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Skull-shaped Comet to Pass By Earth this Halloween

Huh. Well, that's... odd.

I find this scarier though:

That's less than spitting distance in astronomical terms. Although since meteorites are just asteroids that hit, I guess we can say that asteroids hit Earth all the time. It's just something that's not going to burn up in the atmosphere that's going to be a problem.

The Tunguska Event was theorized to be an asteroid that burst with the force of a 15-megaton bomb.

  • What was the explosion?

    Because the meteorite did not strike the ground or make a crater, early researchers thought the object might be a weak, icy fragment of a comet, which vaporized explosively in the air, and left no residue on the ground. However, modern planetary scientists have much better tools for understanding meteorite explosion in the atmosphere. As a meteorite slams into the atmosphere at speeds around 12 to 20 km/sec or more, it experiences a strong mechanical shock, like a diver bellyflopping into water. This can break apart stones of a certain size range, which explode instead of hitting the ground. Some of them drop brick-sized fragments on the ground, but others, such as the one that hit Siberia, may produce primarily a fireball and cloud of fine dust and tiny fragments. In 1993 researchers Chris Chyba, Paul Thomas, and Kevin Zahnle studied the Siberian explosion and concluded it was of this type -- a stone meteorite that exploded in the atmosphere. This conclusion was supported when Russian researchers found tiny stoney particles embedded in the trees at the collision site, matching the composition of common stone meteorites. The original asteroid fragment may have been roughly 50-60 meters (50-60 yards) in diameter.

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