Asteroid Apocalypse: How Likely Is It?

Jan 22, 2014

Artist's view ofa watery asteroid in white dwarf star system GD 61.
Credit Hubble Space Telescope / Creative Commons

Scientists say that the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia this past February was a rare event, unlikely to happen more than every 100 -200 years. But a recent paper in the scientific journal Nature said the earth should expect and plan to get hit by Chelyabinsk-sized asteroids more often-- maybe every decade or two.

This news sparked a flurry of talk about what that means for us on earth. How vulnerable are we and are we doing enough to detect and deflect asteroids?

This hour, we talk to a novelist who paints a uniquely-detailed scenario of a pending apocalyptic event, examining how people live their lives in the anticipation of imminent destruction. What would you do with your life if you knew an asteroid would kill you, and everyone else, in six months? Would you quit your job, commit suicide, or just live your life to the fullest?

We also add a dose of reality with a scientist, and a science historian, who say that while we are more vulnerable to smaller asteroid strikes, scientists are looking for ways to detect, plan for, and deflect the course of asteroids.

Leave your comments below, email us at colin@wnpr.org, or tweet us @wnprcolin.


  • Ben Winters is the author of 7 novels including The Last Policeman Trilogy, an award-winning series about a detective investigating a crime when people are preparing for the apocalypse of a deadly asteroid on a collision course with Earth. The final book is scheduled for release in the summer of 2014.
  • Robert Pearlman is an American space historian and founder and editor of collectSPACE, a website with news and information about space exploration history.
  • Dr. H. Jay Melosh is a geophysicist and Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University