Back in the 1990s, movies like “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” helped show the world what it could be like if humanity met its end in a massive asteroid impact like our Jurassic (okay, technically Cretaceous) predecessors. In these movies, mankind utilized the best (science fiction) technology available to prepare for and attempt to prevent the impending disaster. As unrealistic as some of their solutions may have seemed, perhaps the least realistic aspect of those movies was actually that we saw the asteroids coming at all.
It was only this past week that scientists announced with confidence that a large meteor exploded in Earth’s atmosphere over the Bering Sea this past December. The explosion it produced released ten times the destructive force of the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima near the close of World War II. It was, according to their estimates, the third largest explosion of its kind in recorded history, with the 1908 Tunguska event taking the top spot and Russia’s highly-covered Chelyabinsk event from six years ago ranking second.
All of that destructive capability was delivered in a fairly small package. The meteor measured only about 30 feet in diameter and weighed about 1,500 tons. At around noon on December 18, the meteor impacted Earth’s atmosphere somewhere between Alaska and Russia over a remote expanse of the Bering Sea. It was traveling at around 72,000 miles per hour at a steep trajectory until exploding only about 16 miles above the Earth’s surface.