EARTH is being bombarded by a back of potentially apocalyptic asteroids strikes, NASA data has revealed. Deep space is a dangerous place, with deadly radiation doses, freezing temperatures and unimaginable pressures. And even Earth is not totally immune from extraterrestrial peril because of the exceptional circumstances of our planet pummelled by space rock.
Now data released by the US space agency NASA has revealed that the asteroid impact rate is actually increasing.
It's a bit like a rising tide; you have a lot of material coming out of the asteroid belt at one point
Although extremely rare, asteroid strikes hold the potential to pulverize the planet.
In just a geological blink of an eye, most of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs, went extinct 66 million years ago.
The cause of this mass extinction event – known as the K-T impact – was most likely a massive asteroid impact.
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Asteroid strike: Space rocks are striking our planet three times more often
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And researchers now believe the asteroids are slamming into Earth at almost three times the rate as when dinosaurs roamed the world.
One of the scientists involved in the study has explained how they calculated the collision increase.
Dr Gernon, Associate Professor of Earth Science at Southampton University, said: "The Moon is our closest neighbor so it gets hit by the same population of asteroids.
"For this reason, it provides a neat achievement of impacts, as it is unlike Earth, which is affected by erosion and plate tectonics that disturb impact craters.
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"We were able to use the samples collected by NASA astronauts during the Apollo missions to date some of the craters.
"And we were able to use this data set to calibrate a new technique of dating craters using measurements taken onboard NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter."
The idea is that collision blast produces lots of big rocks, and over a billion yearly time-scales these rocks break down after being bombarded by many micro-meteorites.
And they additionally warm-up by day and cool-down by night, stressing the rock and breaking them up.
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Asteroid strike: The K-T impact most likely killed the dinosaurs
Asteroid strikes: The asteroid belt is found between Mars and Jupiter
This allowed researchers to discover a link between rock abundance and age.
Dr Gernon outlines how our solar system's asteroid belt is the most likely explanation for the threefold strike increase pummelling Earth and its Moon.
He said: "In the asteroid belt, fitting somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, some of these space rocks sometimes collide.
"The breakup of one or more asteroids will potentially generate lots of fragments, which over time can get nudged towards Earth.
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"Over time, these rocks are bombarded by sunlight and there is a process that re-emits this energy, and basically gives these fragments and tiny nudge, which can then send them on a collisional path towards Earth.
"It's a bit like a rising tide; you have a lot of material coming out of the asteroid belt at one point. "
Dr Gernon, however, is struggling to stress how rare Earth apocalyptic impacts are even if the probability is doubled or even tripled, saying: "There is no need for people to worry about this increased flux.
"We say big asteroid impacts – more than 1 km across – went from one every 3-5 million years before 90 million years ago, roughly 1-2 every million years."
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Asteroid strike: NASA has a dedicated program for monitoring Near Earth Objects
And although this represents an increase, asteroids strikes are random events, so does not mean Earth is overdue for another collision.
And additionally, NASA has a dedicated program for monitoring Near Earth Objects (NEOs).
All of the space junk that are potentially dangerous to Earth is being monitored and there is a US Defense Department who works with NASA who keeps an eye on impact risks.
The University of Southampton's Dr Gernon believes we can learn a lot about Earth from looking at the Moon.
He said: "We can all see those pockmarks on the Moon and it's just fascinating to look at them and we think we can exploit the data being collected as they talk to our understanding of how our Earth has been affected by these events over time."