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You must have heard of the Perseid meteor shower that always happens in the month of August and you've even noticed the phenomenon. These meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through clouds of debris left by a celestial body - asteroid or comet. In that case, the Perseids rain is caused by a comet called Swift-Tuttle, which can also end life on Earth.

Discovered in 1862, the comet orbits our Sun once every 133 years. The next perihelion, or nearest point of the Sun in its orbit, will be July 26, 2126. Its stable orbit means that it will not be a threat until then, but a few millennia or more lately can be a problem.

Ethan Siegel of Forbes is suggesting that if Jupiter's enormous and somewhat unpredictable gravitational field gives Swift-Tuttle the slightest detour, then it could adjust its orbit just enough for it to hit Earth. Considering that the nucleus of the comet is about 26 kilometers, this would be apocalyptic.

But then, what would happen if a comet like Swift-Tuttle actually hit us? Would it be worse or better than an asteroid impact?

Comets are undoubtedly more dangerous to life on Earth than asteroids. Asteroids usually travel at speeds of about 25 km / s. Comets, on the other hand, travel at speeds up to 70 km / s. assuming a hypothetical impact, this extra speed means that they have much more impetus and therefore much more destructive power.

Here's a good comparison: the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs, which was about 15 kilometers, triggered the same amount of energy as about 100 million tons of TNT. That sounds a lot, but it's nothing compared to the Shoemaker-Levy 9, the comet that struck Jupiter in the early 90's.

This comet of "only" 5 km, has been transformed into multiple fragments. The largest fragment, 'G', hit Jupiter on July 18, 1994 at such a remarkable speed that this alone impact was 60,000 times more powerful than the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs.

A Swift-Tuttle impact would trigger an energy around 10-28 times that of the impact of the dino killer asteroid. But calm, despite the remarkable chance of impacted, that number is one in 500,000.

In short, we recommend taking advantage of the annual meteor shower and not worrying so much about these space rocks - at least for now. [ IFLS ]

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Perseid meteor shower

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