And the one step we can take to show extraterrestrials we’re figuring it out.
Every year, Earth’s meteor showers accomplish two important tasks.
One is illuminating our skies, streaking through our atmosphere with brief, brilliant flashes.
The second reminds us that our ultimate demise is certain without preparation.
The rocky, icy fragments that create meteor showers routinely cross Earth’s orbit.
These large masses, multiple kilometers across, contain comparable energies to the Chicxulub impactor.
Most megafaunal species were wiped out 65 million years ago; a comparable catastrophe would ensue today.
Gravitational perturbations from other masses, like planets, are statistically random.
Today’s near-miss could portend tomorrow’s extinction event.
The parent body of August’s Perseids, Comet Swift-Tuttle, is the single most dangerous object known to humanity.
A direct impact — threatened in 4479 — would deliver over ~25 times the energy of the Chicxulub impact.
But a proverbial ounce of prevention could protect our planet indefinitely.
Near-Earth asteroids and Earth-crossing comets all represent potential hazards.
By shepherding them into stable, non-hazardous orbits, we can eliminate the risk to Earth.
Asteroid and comet tracking, plus redirection technologies, could secure humanity’s safety from large-scale impacts.
Perhaps all technologically “mature” planets clear this species-threatening hazard from their orbits.
Detecting this non-natural property in exoplanetary systems could indicate intelligent, technologically advanced aliens.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.
Starts With A Bang is written by Ethan Siegel, Ph.D., author of Beyond The Galaxy, and Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive.