Risk of asteroid hitting Earth growing, warn astronomers

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The astronomers, from the Czech Academy of Sciences, drew their conclusion after analysing 144 bolides – large meteors that explode in the atmosphere – from the Taurids and detecting a new branch with at least two asteroids measuring 200-300 metres (220-330 yards) in diameter.

New Delhi: A team of Czech astronomers has warned on Tuesday that the risk of the Earth being hit by an asteroid from a meteor stream known as the Taurids is increasing.

They say one of the fragments could hit Earth in 2022, 2025, 2032 or 2039 during the annual meteor shower.

The Taurids are an annual meteor shower that lights up the night skies every November and are associated with the comet Encke.

In a new study, the astronomers, from the Czech Academy of Sciences, drew their conclusion after analysing 144 bolides – large meteors that explode in the atmosphere – from the Taurids and detecting a new branch with at least two asteroids measuring 200-300 metres (220-330 yards) in diameter.

“Most probably, the branch also includes many undetected asteroids which are dozens of metres in diameter or larger,” the Czech academy said in a press release.

“Hence, the danger of a crash with an asteroid grows markedly once every few years that the Earth encounters this stream of inter-planetary material.”

The new branch comprises objects moving together around the Sun, and the Earth encounters it once every few years for a period of about three weeks.

“During this period, the probability of a collision with a larger object (of about dozens of metres in diameter) is markedly higher,” the Academy said.

The asteroids are very fragile, but when they are this large they may penetrate deep into the atmosphere and pose a real threat of collision with Earth, it added.

The study urges further research to obtain “a better description of this real source of potentially hazardous objects large enough to cause a local or even continental disaster.”

It may be noted that this isn’t the first time astronomers have warned of the hazards of the Taurids. In fact, some astronomers believe meteorites delivered by the Taurids explain ancient collisions that plunged the planet into prolonged ice ages.

 

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