What are the chances of a large meteor destroying a city?

Good news: This is probably not something you have to worry too much about during your lifetime.


    1. No, what the article is saying is that if you don’t live in a city, you have some 768 times the odds that you’ll be hit by a meteor… 

  1. mind you the earth gets pelted with a ton of smaller meteors constantly and the odds of it hitting a city are pretty good now that cities take up so much more land mass.
    In fact it’s quite likely to happen again within the next 30 years.

    If the meteor that exploded over Russia had a slightly different course it could have hit the city and caused quite a lot of fatalities. Not destroy it of course, but thousands would have died for sure.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson pretty much said just this on a recent Daily Show interview.

    1. Why do you think that? That meteor exploded in midair and left no crater and didn’t level any forests. Why would thousands have died?

      1. It exploded 20 miles up in the air, if it exploded at ground level it would have cause a massive shockwave and would have leveled a city.

        The meteor in question had about 25 times the explosive power as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and even if parts of it had made it closer to ground level or exploded a bit lower then it did… well, there’d be fewer dash cam videos left to tell the tale.

        1. If it exploded at ground level? The meteor didn’t exactly have a choice in the matter.

          You are obviously thinking of some imaginary meteor in your mind, not the actual meteor that entered the atmosphere above Russia. You might want to edit your initial post to reflect that.

        2. I don’t think a rock that size has the option of creating a low altitude blast.  The shock-wave that caused the damage happened as soon as it hit the atmosphere and rapidly lost kilometres per second of speed. 

    2. That’s correct. The Russian meteor came in at a shallow angle, if it had come in straight down for instance the explosion would have been much closer to the ground, possibly at ground level.

  2. Aren’t these figures completely wrong?  They’re talking about “large” (?) asteroids, which they claim have a 1 in 2.5 million chance of hitting Earth every century.  But those once-every-250 million year events are the apocalyptic ones that will probably kill everyone regardless of whether they hit a city or not – and you’d better hope it doesn’t land in the sea because mile-high tsunamis do a lot of damage.

    I thought the potential city-killer-sized rocks were more like once every few centuries?

    Your lifetime odds of fiery-space-rock-death are actually 1 in 700,000, according to http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/10/13/death-by-meteorite/

  3. I look at it this way.

    What are the chances that at the exact time we acquire and start using the ability to scan the skies looking for potential impactors, we also detect something that’s headed right for us?

    Pretty slim.

    The corollary to this is that stuff has always been whizzing right by and narrowly missing us, we just weren’t aware of it.

  4. The chances may be slim, but it still seems better to live by the Boy Scout motto of “Be prepared.” And even if we don’t spot killer meteors at least we’d have a better chance of having advance notice if aliens from Alpha Centauri decide to pop over to borrow a cup of sugar.

  5. A “large” meteor? Has science been so dumbed down now that T-shirt sizes have become SI units, or is it even more meaningless than that?

  6. This statistic is complete bs. The “large meteor” that this applies to doesn’t have to land anywhere near a city to destroy it. If it lands in the ocean for instance the megatsunami will destroy all cities around the basin.

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