Weather in Space

Meteors, Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets

Has an asteroid ever hit Earth?

Yes. In fact, the extinction of the dinosaurs is believed to have resulted from an asteroid striking the Earth near the shoreline of what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. There is also speculation that, 13,000 years ago, a comet or large asteroid smashed into the planet and wiped out the Native American Clovis civilization, as well as mastodons, mammoths, and other large animal species that once roamed North America. This sort of impact is, of course, extremely rare. Today, astronomers estimate that small asteroids approach Earth and burn up in the atmosphere at a rate of about two or three a year. In October 2008, scientists were excited to have accurately predicted that a small asteroid (2008 TC3), measuring about 15 feet (4.5 meters) across, would enter the atmosphere. It was the first time that NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program had successfully anticipated such an event.


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