Rocks From Space Hit The Earth All The Time And You Should Just Get Used To It

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Rocks in space come in all shapes and sizes. The biggest and rarest ones compete with the sizes of moons (and sometimes argu

e that they should instead be called planets, but that’s another article), while the tiniest are just microscopic pieces of dirt that lazily drift around the solar system. Between them, some rocks could fit in the palm of your hand while others would dwarf your neighborhood.

And they’re all dangerous.

Even the tiny ones pack a deadly punch. Everything in the solar system is, in some way, orbiting the sun, which means it’s all traveling at tens of thousands of miles per hour. Have you ever been hit by something traveling tens of thousands of miles per hour? No, because you’re still alive.

I you ever see a shooting star marking a bright line across a deep, dark sky, that’s something the size of a grain of sand impacting our atmosphere. I’ll repeat: a grain of sand.

It comes into our atmosphere so dang fast that it compresses the air in front of it like an over-eager piston. The compressed air heats up to such an intense degree that it turns into a plasma, glowing brightly. But this doesn’t last long: the burning heat vaporizes the tiny rock that caused the compression, quickly and mercifully ending the life of the falling star.

But the bigger the rock, the longer it lasts.

And the longer it lasts, the more damage it can do.

A meteorite a few feet across will usually end up detonating in our atmosphere with the explosive blast equivalent to a decent-sized nuclear bomb. Luckily this only happens about once a year and even more luckily most of the surface of the Earth is either ocean or completely uninhabited.

Once you into space rocks the size of your house, then they really mean business. Those bad boys pack a wallop, capable of leveling an entire city should their put their minds to it and aim right. A chunk of Siberian forest got hit by one about this size around a hundred years ago. Miles and miles of trees got flicked over like so many toothpicks in the blast.

And the bigger ones? The hunks of carbon and iron a few miles across? The last major impact left a crater a hundred mils across, triggered earthquakes across the globe, kicked up chunks of Earth-crust halfway to the moon, and killed off a bunch of dinosaurs and their friends. Thankfully those are the rarest, impacting only every few tens of millions of years.

Side note: it’s been 65 million years since the last big one. So we may or may not be due for another extinction event any day now.

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