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Asteroids: Extinction-level space rocks may be unstoppable, says NASA lawyer
Millions of years ago, the Earth was widely believed to be struck by a giant asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. As there may still be a possibility of it happening again, a lawyer under NASA reveals that there is not much that the agency can do if it ever does happen.
Georgetown Law Professor David Koplow, who also works for NASA, explained that although the agency is fully aware of the dangers presented by an asteroid strike, there is not much they can do to prevent an asteroid similar to what killed the dinosaurs from hitting the planet. Koplow goes on to explain that no space agency in the world, NASA included, has a proven method of preventing an extinction-level asteroid from hitting the planet.
“The Earth, like many planets, is bombarded by asteroids all the time. Fortunately, most of them are quite small and burn up in the atmosphere” said Koplow. But he does echo the predictions of many other astronomers, that once in a while, a very large asteroid may actually make it through the Earth’s atmosphere. “Nobody has ever been struck by an asteroid but there are some that have had significant effects on planet Earth.” Koplow referenced the incident at Chelyabinsk, Russia back in 2013.
On a more optimistic note, Koplow then went on to note that this possibility of an asteroid strike may not be happening in the near future. Some experts, on the other hand, have also predicted that the chances are high over a course of hundreds of years.
One such asteroid that may hit the Earth is the frequently-watched rock referred to as Bennu. Previously, it was reported that Bennu could potentially strike Earth in the near future. Dr. Michael Busch of the SETI Institute claimed that Bennu might hit the Earth between 2175 and 2200 but whether or not it does hit the Earth will depend on the Yarkovsky Effect.
The Yarkovsky Effect is when an asteroid or space object changes their orbit because of a small nudge of heat from itself or from other space objects like the Sun. If the shift in orbit is strong enough, then there is a big chance that Bennu could be hurtling directly towards Earth.