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    Explained: What happens if a large asteroid hits the Earth

    Explained: What happens if a large asteroid hits the Earth

    Explained: What happens if a large asteroid hits the Earth
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)

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    Asteroids are generally composed of clay and silicate rocks and are remnants of rocky substances in the solar system that were not close enough to be subsumed into the terrestrial planets when the solar system formed. Asteroids will always present an existential threat to humanity, however unlikely it may be that they strike the planet.

    An asteroid hitting the Earth often makes for the inciting incident in a movie or book. But such an event may not be limited to the past or just fiction. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently said the asteroid Bennu has a chance of hitting the Earth. The ‘potentially hazardous’ could impact Earth in 2135, with a 1-in-2700 chance of impact. With such odds and such a long time period, NASA calls it nothing to be overly concerned about. 
    But what would happen if a large asteroid did impact the Earth? Will it wipe us out like the dinosaurs or will be unaffected for the most part.
    What is an asteroid?
    Asteroids are generally composed of clay and silicate rocks and are remnants of rocky substances in the solar system that were not close enough to be subsumed into the terrestrial planets when the solar system was in its infancy around 4.5 billion years ago. The terrestrial planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.
    The solar system has a large number of asteroids within the Asteroid Belt that separates the gas giants — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — from the inner planets. However, there are tens of thousands of asteroids much closer to the Earth. Though close in space still can mean millions of kilometres away. 
    Bennu, for instance, is over 160 million kilometres away from Earth.
    The damage that an asteroid can do is directly dependent on its size and the type of matter that it is made out of. While even smaller asteroids, the size of 7 metres in diameter, enter the Earth’s atmosphere with as much energy as the atomic bomb dropped over Hiroshima, they are unable to do any harm as they burn up in the atmosphere from the heat and friction. 
    These asteroids are the meteor showers and shooting stars that we can observe from the surface of the planet. If an asteroid that enters the atmosphere is called a meteor, while one that reaches the surface of the planet and survives is known as a meteorite. 
    How much energy does an asteroid have?
    An asteroid, as a rough estimation, would create a crater about 10 to 20 times the diameter and destroy an area of about 100 times the size of the crater. An asteroid with a diameter of 1,000 m at the moment of impact will have 46300 Megatons of energy, creating a crater with a diameter of over 13 km. The most powerful nuclear warhead ever tested only have had less than 100 megatons of energy. The devastation wrecked by such a large asteroid could flatten entire regions of the world, cause earthquakes, flatten all vegetations and organic life with a powerful shockwave, create tsunamis, and even bend the Earth’s crust.
    But still larger asteroids exist.
    The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was thought to be as large as 10 km in diameter. The asteroid essentially wiped out nearly all forms of life on Earth, with the impact and subsequent aftereffects.
    Asteroids will always present an existential threat to humanity, however unlikely it may be that they strike the planet. 
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