The following asteroid belt visualization shows just how surrounded we are on planet Earth — in the middle of an asteroid shooting gallery…
Most asteroids come from a region in space between the planets Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt – a place loaded with irregular shaped objects ranging in size from dust particles all the way up to many, many miles across.
Portions of the asteroid belt are very dense with objects, and frequent collisions take place, changing the orbital nature of the objects themselves (like a ping-pong gallery). Some of these result in eventual collisions with the Earth’s atmosphere as meteors or ‘shooting stars’.
What are the chances of Earth being hit by an Asteroid?
A sobering statement from the Armagh Observatory, one of the UK and Ireland’s leading scientific research establishments, reads…
“Even conservative estimates would suggest that for every asteroid on a dangerous Earth-Approaching orbit there are hundreds more which have yet to be discovered. There are over 300 known objects on Earth-crossing orbits, the majority of which are potentially capable of causing death and destruction on a scale unheard of in human history.”
“It is estimated that there are perhaps 100,000 to 1,000,000 undiscovered asteroids on similar Earth crossing orbits.”
Video of Asteroid Discoveries from 1980 – 2010
The following video shows the discovery timeline of all known asteroids beginning in 1980 through 2010. As the video progresses, the newly discovered asteroids are briefly highlighted. As the years progress, more are found each year… Watch as the asteroids cross Earth’s orbit (the third ring out from the center) and notice the circling swarm by the end.
If you have enough internet bandwidth, select HD 720p or 1080p, full screen, in a dark room for its full effect. Pretty impressive.
You may gain a new understanding of the asteroid collision risk that the Earth faces in the somewhat chaotic environment of the solar system and its asteroid belt.
Currently we have observed over half a million ‘minor planets’ (asteroids – objects), and the discovery rates show no sign that we’re running out of undiscovered objects.
Scientific estimates suggest that there are about a billion asteroids larger than 100 meters (about the size of a football field).
Orbital elements were taken from the ‘astorb.dat’ data created by Ted Bowell at lowell.edu.
Red (Earth Orbit Crossers)
Yellow (Earth Approachers)
White (Newly discovered)
Green (all others)
Asteroid Belt Video Created by Scott Manley
1980 – 2010
Asteroid Belt – Edge View
Note: An asteroid the size of a house would wipe out a city region like a 20 kiloton bomb.
Note: An asteroid half a football field wide wiped out 1,200 square miles of Siberia in 1908.
Note: An asteroid a mile wide would likely end us all…
…hope you sleep well tonight (wink)