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Asteroids

Asteroids are irregularly-shaped masses of rock traveling through space. Sometimes called "minor planets," or "flying mountains," they are thought to be leftover materials from the original formation of the solar system. Most travel in orbits around the sun as do the 9 major planets, including the earth.

Asteroid There are a few important points to be considered about asteroids:

  • They can be very big. e.g. "Gaspra" (in photo at right) is about 12 miles (19 kilometers) long. Most of the crater scars on its surface are larger than football fields. There are many other asteroids that are even much larger - some are hundreds of miles/kilometers across.

  • They are moving at very high velocity, some at many thousands of miles/kilometers per hour.

  • Their usually irregular orbits sometimes cross the orbital path of the earth and other planets, providing the chance for collision.

    Meteor Crater

  • Scientists know that collisions between earth and space objects have indeed occurred. It isn't just a matter for science fiction movies. "Meteor Crater" (in photo) near Winslow, Arizona, in the United States, is an excellent example. It's about 1.5 kilometers (3/4 mile) in diameter and 180 meters (600 feet) deep and is thought to have been caused by a relatively small piece of space rock striking the surface at very high speed.

Asteroid In 1998, scientists announced the discovery of a large asteroid that they believed could collide with the earth sometime in the next century. The announcement caused quite a lot of excitement for a few days until further calculations, based on the more detailed observation of its trajectory, indicated that it is going to safely miss the earth by a distance greater than that of two or three moon distances from the earth.

While we may have been lucky with that one, could there be other asteroids out there that are going to strike the earth? Are we going to take a serious hit one day?

The apostle John, in his end-times vision of the spectacular series of events known as The Seven Seals, describes seeing "something like a great mountain, burning with fire, was thrown into the sea" (Revelation 8:8 RSV). Any astronomer, professional or amateur, would recognize immediately what John was talking about. They need not even be at all religious to see and understand it. An asteroid is an asteroid.

The good news may be that it describes a strike in the "sea." If that means one of the oceans, then damage should be less than that on land. There would be however huge tidal waves (not good if you live on an island, or along a continental coastline), earthquakes from the shock to the earth's crust, and numerous other atmospheric and environmental effects. There would still be vast devastation.

Is the earth going to be stuck by an asteroid one day? Nearly all astronomers say yes. So does your Bible.

Fact Finder: What fraction of the sea creatures will be lost in the collision?
(a) 1/10 (b) 1/4 (c) 1/3 (d) 1/2
Revelation 8:8-9


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