Saturday is International Asteroid Day, the day the space community sets aside to remind humanity that asteroids are always hurtling directly towards us, and at any moment one of them could hit the Earth and wipe out mankind forever.
In honor of the event, here, now, are a few facts about asteroids you may not have known.
There’s A Big Honkin’ Headed Towards Us? Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me?
Because it’s not going to hit us — but it’s still pretty cool. Rare is the asteroid that you can see with your naked eye, and this is one of them.
Vesta is such a big asteroid that it’s actually been given the designation “proto-planet,” according to Fatherly. And it’s going to be closer to the Earth this July than it’s been in centuries. In fact, so close that you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye. Of course, it would be better to use a telescope.
If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, look just a twinge higher in the sky above Saturn. If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, find the constellation Sagittarius, and look for the “teapot” on the western side. Vesta will be right there.
A much, much better explanation, complete with coordinates and such, can be found via Sky & Telescope.
Why Is International Asteroid Day On June 30?
Not for a good reason, that’s for sure.
It was on June 30, 1908, that an asteroid hit the Earth in possibly the largest and most destructive asteroid impact in human history. On that day, a meteoroid (that’s what asteroids are called when they enter the atmosphere) exploded in the air about 3-6 miles over Tunguska, in far western Siberia. The force of the impact is estimated to be roughly equivalent to 1,000 of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.
Fortunately, the object struck a sparsely populated and remote region of Siberia, and is not believed to have caused any human casualties. Had it exploded over, say, London or Moscow, the human death toll would likely have been in the millions, if not the tens of millions.
That’s Terrifying! So What Can Be Done About An Asteroid On A Collision Course With Earth?
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
About all the space community can do at this time is watch the skies and hope — hope — they’ve identified and are able to track them. Fortunately this week, as reported by the Inquisitr, NASA launched a five-fold plan just in case an asteroid gets knocked out of its orbit and starts heading this way.
Fortunately, as of this writing, no asteroids are known to currently pose a threat to the Earth.