Should we be afraid of meteorites? A specialist from the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse answers us

“The fact that the sky is falling on our heads is an old fear of humanity. But to receive an asteroid, yes, it is a threat that exists. This reality does not take his good humor from Olivier Sanguy, head of space news at the Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse. The specialist helps us to see things more clearly.

What are we talking about?

An asteroid, “it is a rock that travels through space”. A meteoroid is “an asteroid that measures less than a meter in length”.

The asteroid becomes a meteor when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and then a meteor when it hits the earth.

A 40 km meteorite crater discovered at the unique site Astroblème in Limousin

What do we risk?

The atmosphere protects us from anything under 7 to 10 meters in length. “To the general public, the threat, as it is transmitted by disaster films, is ‘the doom of the world.’ see them. The danger is the “city killers”, asteroids hundreds of meters long, Olivier Sanguy assures. Between shock wave and impact, they can level a big city and trigger a humanitarian catastrophe. “

To understand, the image of the cake
Olivier Sanguy uses a clear image to enable his interlocutor to understand the significance that meteorites can have for scientists. “Asteroids are left out of the formation of planets. It’s like baking a cake: there is always flour on the table. By studying them we can study the starting elements, the basic ingredients used during the formation of the solar system. For as with the cake flour, they have not been processed. “

Has an asteroid recently fallen to the ground?

“The most recent fell in Russia, in Chelyabinsk, in February 2013. It is an extremely interesting case because the damage, damage and destroyed buildings are not due to the impact of the earth, but the wave shock from its dissolution.”

About fifteen meters long, this asteroid arrived at Earth at a speed of 66,000 km / h …

January 2022: A large asteroid will “graze” Earth Tuesday night within two million kilometers

How is humanity preparing?

“A dozen automatic telescopes are responsible for scanning the sky to locate these objects, as part of a global agreement: the data is public and shared.”

When are they too close to us? “As soon as they’re between the moon and us, it’s very, very hot,” smiles the expert.

If its predicted orbit touches the Earth, then action must be taken: “We do not yet have the tools, but we have the ideas to change its orbit. The danger has been identified, monitored. Today we are trying to get started. It is, after all, a of the rare and foreseeable natural disasters. “

To understand everythingImax / City of Space
The Cité de l’Espace in Toulouse is open every day in summer (allow 6.5 hours for the average visit). Movie asteroid hunters in 3D included in the entrance fee (from 16 to 24.50 €).

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