TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State University is home to one of the largest collections of meteorites on the planet at the Center for Meteorite Studies.
“We have on the order of 40,000 meteorites in here,” said Laurence Garvie, research professor and curator at the center.
Garvie and his colleagues closely monitored two events Friday, an asteroid near Earth and a meteor that exploded above Russia’s Ural Mountains.
The 150-foot asteroid passed within 17,000 miles of Earth, the closest known fly-by of a rock its size.
Just hours before, the smaller meteor exploded over a city of about 1 million people in Russia, injuring about 1,100 people, mostly from flying glass.
"That shock blast was large," Garvie said. "We estimate 300 kilotons of energy was released. If we compare that to the Hiroshima bomb, that was 15 kilotons."
Garvie said the work at the Center for Meteorite Studies is of vital importance because the next big impact with Earth could be just around the corner.
"There will always be impacts of relatively large asteroids," he said.
Arizona is filled with meteorites and evidence of a large impact at Meteor Crater near Winslow.
"Arizona is a meteorite hot spot," he said.
According to Garvie, desert climates like Arizona's preserve meteorites very well, which is why we have so many of them. He said we are no more likely to be hit by one than any other place on Earth. He also said if a massive meteor or asteroid was hurtling toward the Earth, scientists would know about it.
"We have information on a lot of the really large asteroids," he said. "We would know 20 or 30 years in advance and be able to nudge it in a different direction before it hit the Earth."