Well, children, exams are almost upon you—not ‘us’; we’re not the same—and this is our last one ever. But worry not, if things go badly, it might all have been a big waste of time anyway. That’s right, the human race could be entirely wiped out in mid to early October. But hey, if that doesn’t happen, we’ll just have to wait until next year when it’s a possibility all over again. During October, the Earth annually passes through the Taurid meteor stream. This is debris from the comet Encke and the asteroid 2004 TG10 that are blatting around our solar system pretty regular. It takes several weeks to pass through this stream and casting your eyes upward may get you a look at a shooting star. The meteor stream isn’t particularly spectacular in the night sky and impacts from it are usually rare and incredibly small. However, it has come to light that there are some more sinister, larger objects lurking in this meteor stream.
This is where things become a bit more concerning. Some of the objects in this stream are hundreds of metres wide. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is a super fucking big deal. The most recent impact in modern times of a big boy space rock was in Tunguska in 1908. The meteor was 150 metres in diameter and resulted in 80 million flattened trees in 2,000 square kilometres. The object exploded upon entering the atmosphere with energy a third the size of the Tsar bomb; the largest ever tested atomic weapon in human history.
Even more concerning than this, is that there is now good evidence to suggest that the Tunguska meteor came directly from the Taurid meteor stream. Imagine if that shit went down over old Hamilton, or you know, Dunedin, I guess. A well-placed object this size could kill up to tens of millions of people. But, as we know, the universe is a cruel mistress, so there’s no reason we couldn’t be hit by an asteroid that is like, fucking way more massive than that, kilometres in diameter. And that’d be it, man. We’d pretty much be checking out as a species along with everything else. Those deep-sea plankton brothers would probably be fine though. Taurid debris isn’t even the only threat out there. There are also two other asteroid clusters orbiting the sun called Aten and Apollo. There are plenty of big boys in these groups as well, some kilometres in diameter. The various planets and moons in our solar system interact with these objects all the time and it is just by chance that we aren’t hit.
Space is a fucking big place so being hit is a very low possibility, but we get near these mother fuckers a bit too often for my liking. So just be aware that we could be wiped out or cast back to the stone age at a moment’s notice because our detection methods aren’t that good. Okay cool, have fun with exams. The Science Boys are out of here, motherfuckers.