On Tuesday, January 18, 2022, a massive asteroid named asteroid 1994 PC1 flew past Earth. That was a million miles from us, and a similar distance to the James Webb Space Telescope that NASA sent into space on Christmas Day. This is the closest asteroid 1994 PC1 has passed to Earth. It’s also the closest an asteroid has come to Earth since coming within 700,000 miles of our planet on January 17, 1933. Asteroid 1994 PC1 is about 3,280 feet in diameter. or the size of the Eiffel Tower or twice the height of the New York Empire State Building. An asteroid like this is called a near-Earth object because it came 120.9 million kilometers from Earth. It’s also large enough to have a devastating effect if it collides with the earth. Thank goodness asteroid 1994 PC1 won’t return this close to Earth for another 200 years.
Over 822,000 known asteroids fly throughout our solar system. These remnants of rock and debris that broke away during the formation of our solar system about 4.6 billion years ago pose collision threats to our planet. In recent years, NASA and other scientific organizations have studied and tracked large asteroids capable of destroying the Earth. They are also devising strategies to bring down an asteroid in the direct path of Earth. Nothing is off the table, including the possible use of a nuclear missile to crush such an approaching asteroid. The deployment of a nuclear missile may seem like a stretch, but the past collision of an asteroid with Earth led to the extinction of the dinosaur.
We often forget that the earth rotates around its axis at 1,000 miles per hour or 1,670 kilometers per hour. It orbits the sun at 61,000 miles per hour or 107,000 kilometers per hour. We do not feel the earth moving at these speeds because these speeds are constant. It’s the same way we don’t feel an airplane cruising at high altitude, even though it’s moving at around 460 miles per hour. But if a large object like an asteroid, comet or meteoroid hit the earth moving at that speed, it could cause impactful events that could transform life on earth.
Sixty-six million years ago, a large 10-kilometer Chicxulub asteroid struck land in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The impact was so huge that it caused megatsunamis over 100 meters high, earthquakes over 12 magnitudes across the globe, volcanic eruptions across the earth and released energy estimated up to 921 billion times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. It created winds of over 1,000 miles per hour and numerous weather disruptions, including a decade of acid rain, the release of greenhouse gases, severe temperature drops, dust that blocked sunlight for more than ten years, resulting in the death of 75% of plants due to an inability to carry out photosynthesis. Animal species on earth have also gone extinct in greater numbers. Some estimates suggest that more than 75% have disappeared. This was the time when non-avian dinosaurs became extinct.
The Bible writers were unaware that dinosaurs once lived there. When in 1667, Robert Plot discovered the first dinosaur fossil, it then had no name. He called him a giant human. In 1824, William Buckland, the first professor of geology at Oxford University, came across the same fossil that Robert Plot had seen in 1667 and called it a Megalosaurus. Further discoveries of these fossils continued. In 1842, Richard Owen coined the name “Dinosauria” for the family of these fossils. “Dinosauria” means “terrible lizard”. This is where the name dinosaur comes from.
For the writers of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, none of the dinosaur fossils had been discovered when they put their pen to paper and as such they had no idea that such giant animals have ever lived. Nor did the spirit that inspired them to write reveal this hidden truth. And despite the claim in the Bible that God created man and all animals on earth on the sixth day, the dinosaurs died out about 65 million years before the evolution of modern man, which took place. produced about 160,000 years ago. So even though Steven Spielberg in his film, Jurassic Park, placed man in the same park as the dinosaurs, man and dinosaurs never inhabited the earth at the same time.
The scientific fact is that dinosaurs ruled the world for 140 million years and died out around 65 million years ago. So even before Noah built his 510-foot-long ark, around 4,300 years ago, according to biblical chronology, the dinosaurs had died out. As we know, some argue the opposite. They want to see the dinosaur in Noah’s ark. There were 55 different types of dinosaurs, some of which, like the Dreadnoughtus, were up to 85 feet tall and weighed around 65 tons. Imagine them in Noah’s 510ft ark with other animals, including those from distant lands like Australia or South Africa, miraculously transported and packed inside this little ark that Noah built somewhere in present-day Turkey. Because the believers of this fairy tale do not believe in evolution, it closes them off from claiming that Noah only put together a male and female dinosaur, which then evolved into other species.
What scientists know to be true, through vigorous research based on empirical evidence, is that an asteroid crashing into Earth caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. These types of asteroids always visit earth. Chances are another will hit the ground at a later date. And that may be when humans will go extinct, just like the dinosaur.
Okonkwo teaches post-colonial African history at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He is also the host of Dr. Damages Show. His books include “This American Life Sef”, “Children of a Retired God” among others