A newly identified asteroid threat
As if there weren’t enough to worry about, European astronomers have discovered a new swarm of asteroids that have the potential to devastate Earth. New research reveals that asteroids nearly 1,000 feet wide are lurking within a previously unknown part of the Taurid meteor shower, a stargazers’ favorite, CNET.com reports. Czech astronomers analyzed the 2015 Taurid shower, which produces a display of shooting stars when Earth passes through the trail of debris left by the disintegration of Comet Encke. Most of these rocks are small meteoroids that vaporize when they enter Earth’s atmosphere—but some larger fragments may not disintegrate completely, raising the risk for an impact. Inside that cloud of small objects, the Czech researchers discovered two large asteroids between 650 and 980 feet in diameter. These particular space rocks aren’t on a collision course with Earth, but the astronomers warn there are probably even larger asteroids hidden within the Taurid shower whose paths we don’t know. That raises the possibility one could intersect Earth’s orbit with a catastrophic impact—large enough to wipe out all life on entire continents. “We hope that people with access to large telescopes will explore this region in detail,” says study author Jiri Borovicka. Earth’s next encounter with the newly discovered branch of the Taurid stream will occur in 2022.