We are not Alone: Government Sensors Shed New Light on Asteroid Hazards

This diagram maps data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth's atmosphere to create very bright meteors (bolides). The location of impacts from objects ranging from 1 meter (3 feet) to nearly 20 meters (60 feet) in size such as Chelyabinsk asteroid are shown globally. (Credit: Planetary Science, NASA)

This diagram maps data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth’s atmosphere to create very bright fireballs (bolides). The location of impacts from objects, ranging from 1 meter (3 feet) to nearly 20 meters (60 feet) in size such as Chelyabinsk asteroid, are shown globally. (Credit: Planetary Science, NASA)

How hazardous are the thousands and millions of asteroids that surround the third rock from the Sun – Earth? Since an asteroid impact represents a real risk to life and property, this is a question that has been begging for answers for decades. But now, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have received data from a variety of US Department of Defense assets and plotted a startling set of data spanning 20 years.

This latest compilation of data underscores how frequent some of these larger fireballs are, with the largest being the Chelyabinsk event on February 15, 2013 which injured thousands in Russia. The new data will improve our understanding of the frequency and presence of small and large asteroids that are hazards to populated areas anywhere on Earth.

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