On February 15th 2013, over 1,000 people were injured when a meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. Scientists are now saying that ‘the odds of asteroid impacts are much higher than people realize.’

APTOPIX Russia Meteorite

When the February 15th meteor exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, debris was scattered in the streets and unsuspecting residents were snagged by shards from smashed windows. All in all, over 1,000 people were injured, but nobody saw it coming.

When you imagine our solar system, you likely picture a collection of large planets with huge empty voids between them, but in reality many of these empty spaces are brimming with belts of asteroids. The primary source of meteors like the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk is the large asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and there are plenty more where that came from. Space.com claims there are more than 750,000 asteroids with a diameter of at least 1 kilometer alone.

Normally, these asteroids effectively act exclusively under the gravitational influence of Jupiter, but they are sometimes pulled by another body or collide with one another and are sent out into the inner solar system. These asteroids pose an obvious threat to the Earth, and there are many more of them than people may think.

According to Ed Lu, a former astronaut and chief executive officer of the B612 Foundation (an organisation that scans the night sky for potential threats to humanity), ‘the odds of asteroid impacts are much higher than people realize.’ He continued to estimate that there is ‘a 30 percent chance of a city-destroying asteroid hitting the Earth in the next 100 years’.

It was only in 1998 that NASA began searching for potentially-devastating ‘near-Earth objects’ and they still haven’t mastered it today. The agency has identified ‘more than 90 percent’ of objects greater than a kilometer in diameter and ‘at least 90 percent’ of debris spanning more than 140 meters. The problem is that even very small rocks can cause immense damage when travelling at the speeds that asteroids can easily reach when being pulled to the Earth.

And so the hunt is now on for these smaller, deadly asteroids lurking in the shadows of space as if scientific estimates and models are correct, it’s truly only a matter of time before a catastrophe occurs.

Sources: USA Today, NASA