Could a meteorite collision really mean the end of life on Earth? Read this to find out what happens when small meteorites collide with Earth, and just how much damage a big one could do.


The end of life on Earth?

It weighed about 10,000 tons, entered the atmosphere at a speed of 64,000km/h and exploded over a city with a blast of 500 kilotons. But on 15 February 2013, we were lucky. The meteorite that showered pieces of rock over Chelyabinsk, Russia, was relatively small, at only about 17 metres wide. Although many people were injured by falling glass, the damage was nothing compared to what had happened in Siberia nearly one hundred years ago. Another relatively small object (approximately 50 metres in diameter) exploded in mid-air over a forest region, flattening about 80 million trees. If it had exploded over a city such as Moscow or London, millions of people would have been killed.

By a strange coincidence, the same day that the meteorite terrified the people of Chelyabinsk, another 50m-wide asteroid passed relatively close to Earth. Scientists were expecting that visit and know that the asteroid will return to fly close by us in 2046, but the Russian meteorite earlier in the day had been too small for anyone to spot.

Most scientists agree that comets and asteroids pose the biggest natural threat to human existence. It was probably a large asteroid or comet colliding with Earth which wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. An enormous object, 10 to 16km in diameter, struck the Yucatan region of Mexico with the force of 100 megatons. That is the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb for every person alive on Earth today.

Many scientists, including the late Stephen Hawking, say that any comet or asteroid greater than 20km in diameter that hits Earth will result in the complete destruction of complex life, including all animals and most plants. As we have seen, even a much smaller asteroid can cause great damage.

The Earth has been kept fairly safe for the last 65 million years by good fortune and the massive gravitational field of the planet Jupiter. Our cosmic guardian, with its stable circular orbit far from the sun, sweeps up and scatters away most of the dangerous comets and asteroids which might cross Earth’s orbit. After the Chelyabinsk meteorite, scientists are now monitoring potential hazards even more carefully but, as far as they know, there is no danger in the foreseeable future.

Types of space rocks

  • Comet – a ball of rock and ice that sends out a tail of gas and dust behind it. Bright comets only appear in our visible night sky about once every ten years.
  • Asteroid – a rock a few feet to several kms in diameter. Unlike comets, asteroids have no tail. Most are too small to cause any damage and burn up in the atmosphere. They appear to us as ‘shooting stars’.
  • Meteoroid – part of an asteroid or comet.
  • Meteorite – what a meteoroid is called when it hits Earth.
Total votes: 280
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Do asteroids scare you? Why or why not? Have you ever experienced any type of natural disaster?


parsasoroori's picture
parsasoroori 14 April, 2019 - 19:22

Do asteroids scare you? Why or why not? Have you ever experienced any type of natural disaster?

Yes they do. Mankind are afraid of uncontrollable situations. Fortunately not yet.

1 user has voted.
Dreamyoverflow's picture
Dreamyoverflow 28 July, 2018 - 21:27

I am definitely scared of asteroids imagine if we would just one day get hit by one, how terrifying! Anyways i really hope that the Earth dosen't get struck by one. I don't want to get wiped out of the world precisely like the dinosarious just like that. How sad.

1 user has voted.
myname's picture
myname 25 June, 2018 - 14:04

I do not care about asteroids and have never experienced any type of natural disaster. I don't think they are scary

1 user has voted.
SLMT's picture
SLMT 8 April, 2018 - 15:27

I’m not afraid of asteroids.The scientists also said it can’t be possible and it will take thousands of year to end the earth. I have experienced a biggest natural disaster.In 2008, Cyclone Nargis which is the deadliest natural disaster according to record hit Myanmar.At that time,I was only 6 years old.Even 10 years has passed since that sad day.But I can remember all of the scenes.That time appears in my mind like a old movie.I won’t never forget that day.It’s a nightmare for me.That’s why natural disaster is the only one I am afraid of.

2 users have voted.
Jo - Coordinator's picture
Jo - Coordinator 9 April, 2018 - 10:57

Hi SLMT, wow, that must have been really terrifying. I'm not surprised you say you will always remember the day. Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us. Joanna (LearnEnglish Teens team)

1 user has voted.
QueenPinkBluebel's picture
QueenPinkBluebel 3 August, 2017 - 15:13

I'm not really scared of asteroids because scientists will warn us if we are in danger. And I have never experienced any type of natural disaster, and I hope not.

33 users have voted.
XD2mlg4um8's picture
XD2mlg4um8 26 October, 2016 - 19:37

M8, I just want to say that this article is not completely correct, comets don't have talks behind them, but behind where the sun is facing.

71 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
JoEditor 27 October, 2016 - 14:25

Thanks a lot for your comment! You must really love science - that's amazing that you know so much about comets. We'll double check this article. Thanks a lot! 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

66 users have voted.
jaknil's picture
jaknil 20 September, 2016 - 11:31

I'm not that scared of asteroids because I trust the scientist saying that are in no danger. I have never experienced a natural disaster.

75 users have voted.
Rami34's picture
Rami34 19 May, 2016 - 01:25

A week ago I was outside with my brother at 4 a.m. looking at the stars and they looked so beautiful and I also saw two comets and I was really excited because not every day I see a comet.

71 users have voted.
SpotterRc's picture
SpotterRc 6 February, 2016 - 07:21

I believe there is life on other planets, and scientists are studying. The experience of natural disasters bats. Was met with a flood event.

65 users have voted.
ethanhunt0508's picture
ethanhunt0508 20 January, 2016 - 14:49

They are not scary but i guess they were not the reason the dinosaurs died. That much force in a moment can push earth out of it's orbit or worse - destroy a large chunk of it into pieces. Maybe it happened and Earth was flung into orbit by the impact from somewhere we do not know and the Sun alongwith the planets could have holded Earth in orbit. (SOUNDS REALLY INSANE!!!)

72 users have voted.
Macaque's picture
Macaque 14 November, 2015 - 18:23

No, I'm not afraid of asteroids now, because I believe the scientists monitor potentional hazzards. Even though, I have no idea about what would we do if scientists said that a huge asteroid is going to hit Earth in the near future. As for the natural disasters, I never experienced anything similiar, but there were enormous floods in neighbouring countries.

69 users have voted.
Aco123's picture
Aco123 16 November, 2015 - 18:23

I think you're right .Maybe scientists can make some devices that can destroy asteroids ,I mean,it's a long rode to 2046 XD

63 users have voted.
Djolox's picture
Djolox 7 December, 2015 - 12:41

Why to destroy them? Scientists can make spacecraft that can redirect the asteroid. If the asteroid is detected early enough, even the smallest direction changes can make it miss Earth.

68 users have voted.
English3113's picture
English3113 27 October, 2015 - 16:21

I am not afraid because I believe that our luck will help us again and I believe in Jupiter so I hope that asteroids don't hit the Earth because many lives will be taken. I haven't seen any natural disaster but I saw the Red Moon ...It was beautiful

73 users have voted.
Ken's picture
Ken 31 October, 2015 - 07:03

I feel scared by an approaching natural disaster rather than asteroids. Though I haven't seen major natural disasters but for a big earthquake!
Ah, yes, I saw the Red Sun, which was beautiful as usual!
٩(•౪• ٩)

66 users have voted.
Djolox's picture
Djolox 7 December, 2015 - 12:50

Actually, other natural disasters are dangerous too. Earthquakes can destroy a region, but unlike asteroids which are a threat for the whole globe earthquakes are a threat only for a region as I said earlier.

66 users have voted.
Elsa007's picture
Elsa007 21 October, 2015 - 08:01

I think it might be possible that the Earth will end because of the asteroids.
But I don't feel really scared…. because it's beyond my imagination!!
In 65 million years? OMG! >>>>>>>>>

68 users have voted.
PloKoon12's picture
PloKoon12 12 October, 2015 - 19:58

There are a lots of those asteroids in space, so it's hard to say, if it scares us. Ofcourse, small meteorids are not scary at all, they are even beautiful. But the bigger one, well... Let's just hope they wont disturb us for another million years :))

65 users have voted.
Tony2003's picture
Tony2003 11 October, 2015 - 00:53

asteroids are not that scary.Really though,asteroids it just like mini stars going around and one day fall in to the Earth.That is all

67 users have voted.
neclanurunleyen's picture
neclanurunleyen 19 September, 2015 - 13:02

I am not afraid of asteroids because I think they are natural and necessary for universe. Yes I know it may be dangerous and damageful but everything happens for a reason. For example if dinousours didnt extinct we couldnt live easily like in today. I have never experienced any type of natural disaster. Actually ı want it so much !

62 users have voted.