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Ways the world could end: NASA edition

By: Katherine Butler on Feb. 16, 2012, 5:56 p.m.
asteroid hitting Earth

Photo: Don Davis/NASA

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Asteroid hit: What's good for the dinosaurs…?

If this happened, the blast would sweep over the Earth and everything in its path would die. Carbon dioxide released from vaporized rocks would flood the atmosphere. The world’s forests would ignite. Millions of tons of dust would fly into the air, obscuring the sun and shutting down photosynthesis. The debris slowly falling back to Earth would poison anything that remained.

With such dramatic and dire consequences, it’s no wonder Earth-killing asteroids have been the subject of many Hollywood blockbusters. Unfortunately, it has also made a real-life appearance here on Earth. Scientists generally agree that an asteroid collision sparked the end of the dinosaurs. But will another asteroid do the same to humanity? Not as far as NASA can see, according to the space agency. NASA rigorously monitors all near-Earth objects. Yes, the asteroid Apophis is predicted to have a historically close meeting with the Earth in 2029, but most experts remain confident that the closest we will ever come to meeting an asteroid will be in the seats of a movie theater. At least in our lifetimes.