Chances of a Meteor Hitting Earth



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Seen any shooting stars lately? Worried about being clobbered by a meteor? Here’s why you don’t have to worry about meteor safety!

For reasons no one can explain, meteors are mostly crammed into the final five months of the year. Right now the Delta Aquarid shower is underway, and so is the richer and more famous Perseids. Their numbers will keep increasing until the night of August 12. These August “falling stars” are mostly the size of apple seeds. But larger ones are out there too, and some people worry.

Chances of a Space Object Hitting Earth

On the Web you can find scary discussions about objects supposedly on a collision course with our planet. The best known is probably the mythical planet Nibiru, which I get asked about on Public Radio call-in shows. I tell callers it doesn’t exist, since any approaching new planet would change the positions of comets and such, which isn’t happening. However, since conspiracy websites say astronomers (like me) are in on the plot to keep it secret, I apparently can’t be trusted.

Instead let me ease any fears with a simple question: What are the chances of a natural global cataclysm in our lifetimes?

Such mass-destruction impacts happen every 90 million years on average. Meaning, Earth suffered widespread damage 65 million, 200 million, 251 million, 364 million, and 439 million years ago. So during this next year, figure there’s only a one in 90 million chance. That’s twice as unlikely as you winning a pick-six lottery after buying a single ticket.

Want more reassurance? There are 31,500,000 seconds in a year. Say you’ll honk your horn only once during 2017, and, wherever I am, day or night, I must snap my fingers during the exact second you honk. Not likely, right? Well, it’s three times more probable I’ll choose the correct second than Earth will be clobbered by Nibiru or anything else.

Bottom line: We can probably enjoy these meteors without worrying. And for optimal enjoyment, check out these viewing tips for the Perseid meteor shower and the Sky Map for this month, August 2016.

Don’t think you’ll be able to catch the meteor showers this August? Look at our Meteor Shower Calendar to find out when a meteor will fly by Earth. Let us know how you like the meteor showers below!

~ By  Bob Berman

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Wondering which bright objects you’re seeing in the night sky? Want to learn about a breathtaking sight coming up? Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, we’ll cover everything under the Sun (and Moon)!


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I very much appreciate these well written and informative articles presented by Bob Berman. I usually post them on my Facebook page. They are a very good vehicle for helping all of us provincials out here, to feel more kindly toward the physical world, and the world of Science in general. I hope. Thank you so much for making them a part of the The Old Farmer's Almanac!

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