Any of numerous small celestial bodies composed of rock and metal that revolve around the sun, with orbits lying mainly between Mars and Jupiter. Their diameters are usually between a few and several hundred kilometers.
Several hundred thousand asteroids have been discovered so far and thousands more are discovered each year. Undoubtedly hundreds of thousands more are too small to be seen from Earth.
Our planet Earth has been bombarded by these celestials bodies since its very beginnings. It is speculated that every one hundred and fifty thousand years a global catastrophe sized asteroid 1 kilometer or more in diameter hits our planet.
We have cataloged 99% asteroids larger than 100 kilometers in diameter, and about half of those in between 100 and 10 kilometers. But we have cataloged very few of the ones below 10 kilometers, and any of those could hit the Earth with catastrophic results.
The disappearance of the dinosaurs some sixty-five million years ago is now widely believed to have been the result of such an event.
An asteroid ten kilometers wide allegedly hit the Earth at the Yucatan peninsula where evidence of it, including an enormous crater (Chicxulub), have been discovered unleashing an explosion in the magnitude of a billion megatons.
Such impact would have blasted tons of sulfur-rich rock and dust high into the atmosphere, encircling the globe and igniting the skies. Fiery debris would rain back down upon the earth, and the skies would be darkened for months, if not years, ensuing what is now called a "Nuclear Winter." Ninety percent of the world's biomass would have been incinerated, and over seventy percent of the world's species would have disappeared, including the dinosaurs. If such an event occurs within humanity's extent span, our species could be obliterated.
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