I have been thinking about this question :

How can they tell no asteroids (big enough to create damage) will hit earth in the next few hundred years?

Because, so far, we were unable to get a clear and nice view of a planet of the solar system planet which is not that big, but still bigger than an asteroid. So how can they tell that nothing from the immensity of the Galaxy and Universe, bigger than a few yards, will cross our path and hit us within the next 100 years?

We all remember Chelyabinsk meteor in 2013, or whatever how they called that thing. They never saw that coming but it still caused damage and it was only few meters (± 20 meters according to that page Wiki link), Arround 1,500 injuries and ± 7200 damaged buildings... It's hard to believe that they know how to see something not so much wider than 20 metres wide outside of our solar system.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 'They' can't. It's a probabilistic argument. We haven't been hit hard for thousands of years, so the chances are pretty good we won't get hit hard over the next year. Near earth object surveys are far from complete: neo.jpl.nasa.gov/programs so we have only statistics on our side now, not certainty. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ Well, this is not convincing :/ Thank you for your answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ Who are the 'they' of whom who write? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ @WayfaringStranger until the last 100 years or so it was "common knowledge" that rocks didn't fall from the sky. Therefore accounts of rocks falling from the sky were dismissed as myths and fairy tales. See John S. Lewis' book Rain of Iron and Ice. $\endgroup$
    – HopDavid
    Commented Jul 17, 2015 at 17:22

2 Answers 2


A couple of points based on some basic orbital mechanics

They don't need to get a "good" view, like the clear, crisp photos of Pluto to see one coming. They only need to get a picture over time to calculate trajectory. The unclear snapshots work just fine to calculate if it'll hit us or miss us.

Also, an object as far as Mars at it's closest pass to earth, a bit over 1/2 AU, would still take a few months to reach earth if it's in solar orbit. Mostly we don't need to track anything as far out as Pluto, they can look much closer to the Earth and still have sufficient warming time. The hard part, is tracking things that approach from the Sun side, cause those are harder to see. That's why the Chelyabinsk meteor wasn't spotted. it was also on the small side, smaller than NASA is currently looking for.

The good news is that, we don't get struck by things that size very often. The Solar system is pretty enormous and pretty empty and pretty big strikes like that one are rare, like, maybe once a century.

Also, virtually all of the injuries from the Chelyabinsk meteor were from people who didn't know what to do. If you see a big fireball in the sky, it's human nature to watch it, but use some common sense. A space rock of that size will make a shock-wave that travels at roughly the speed of sound and the shock-wave can break windows, even knock over trees and buildings if it's big enough. You don't want to be standing in-front of a window when the shock wave its. Lay down next to a couch or under a table in case your building gets shaken and cover your ears. If everyone had done that, there would have been very few injuries. You only need to wait maybe 2 minutes or so to be on the safe side.

If you're in a car, stop, cause the shock-wave could knock down trees or debris in-front of you and stay in the car, cause that's safer than being outside. All told, the damage to buildings was tiny compared to natural disasters like Earthquakes, floods or volcanoes which happen to us several times a year. It's good that NASA is watching for this kind of thing, but it's also a pretty rare event.


We know that there is no known object that will collide with the Earth in the next hundred years or so, and is large enough to do substantial damage. We don't know if there are undiscovered objects that can collide with the Earth.

Having made an observation of an asteroid, over a period of time, it is a relatively simple process to predict its future path. Each asteroid, as it is discovered, has its orbit calculated, and no discovered object has an orbit that intersects with that of Earth.

However there are known to be many more objects that we haven't discovered yet. It is possible that there is a undiscovered object that will collide with the Earth. It is unlikely because large objects are rare, but not impossible.

The survey can never be complete, as comets enter the inner solar system from very great distances, and cannot be seen until they do.

  • $\begingroup$ When you say "no known object will collide with the Earth in the next 100 years, what about Apophis in 2036? Or, has that been ruled out since it made headlines a few years ago? :-). $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ I should have googled before commenting. It seems Apophis has been ruled out for 2036. space.com/19221-asteroid-apophis-earth-safe-2036.html $\endgroup$
    – userLTK
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 8:28

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