1,000-Foot-Wide Asteroids That Could Hit Earth Discovered by Astronomers

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Scientists have discovered a new branch of the Taurids meteor stream that could pose a major risk to Earth, with asteroids up to 1,000 feet wide flying past us every few years.
The Taurids meteor shower peaks every October and November, producing a relatively small display of shooting stars as the planet passes through its stream.


Meteor shower displays happen when tiny bits of cosmic debris enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up in the sky. Because the Taurids are made up of branches and a core, activity levels increase and decrease depending on how much debris Earth passes through.

Mostly, the meteoroids are about the size of a grain of sand and pose no risk at all. However, if a large enough asteroid entered the atmosphere, instead of disintegrating it would pass through and hit the Earth’s surface.

A stark reminder of the risk posed by asteroids and meteors came in 2013, when the 66-foot-wide Chelyabinsk meteor fell over Russia’s southern Ural region.

A team of researchers from the Czech Academy of Sciences in the Czech Republic has now found evidence to suggest Earth is at greater risk of being hit by an asteroid than we previously thought.

In their study, which is to be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the team analyzed data on 144 Taurid fireballs that had been filmed with new digital cameras over the 2015 shower—a year of enhanced activity. They were able to work out the orbits of these fireballs, and found 113 of them show “common characteristics and form together a well-defined orbital structure, which we call new branch.”

This branch was found to contain at least two asteroids with diameters of between 650 and 980 feet. An impact from an asteroid of this size would cause a huge amount of damage if it hit a populated area of the planet.

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