The asteroid and comet impact hazard: risk assessment and mitigation options

Naturwissenschaften. 2006 Aug;93(8):361-73. doi: 10.1007/s00114-006-0115-0.


The impact of extraterrestrial matter onto Earth is a continuous process. On average, some 50,000 tons of dust are delivered to our planet every year. While objects smaller than about 30 m mainly disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere, larger ones can penetrate through it and cause damage on the ground. When an object of hundreds of meters in diameter impacts an ocean, a tsunami is created that can devastate coastal cities. Further, if a km-sized object hit the Earth it would cause a global catastrophe due to the transport of enormous amounts of dust and vapour into the atmosphere resulting in a change in the Earth's climate. This article gives an overview of the near-Earth asteroid and comet (near-Earth object-NEO) impact hazard and the NEO search programmes which are gathering important data on these objects. It also points out options for impact hazard mitigation by using deflection systems. It further discusses the critical constraints for NEO deflection strategies and systems as well as mitigation and evacuation costs and benefits. Recommendations are given for future activities to solve the NEO impact hazard problem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Climate
  • Disasters*
  • Earth, Planet*
  • Meteoroids*
  • Minor Planets*
  • Risk Assessment*