In 2019, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator at the time, addressed the International Academy of Astronautics' Planetary Defense Conference, raising concerns about the genuine threat of a massive meteor colliding with Earth. He emphasized that this issue should not be trivialized as a Hollywood plot or a movie scene; rather, it is about safeguarding the only known planet that harbors life – Earth.
Bridenstine cited an instance in February 2013 when a massive meteor entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded over Chelyabinsk, situated in central Russia. This meteor, approximately 20 meters in diameter and traveling at a staggering 40,000 miles per hour, created a bright flash that outshined the sun. People experienced the heat emanating from the meteor from a distance of 62 kilometers. When it exploded 18 miles above the Earth's surface, the energy released was 30 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The impact caused damage to buildings in six cities.
Bridenstine further stated that while such events may seem extraordinarily rare, they are not. Meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere frequently, but those as large as the one over Chelyabinsk occur once every six decades or so. Despite this, many mainstream and establishment circles do not take such phenomena seriously. He emphasized the need for governments to invest more effort into space programs specifically aimed at developing strategies to deal with incoming meteors and space debris.
On December 18, a colossal meteor exploded in Earth's atmosphere, and details of the blast have recently been revealed. The fireball reportedly soared over the Bering Sea, located in the Pacific Ocean between Russia and Alaska. Researchers across the globe, who continuously monitor for signs of disturbance, initially recorded the explosion.
Peter Brown from the University of Western Ontario, Canada, detected the meteor using data from at least 16 global monitoring stations, as reported by NewScientist. Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University Belfast, UK, mentioned that witnessing the event would have been quite a spectacle. The meteor, with a diameter of 10 meters and weighing 1,400 tonnes, impacted with an energy equivalent to 173 kilotons of TNT. The explosion's energy was nearly ten times that of an atomic bomb.
Surprisingly, such occurrences are relatively common, with similar blasts documented worldwide for several decades. Fitzsimmons explained that detecting infrasound waves confirms an impact or a significant energy release.
This event was the third largest impact in modern history, surpassed only by the 2013 Chelyabinsk explosion and a massive blast near Siberia, Russia, in 1908. The Chelyabinsk explosion injured over 900 people, primarily due to shattered glass. The meteor, weighing 10 tons and entering the atmosphere at a minimum speed of 54,000 kilometers per hour, exploded between 30 to 50 kilometers above the ground, as per NewScientist.
The Russian meteor strike was well-documented through dashboard cameras, which are commonly used by Russian drivers to establish liability in car accidents. This wealth of footage provided scientists with a treasure trove of data for research.
In contrast, the Tunguska event in 1908, the largest impact event in recorded history, has far less documentation. The explosion occurred near Siberia and flattened an estimated 80 million trees over an area exceeding 2,000 square kilometers. The impact registered at seismic stations across Eurasia, and airwaves from the blast were detected in various locations, including Germany, Denmark, Croatia, the UK, and as far away as Jakarta and Washington.