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Major cities at risk as Earth faces danger of getting hit by asteroid: Experts

Wednesday June 21, 2017 6:55 PM, & Agencies


An asteroid strike on Earth is just a matter of time and it could destroy major cities, a leading astrophysicist from Queen’s University Belfast has warned.

According to Alan Fitzsimmons from Queen's University Belfast in Britain, it is a case of when an asteroid collision will happen, rather than if it will happen.

The warning comes ahead of Asteroid Day, which is on June 30. A small asteroid had exploded over Tunguska in Russia’s Siberia on that day in 1908. The asteroid had levelled trees and burned ground covering over 2,000 square kilometres, the report said.

This year, discussions and presentations will be streamed live from Luxembourg on June 30. Experts including Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart and International Space Station astronaut Nicole Stott will answer questions from people on social media.

Fitzsimmons said an unexpected strike today by an asteroid similar in size to the one that exploded over Siberia could easily destroy a major city, and a larger asteroid could be more dangerous.

"It is important to know that scientists and engineers have made great strides in detecting near-Earth asteroids and understanding the threat posed by them," Fitzsimmons said.

"Over 1,800 potentially hazardous objects have been discovered so far, but there are many more waiting to be found," he said.

"Astronomers find near-Earth asteroids every day and most are harmless. But it is still possible the next Tunguska would take us by surprise, and although we are much better at finding larger asteroids, that does us no good if we are not prepared to do something about them," he added.

The risk of a sizeable asteroid hitting the Earth is significantly growing every few years, Czech scientists who analysed 144 fireballs from a recent meteor shower had warned.

The Taurid meteor shower showed significantly enhanced activity in 2015. Researchers found that this was due to a well-defined orbital structure.

Researchers from the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences recently showed that a "new branch" of Taurids contains at least two asteroids of the size 200-300 metres.

Earlier on April 19, a huge 1km-wide, 'potentially hazardous' asteroid flew by earth but it posed no danger and passed by without causing any damage. It was the closest encounter by the asteroid in 400 years.

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