Have you ever wondered what would happen if an asteroid impacts Earth? You don’t have to be a scientist to know that the effects would be devastating—and the bigger the asteroid, the more widespread the destruction. What if the largest known asteroid were to come flying through space and crash into the planet? Keep reading to view the CGI rendering of this impact event and learn even more about asteroids hitting Earth.
Watch what would happen if an asteroid collided with Earth
A now-removed viral post on the Absolute Units subreddit shows what would happen to the planet if the largest known asteroid were to collide with the planet. Unsurprisingly, the 338-mile/545-kilometer-wide space rock would totally annihilate every living thing on Earth, destroying vast landscapes and covering the planet in smoke and fire. You can also view the full video (set to Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky.”)
Asteroid Impact (HD) (HQ)
An asteroid hitting Earth is called an impact event. And while these are rare, the effects of one would be massively damaging to all life on the planet—and the asteroid wouldn’t need to be 338 miles across to do so. Even smaller asteroids can cause incredible destruction.
An asteroid that’s about the same size as a 20-story building, or around 200 feet long, would produce the same amount of energy as the largest nuclear bomb ever created (25 to 50 megatons). A one-mile-wide asteroid on a collision course with Earth would hit the planet at around 30,000 miles per hour. An asteroid of this magnitude has roughly the same amount of energy as a one-million-megaton bomb.
Scientists believe that an asteroid would need to be approximately seven to eight miles wide for an impact event to wipe out most life on Earth. If this size asteroid impacts Earth, an enormous plume of dust would envelop the planet, blocking the sun and raising temperatures near the point of impact. For an asteroid to completely wipe out all life on the planet, it would need to be around 60 miles wide.
How likely is an impact event?
The chances of an asteroid hitting Earth are minimal, and previous impact events have been rare. In the 20th and 21st centuries combined, there were a total of 18 observed instances of asteroids hitting the earth. It’s believed that there may have been more that were too small or were simply unobserved.
According to The Planetary Society, the odds of an impact event by asteroid size are:
Larger than 3 meters: around once a year
Larger than 30 meters: once every 100 years
Larger than 140 meters: one in 100 chance every 100 years
Larger than 1,000 meters: one in 50,000 chance every 100 years
An asteroid hitting Earth rarely occurs outside of sci-fi movies. Smaller asteroids are more common and typically cause minimal damage. But, if we are unlucky enough to be hit by a massive asteroid—whether 60 miles wide or 338—all life as we know it would be completely obliterated.