Once and for all: Really, how many asteroids pass by the Earth every year?

Credit image: NASA
Credit image: NASA

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Article by: Andacs Robert Eugen, on 05 August 2023, at 08:30 am PDT

Asteroids, remnants of the ancient formation of our solar system, have fascinated humans for ages. We've seen them featured in blockbuster movies, fueling our imaginations about the potential havoc they could bring if one were to collide with Earth.

But, let's focus on the reality of the situation. How often do asteroids actually collide with Earth, and how close do they come to us?

Well, there's good news for the most part. The majority of asteroids that come close to Earth are relatively small, and they tend to burn up harmlessly in our atmosphere. It's like nature's spectacular light show, leaving us with nothing more than a bright shooting star to admire.

Of course, there are larger asteroids that pose a more significant threat, but they are quite rare in terms of direct impact. We're talking about those "cosmic giants," hundreds of meters wide, with the potential to cause widespread devastation.

Experts have devised a scale to assess the risks posed by these celestial travelers. They call it the "Cosmic Danger Index," ranking from Level 1 (low threat) to Level 10 (imminent cataclysm). Thankfully, most asteroids score quite low on this scale, giving us some peace of mind.

That doesn't mean we can let our guard down entirely. Even though the chance of a massive asteroid strike is slim, there are still thousands of smaller asteroids that occasionally pass close by. We're talking about distances much shorter than a trip to the moon, enough to make any space enthusiast shiver.

Luckily, we have brilliant astronomers tirelessly scanning the skies, searching for these space wanderers. They've already identified a large number of potential threats and continue to keep a watchful eye on the cosmic horizon.

In the rare event that a significant asteroid threatens our planet, humanity has devised a few strategies to protect ourselves. One involves deploying a special spacecraft to nudge the asteroid slightly off course, ensuring it bypasses Earth harmlessly.

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