• Asteroids: Chance that earth will be hit again
• Meteor Crater in Arizona
• Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed by a meteor
• The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs
• Mass extinctions on earth and spiritual implications
Last weekend I stopped at the Meteor Crater in Arizona, just before Flagstaff on I40. It’s a giant bowl-shaped cavity in an otherwise flat desert plain. 700 ft deep and almost a mile across. This happened 50,000 years ago, and was caused by a meteor or asteroid about 150 ft across (size of a football field) and moving at 26,000 mph. The impact struck with an explosive force of 20 million tons of TNT, and created shock waves that spread out over the desert and destroyed everything for several miles.
While an enormous amount of rock fragments was ejected by the collision, the blast melted other regions of rock. Large blocks of limestone, some the size of houses, were heaved up onto the rim of the crater. One piece of the meteor, about 3 ft across, was found two miles away from the crater. A meteor of this size is estimated to occur once every 50,000 years. When you consider the devastation caused by this meteor, it’s sobering. But other larger ones that have impacted earth are even scarier…..read on.
The biblical story of Sodom’s destruction, about 3,700 years ago in 1700 B.C., has been verified by archaeologist Dr Steven Collins, and he thinks this was due to a comet or meteor body. However the comet blew to pieces before it ever reached ground, so there was no crater. Still, the shock waves were enormous blasts, and destroyed everything in their path. The radius of destruction around Sodom was about 12 miles.
Now we come to the grand-daddy of them all: the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. This happened 65 million years ago near the end of the cretaceous area. This enormous asteroid (six miles across), which crashed near the Yucatan region of Mexico, spewed up an immense cloud of dust and debris that circulated and cooled the entire world.
The Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that crashed into Jupiter in 1993 was a spectacular sight. On a previous orbit around the planet the comet was broken into 21 pieces (the largest was 1.2 miles across) by Jupiter’s gravity. Each fragment flared up in Jupiter’s atmosphere before crashing to the surface. There is an argument that Jupiter, because of its large mass, acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner and may protect earth from other devastating asteroid impacts.
Finally Pluto, the outermost planet has been demoted to a non-planet when scientists realized it was just a large asteroid. Pluto received attention this past week as the New Horizons spacecraft flew by. It took the little spacecraft nine years to travel from earth to Pluto. While all expectations were that Pluto’s surface would look like our moon — pockmarked everywhere by meteor craters — the first pics showed a large smooth region amongst the pockmarks. The scientists are excited by this because they have no clue what geological mechanism caused the smoothing.
Post-Script 1…. Mass extinctions: excerpts from A Quantum Leap of Faith***
This book is by a Jewish scientist whose parents were Holocaust survivors. He knows the Bible and attempts to integrate his faith in God with cosmology. He argues that the origins of the universe, the galaxies, planet earth, and life on earth are not inconsistent with the creation story told in Genesis. Then Bodner moves on to mass extinctions and an argument for God that surprised me.
There have been at least 10 mass extinctions in the history of our earth, where a large percentage of the world’s species have been wiped out. The most devastating one was at the end of the Permian period (250 million years ago) when 95% of marine species and 8 of 27 insect orders were lost. The best-known is the Cretaceous extinction (65 million years ago), when the dinosaurs and many other animals and plants disappeared and up to 75% of all marine genera were lost.
“Life not only happens, but it re-emerges in new forms each time it is wiped out. It adapts to an incredibly complex set of changing conditions and thrives. It evolves and fills all available ecological niches.” For example, after the dinosaurs were wiped out, mammals came in. What would have happened if the asteroid had missed the earth? Dinosaurs had ruled the planet for hundreds of millions of years prior to the event and probably would have continued over the last 65 million years.
God designed the world this way, Bodner says. “Rather than having a fixed design, life is a system that can change as needed, improve (or go extinct) in response to external conditions…. The Creator has demonstrated even more intelligence than credited to him by the Intelligent Design community.”
What do you think? Please add a comment in the Comment box at the bottom of this blog.
Post-Script 2: Likelihood that earth will again get hit by a killer asteroid. This has been calculated by a USA department that is using telescopes to map the paths of large asteroids that could hit earth**. This info is provided in the figure which comes from another blog.
- #The team is tracking over 600,000 asteroids.
- #Frequency and damage: every day earth gets hit by 100 tons of pebble-sized asteroids, which burn up in the atmosphere. One of these is the size of a basketball. Every 8 months something arrives as big as a car. The range of sizes, how many are near the earth, and how often one will collide with earth, is given in the figure. Plus the explosiveness compared with a Hiroshima atom bomb. It’s scary stuff!
- #Hazardous asteroids are defined as more than 460 ft across which come within 4.7 million miles of earth. NASA has discovered about 1500 of these interlopers, but there are undiscovered ones still out there (scary!)
- #Size 460 ft across (local devastation): every 13,000 years. 0.6 miles across (widespread devastation): every 440,000 years. 6 miles across (extinction of all life): every 89 million years
The Gray Nomad
Probing the practice of Christian believers……
** The Man who Guards the Planet by Jeffrey Kluger, Time Magazine, June 2014.
*** A Quantum Leap of Faith by Michael Simon Bodner (2010).
Soon after the trouble of those days the sun will grow dark, the moon will no longer shine, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers in space will be driven from their course. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. (Matthew chapter 24).
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