Explosions of small Spacewatch objects in the Earth's atmosphere

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Abstract

RECENT observations with the Spacewatch telescope indicate that the flux of Earth-crossing objects with diameters below about 50 m is some 10-100 times higher than predicted by simple extrapolation from the known main-belt asteroid population1,2. This might seem to imply3 a significantly greater terrestrial hazard from atmospheric explosions such as those that occurred over Revelstoke or Tunguska4,5. Here I show that explosions due to Spacewatch objects with diameters less than 50 m (having kinetic energies below about 10 megatonnes high-explosive equivalent) typically occur too high in the atmosphere to cause substantial surface damage. Exclusive of relatively rare iron objects, no comet or asteroid with an energy below ∼2 megatonnes threatens the Earth's surface. The high flux of small Earth-crossing objects identified by Spacewatch therefore does not imply a greater terrestrial hazard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-703
Number of pages3
JournalNature
Volume363
Issue number6431
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 24 1993
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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