“Extinction level” asteroid crashes and zombie viruses seem to be two things people are most afraid of lately, so NASA is guilty of bad timing this week with an admission it “doesn’t know about all the asteroids.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration came clean Wednesday in a video that included good news and bad news — depending on how you feel about the End of Days.
“Does NASA know about all the asteroids? Well, no,” NASA asteroid expert Dr. Amy Mainzer says in the video.
“But the good news is, we know where most of the really big ones are that get closest to the Earth. We’ve found more than 90% of these. That’s the great news.”
As for that other 10%, they’re like Easter eggs that NASA says are waiting to be found.
However, that’s apparently not the bad news.
“There are a lot more smaller pieces that are still out there that we haven’t found,” Mainzer says.
“It’s really challenging to find asteroids and comets simply because, even though some of them are as big as mountains, space is incredibly huge. And these things can be really far away.”
NASA says its goal is to find them while they’re still far away, so we will have “lots of time to take action if we find one that’s really headed in our direction.”
In the past 53 years, just over 1,000 asteroids have come close enough to Earth to be “observed with planetary radar,” NASA Solar System Exploration recently reported. In all, about 27,000 “near-Earth asteroids” have been detected and tracked by NASA.
NASA asteroid expert Dr. Kelly Fast says it’s clear asteroids have collided with Earth “and it will happen again.”
“Impacts of asteroids that affect the surface are much rarer. They happen on time scales of hundreds to thousands to millions of years,” Fast says.
It is “incredibly unlikely” Earth’s current population will see major asteroid impact in its lifetime, Mainzer believes.
“However, if even one happens, it could be really bad,” she says.
Just ask the dinosaurs.