TOOLS: Watch for Falling Rocks

Science  23 Apr 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5670, pp. 495
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5670.495d

Space chunks the size of a basketball slam into Earth more than once a month, whereas boulders big enough to level Manhattan hit about every million years. This new calculator from researchers at the University of Arizona, Tucson, lets you determine the destructive power of such collisions. It estimates the blast's impact from variables such as the size of the object, its trajectory and composition, and your distance from ground zero. For example, an iron-rich meteorite 10 meters in diameter landing 20 kilometers from your home would rattle windows and produce a boom as loud as heavy traffic. An object 1 kilometer across—about one-tenth the size of the asteroid that snuffed out the dinosaurs—falling the same distance away would wrench and topple buildings; the resulting fireball would severely burn anyone in your neighborhood, just before a shower of debris buried them.

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