There are millions of asteroids and comets hurtling through space, but only a relatively few are at any given moment on a collision course with Earth. But there is one, Asteroid 1950 DA, that, if it collides with our world, will completely obliterate life on the entire planet.
The Daily Star reported Aug. 15 that a "city killer"-sized asteroid (any object that measures at least 50 meters -- almost 165 feet -- in diameter) is headed toward Earth at an astounding rate of speed. In fact, Asteroid 1950 DA is 1,000 meters wide (over .62 miles wide) and capable of impacting the Earth with far greater destructive force than the smallest "city killer." Traveling at 40,000 miles per hour, the potential impact could possibly result in not only a massive explosive force but also, if it hit deep waters, cause huge tsunamis that would literally inundate entire cities.
That would make it a cities killer, immeasurably worse than a meteor or asteroid that takes out a single city...
Asteroid 1950 DA is an anomaly, an asteroid that should have broken apart as it moves through space, becoming less dangerous as it approaches its intersection point with the Earth. However, due to van der Waals forces, an attractive -- or sometimes repulsive -- force reached between molecules, the giant asteroid is remaining intact.
As researcher Ben Rozitis from the University of Tennessee explained: “We found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the break-up limit for its density. So if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together it would fly apart."
Rozitis noted that the February 2013 asteroid impact in Russia, the Chelyabinsk meteor, sparked a renewed interest in figuring out how to meet the challenges of a potentially catastrophic asteroid impact. "Understanding what holds these asteroids together can inform strategies to guard against future impacts," he added.
At present, the best defense mankind has against a doomsday asteroid like 1950 DA is prayer. And that is not a facetious comment; it was an actual statement from NASA's own chief, Charles Bolden, to a congressional hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee looking into efforts to thwart a possible asteroid or meteor-related catastrophe.
So what are Earth's odds in this doomsday scenario? At present, the odds of Asteroid 1950 DA hitting our home planet is 300/1. In a vast universe, those are odds that do not bode well. The good news is that the asteroid is not scheduled to impact Earth until March 16, 2880. That gives humanity over eight and a half centuries to figure out how to make those odds far greater or eliminate the necessity for the calculation altogether.
But there are other city killer (and planet killer) asteroids out there. NASA claims that an estimated 95 percent of the "potentially hazardous asteroids" (those measuring at least .6 miles wide) have been mapped. That leaves five percent that we have -- at present -- no idea where they might be or what path they might be taking. Massive asteroids that could simply appear in our skies like the Chelyabinsk meteor -- a space rock that, until it entered the Earth's atmosphere and exploded with the equivalence of at least 60 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, had theretofore gone completely undetected.
And if all that wasn't alarming enough, the B612 Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization founded by astronauts looking to provide the Earth with telescopes and detection systems to help thwart asteroid, meteor, and comet impacts, released a video on Earth Day (April 23) 2014 that revealed that 26 detected "killer" asteroids have impacted the planet since 2000.
It was a massive asteroid that impacted the Earth 66 million years ago off the Yucatan Peninsula that many scientists believe may have contributed to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.