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So an asteroid is going to hit Earth. Here's how you are likely to die

Study shows how people are likely to perish in event of a large impact.

In the 1990s, it was a staple of science fiction. A giant asteroid is headed toward Earth to destroy the planet. Few are likely to survive unless a team of misfit astronauts and space cowboys can save the day. Unfortunately, space cowboys don't exist, but Earth-killing asteroids do. What could happen if one such asteroid hit the planet? A new study answers the question.

Will humanity survive the next big impact?

Will humanity survive the next big impact?

Highlights

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - A new study explored how an asteroid impact would affect victims. They found that the greatest threat comes from the shock wave and wind blasts near the site of the impact.

About 60 percent of the victims will perish because of the shockwave and the wind. The shockwave is caused by the pressure of so much air being displaced at once. When a shockwave hits the human body, it hits with a force that's the same as hitting the ground from the top of a tall building; the body is smashed.


The Chelyabinsk blast sent more than 1,100 people to the hospital because the shockwave shattered glass which rained on thousands.

For those who survive the shockwave, the wind effects are just as deadly. At first, the winds blow outward with the shockwave, then they reverse direction as the black sucks the oxygen out of the air and draws air towards the epicenter and up into a great mushroom cloud.

The winds can have hurricane force, so they pick up debris, and people, blowing them outwards, then inwards. Even if you are not swept up in the wind, the air will be filled with fast-moving debris. Even typically soft objects can impact you with fatal force.

Farther away, debris begins to rain down from the impact crater. Most people would survive this rain of rocks, but a few unlucky people might be injured. Only 1 percent of victims would be killed by falling debris.

Eventually, the rain of rocks would turn to a rain of ash and dust.

If the asteroid were to impact water, it would generate a tsunami. If large enough, the tsunami could travel at supersonic speeds across the ocean. Researchers found that land based impacts would harm more people than water impacts, even if a tsunami were generated.

What happens next depends on the size of the asteroid. The larger the asteroid, the greater its effects would be. If it were large enough, the asteroid would throw so much dust and soot into the atmosphere it could block out sunlight, dropping the temperature of the atmosphere. A long, permanent winter could follow. Many crops and animals could die, as well as people. Famine would result.

The study shows how important it is to pay attention to these asteroids and to work out methods to deflect them, should we find one on a collision course.

Such asteroids have hit the planet before, and scientists agree it is only another matter of time before another one hits again. The only question is if we will be ready or not.

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