spacer Artist concept of a large impact spacer Artist concept of a large impact
Artist's concept of Earth being bombarded with particles. Artist's concept of an object approaching Earth . Artist's concept of large impact. Artist's concept of large impact hitting the Earth .

Click image for larger view of Crater map which shows New Quebec, Mistatin lake, Meteror Crater, Manicouagon, Yucaton Peninsula, Iturralde, Aurounga, Bosumtwi, Rotter Kamm, Wolf Creek, and Goat Paddock
Map shows some impact craters on Earth
Every day, Earth is bombarded with more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles.

About once a year, an automobile-sized asteroid hits Earths atmosphere, creates an impressive fireball, and burns up before reaching the surface.

Every two thousand years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area.

Finally, only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earths civilization comes along. Impact craters on Earth, the Moon and other planetary bodies are evidence of these occurrences.

How Big?

Asteroid large enough to have worldwide effects
An object the size of a very large bridge could have worldwide effects.
Space rocks smaller than about 25 meters will most likely burn up as they enter the Earth's atmosphere and cause little or no damage.

If a rocky meteoroid larger than 25 meters but smaller than a kilometer were to hit Earth, it would likely cause local or regional damage to the impact area.

We believe anything larger than 1-2 kilometers could have worldwide effects. At 5.4 kilometers in diameter, the largest known potentially hazardous asteroid is Toutatis.

By comparison, asteroids that populate the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and pose no threat to Earth, can be as big as 940 kilometers (about 583 miles) across.


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