Did you know that every single day, the Earth is hit with about a hundred tons of space debris? Sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t much to be concerned with. Most of this debris is quite small, sometimes even smaller than a grain of sand, and it typically burns up in our atmosphere before it gets anywhere near the surface. But every once in a while, something huge gets through and leaves trails in the sky. Here are 5 of the really big ones that have made an “impact” on our surface.
1. South Atlantic meteor
On February 6th of this year, a large chunk of space rock measuring about 5 meters wide entered into Earth’s atmosphere. It traveled down through the sky at a rate of approximately 6.2 miles per second, and gradually disintegrated as it traveled through the warm air in front of it. Then, approximately 120 to 150 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean, the meteor exploded, with just as much force the atomic bomb that was dropped at Hiroshima. Strangely enough, nobody even saw it happen, but we know about it because a number of scientific facilities recorded atmospheric disturbances.
2. Chelyabinsk meteor
Some meteors may be small and not noticeable but the Chelyabinsk was not one of these. On February 15, 2013 a huge fireball shot through the sky over Chelyabinsk, Russia. It was moving at a speed of 120 miles per hour and was dozens of times brighter than the sun. It was captured on car dash cams, CCTVs and cell phone cameras throughout the area. Scientists estimate that is was about 66 feet in diameter and when it exploded, it had the force of over 552,000 tons of TNT! It shattered thousands of windows, and other glass within 55 square miles and injured 1,200 people. The meteor exploded in the atmosphere which gives you a clue as to how powerful the airburst from the explosion can be.
3. 2008 TC3
The TC3 meteor entered our atmosphere over north Sudan in the early hours of October 7, 2008. It measured 13 feet across and weighed about 88 tons. Moving at about 8 mph, it lit up the sky up to 620 miles away. The force of the explosion was the equivalent to over 1000 tons of TNT. Even though this meteor is not well known, it was notable for scientists because it was the first meteor that scientists were able to watch and track as it approached the Earth. It allowed them to test the processes in place for incoming meteors, but they are still perfecting it, as they were unable to track the Chelyabinsk meteor until it was already over Russia.
4. Tunguska event
The Tunguska event was absolutely devastating. It flattened over 260 feet of trees over an area of almost 1300 square miles of Siberian forest. It occurred on June 30, 1908, thankfully in a very sparsely populated area of eastern Siberia. Scientists have determined that its explosion could have had up to as much force as 15 MILLION tons of TNT, which is over 1000 times more power than the bomb dropped at Hiroshima. Amazingly, no casualties were reported from this incident.
5. Barringer Crater
This crater sits deep in Arizona’s vast desert, spanning ¾ of a mile wide and 550 feet deep. It is evidence of what happens when one of these large meteors actually makes it all the way to Earth’s surface. Based on analysis of the crater, scientists believe the original meteor was made of nickel and iron, spanning about 165 feet wide and it hit the surface with an impact similar to about 10 million tons of TNT. Thankfully, the meteor struck Earth about 50,000 years ago, and there were no humans living in the area at the time.