What Would Happen if a Meteorite Hit San Francisco?

For those who pay attention to omens and portents …

Worst. Day. Ever?

If you’re not already hiding under your bed, Bay Area, because of both the close shave the planet Earth experienced today with Asteroid 2012 DA14 plus an unrelated but spectacular explosion of a meteor over Russia, well check this out …

Below is a simulation created by the B612 Foundation, an organization formed by a group of NASA and other scientific experts who are concerned with Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) and “how a large impact on Earth could destroy human civilization.”

The short video simulation optically superimposes San Francisco into a meteorite crater and then shows what would happen to the entire city and surrounding area. (Spoiler alert: those six-packs of bottled water and canned beans you have in your earthquake kit are not going to help in this particular situation.)

That’s Meteor Crater in the video, in northern Arizona. It’s about 50,000 years old, 550 feet deep, almost a mile across and 2.4 miles around, according to Robyn Messerschmidt, who works for the company that licenses the concession there.

As for B612, they are dead-serious about addressing the potentiality of a horrific catastrophe brought about by a collision with another body hurtling through space. From the group:

An asteroid caused the extinction of the dinosaurs and most of life on Earth during the Cretaceous period. But they had no way of preventing their demise. Humans do, and we realized our group could be instrumental in strategizing how to protect our planet and humanity from future asteroid collisions.

More on this topic from the International Herald Tribune today …

Scientists have warned that greater international cooperation is needed if humanity is to avoid the fate of the dinosaurs, believed to have been wiped out after an asteroid struck what is now Mexico 66 million years ago. Space-watchers are already keeping a close eye on 1999 RQ36, a 1,837-feet giant that has a one in a thousand chance of hitting Earth on its next close encounter in 2182. Full article

And in the New York Times last weekend, this from Donald K. Yeomans, the manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA …

ON Feb. 15, an asteroid designated 2012 DA14 will pass safely within about 17,200 miles of Earth’s surface — closer than the communication satellites that will be broadcasting the news of its arrival. The asteroid is about 150 feet in diameter and has a mass estimated at about 143,000 tons.

Should an object of that size hit Earth, it would cause a blast with the energy equivalent of about 2.4 million tons — or 2.4 megatons — of TNT explosives, more than 180 times the power of the atomic blast that leveled Hiroshima …

While no known asteroids or comets represent a worrisome impact threat now, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows more than two dozen asteroids have better than a one in a million chance of smacking into Earth within the next 100 years. That may sound reassuring, but we estimate that less than 10 percent of all near-Earth objects have been discovered. And while we are keeping a vigilant eye out for these objects in the Northern Hemisphere, we are considerably less watchful in the Southern Hemisphere.

It has been only within the last 15 years that astronomers, mostly supported by NASA, have begun discovering the vast number of near-Earth objects. Our findings have led us to the realization that Earth runs its course around the sun in a cosmic shooting gallery — with us as the target. Basketball-size rocky objects enter Earth’s atmosphere daily and Volkswagen-size objects every few months, but they burn up before they hit the ground. Full op-ed

Okay, now that you’re thoroughly freaked out … calm yourself with this incredibly inappropriate coverage of today’s events from The Onion.

Related

  • jim flash

    should my family prepare supplies and dig a shelter.. what supplies should we hoard???@

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004008797745 Eagle Claws

    A meteor hit a few hours ago

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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