Scientists have created ‘asteroid day’ to draw attention to the risk of cataclysmic space rock. But are they really more dangerous than falling trees?
The End. Finis. Kaput. We grapple with peril, but the threats that frighten us – terrorism, epidemics, earthquakes – are not existential; none are capable of killing everyone, everywhere. An asteroid impact, on the other hand, could render us extinct.
Sixty-six million years ago, the Chicxulub asteroid killed off the dinosaurs. The Tunguska asteroid, which struck Siberia in 1908, destroyed 800 square miles. Estimates suggest that a Tunguska-sized asteroid will strike every 500 years; a one-kilometre object, capable of global catastrophe, every 700,000 years.
The possibility of avoiding cataclysm has inspired the people behind Asteroid Day, supported by an array of scientists, astronauts and media personalities.