death by asteroid a little less likely

Take a deep breath and relax, doom-from-the-sky watchers. Researchers from the United Kingdom and Russia report that stony asteroids slamming into Earth are less of a threat than previously thought. The researchers say that, based on their computer simulations, the asteroids are much more likely to break up in the atmosphere than directly hit the planet. Philip Bland of Imperial College in London, and Natalia Artemieva of the Institute for Dynamics of Geospheres in Moscow write in the July 17 Nature that objects approximately 220 meters wide (about 720 feet) or larger are likely to strike Earth only once every 170,000 years or so, rather than every 3,000 to 4,000 years as previously forecast. But don’t relax too much: If an asteroid broke up before hitting Earth, it would still be a threat to human life, the atmospheric explosion likely causing major damage at ground level.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/22/2003.
This entry was posted in boston globe, news briefs. Bookmark the permalink.