how big an asteroid has to be to destroy earth

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The “big asteroid” you’re referring to is likely the one that led to the extinction event known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event, which occurred approximately 66 million years ago. This event is widely believed to have been triggered by the impact of a massive asteroid or comet on Earth.

The impact site of this asteroid is located in what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, near the town of Chicxulub. The impact created a massive crater known as the Chicxulub crater, which is approximately 180 kilometers (112 miles) in diameter. The asteroid impact is believed to have released an immense amount of energy, causing widespread devastation, massive wildfires, tsunamis, and global climate changes that led to the extinction of approximately 75% of plant and animal species, including the dinosaurs.

The discovery of the Chicxulub crater provided critical evidence supporting the hypothesis that an asteroid impact caused the K-Pg extinction event, and it remains one of the most significant impact craters on Earth’s surface.

The size of an asteroid required to destroy Earth depends on various factors, including its composition, velocity, and angle of impact. However, scientists generally agree that an asteroid with a diameter of at least several kilometers (several miles) would have the potential to cause catastrophic damage on a global scale and potentially lead to the destruction of Earth.

Here are some scenarios to consider:

  1. Extinction-Level Event: The impact of an asteroid with a diameter of approximately 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) or larger is often cited as capable of causing an extinction-level event similar to the one that occurred during the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) extinction event 66 million years ago. Such an impact could result in widespread devastation, massive earthquakes, tsunamis, global wildfires, and significant climate changes that could lead to the extinction of many species, including humans.
  2. Global Catastrophe: Even smaller asteroids, with diameters ranging from a few kilometers to several kilometers, could still cause significant damage and lead to a global catastrophe. Depending on factors such as composition and impact velocity, such asteroids could trigger widespread destruction, including regional devastation, climate disruption, and loss of life on a massive scale.
  3. Local Devastation: Even smaller asteroids, with diameters on the order of hundreds of meters to a kilometer, could cause significant local devastation if they were to impact densely populated areas or critical infrastructure. While they may not pose a threat to the survival of humanity as a whole, they could still lead to loss of life, destruction of property, and long-term consequences for affected regions.

It’s important to note that the likelihood of a catastrophic asteroid impact is relatively low, and significant efforts are underway to detect and track potentially hazardous asteroids and develop strategies for planetary defense. Nonetheless, the possibility of a catastrophic impact remains a concern for planetary scientists and policymakers, highlighting the importance of continued research and preparedness efforts to mitigate the risks associated with near-Earth objects.

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