This past week, an asteroid passed by the Earth on May 8th, a little too close for comfort. Scientists had only an eleven day window to act and say that wouldn’t be nearly enough time to prevent a disaster. The asteroid came closest on May 8th and was approximately four times the distance from Earth as the moon. Although that seems far, it really isn’t.
The moon is in orbit around the earth and therefore of no danger to earth, but the asteroid is a whole different story. In many cases, this one included, it’s impossible to predict the path the asteroid would take. At some point, if one passes close enough, the Earth’s gravity could could pull it towards us.
If the asteroid hit Earth, the impact could have destroyed a city depending on its trajectory.
“The worst case scenario that I can think of would be a scenario where the very last portion of the entry track passed through a highly built up city (Manhattan, Chicago, Singapore, etc.) such that it cut through skyscrapers as it came down causing enormous secondary damage as well as the terminal impact itself in a densely populated area,” Nuth said.
Former NASA administrator Charles Bolden told reporters in 2013 that the only response to this type of “surprise” asteroid on a collision course with Earth is to “pray.”
“An asteroid estimated to be 15 to 30 meters [33 to 108 feet] in size, depending on composition, could be expected to do more damage at the surface than the Chelyabinsk Event, but certainly less than Tunguska in 1908,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s Planetary Defense Officer([PDCO), told TheDCNF.
“It would most likely create an airburst between 10 and 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and do moderate damage to light structures (wood framed housing) and wooded areas. It probably would not survive enough to create a crater on the surface.