Earth has been often in the firing line of asteroids from the last few months. Time and again, scientists have warned us of giant space rocks that are capable enough to destroy the planet, may perform fly-bys or will hit us in near future. Amid this apprehension of an impending apocalypse, there are some contradictory reports that asked planetarians not to panic as we are not getting hit by these asteroids in the near future.
The NASA has issued a statement reassuring people not to panic. The asteroid passed closely but safely at 3.3 million miles from the earth and this is equivalent to about 14 times the average distance between Earth and the Moon.
“Small asteroids pass by Earth this close all the time." Express.co.uk reported that this was asteroid 2000 QW7's first flyby of Earth since September 2000, when it was first identified. It won't make another approach until 2038.
NASA continuously tracks and identifies asteroids in case one does pose a threat to Earth, but so far scientists have not identified any imminent issues.
An asteroid hit 66 million years ago wiped out 75 percent of all life on Earth and plunged the planet into the grips of a nuclear winter.
It brought about the end of the dinosaurs’ reign, leaving behind only small mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.
Lembit Öpik, who is the Chairman of Parliament for the space-based micronation of Asgardia, believes another Chicxulub asteroid would spell the end of humanity.
“The Earth will be covered with a dust cloud made of material thrown into the atmosphere directly and the dust and soot from the fires that would occur for a couple of years. It would be long enough to kill photosynthesis and, in other words, those who weren’t incinerated would starve. You’d be alright if you were a cockroach or a deep sea creature or something very small that can live on the dead meat of others,” Express.co.uk quoted Öpik as saying.
Asked if an asteroid can completely wipe out the human civilization from Earth, Dr Lewis Darnell, professor of science communications at the University of Westminster, London, recently said “NO”. "There's no asteroid big enough that is on collision with the Earth could do that," Darnell was quoted during one of his recent interviews with Mashable India.
However, the scientist does mention about Asteroid Apophis, which is the only Near-Earth Object (NEO), capable of destroying a city only, not the entire Earth. Though not going to affect Earth for the next few decades, it may leave a trail of destruction in distant future, may be after an earth-shattering event. Phew!
When prodded about the necessary time period a civilization may take to be rebuilt, Darnell said the first time it took us around 10,000 years as we had to start from scratch, but this time, if destroyed, it will take only a few centuries or maybe a few generations to recover our society.
"Well, it took us, let's say 10,000 years the first time around, to go from the very beginning of settling down and developing agriculture, to the civilization, industrial revolution, and building the modern world," he was quoted as saying.
"So now I hope that by having saved the most important knowledge that humanity has gained in that time period, will accelerate the recovery back to history, the second time around. So rather than taking 10,000 years, you perhaps take a few centuries or maybe a few generations to recover your society as quickly as possible," Darnell added.
Meanwhile, NASA has been tracking all the near-earth objects to ensure that any asteroid apocalypse does not take us by surprise. The scientists at the American space agency have also conducted several rounds of mock drills where they practice for what would happen if/when an asteroid would hit the Earth.
Notably, some reports had earlier claimed that an asteroid named 2009 FD may impact the humanity in 2185. Another asteroid that NASA is studying closely, is Bennu, which has a 1/2700 chance of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2195.
Scientists are also looking for certain ways to do something about an asteroid potentially taking a collision course, for instance by changing their velocity "by just 1 km per hour, over the years that adds up to thousands of kilometres’ difference in position". However, astronomers need a long time notice on such flyby in order to help avoid collision.