NASA has found 16,000 asteroids near Earth. Don’t panic.

There are millions of such rocks, called asteroids, in the solar system. An estimated 1 million to 2 million large asteroids exist in the space between Mars and Jupiter.  Sometimes these asteroids collide with each other and break off into smaller chunks called meteoroids.

More than 16,000 of them are considered near-Earth objects because sometimes they come as close as a mere 28 million miles from us — a hair’s breadth away in cosmic terms.

Even asteroids that don’t make it to Earth’s surface can cause damage. In 2013, a small asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia. 1,500 people were injured from the resulting shockwave.

But it’s the thousands of yet-undiscovered, smaller ones — ones that could destroy towns and cities — that scientists are most uneasy about. What we can’t see coming might hit us.


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