Small Near-Earth Objects Could Trigger Nuclear War
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) pose a threat to our global security, and not just from a catastrophic impact. A large meteorite exploding in Earth's atmosphere could trigger a nuclear war.
Such a scenario was in the making on June 6, 2002. Just as the tensions between India and Pakistan were reaching their boiling point, a meteor exploded as it entered the atmosphere over the Eastern Hemisphere, causing an energy release of 12 kilotons, equivalent to the blast that destroyed Hiroshima. Fortunately, the bright flash and damaging shock wave of the detonating meteorite occurred over the Mediterranean Sea, just west of the disputed Kashmir region. If the explosion had happened a little earlier while it was over the countries in conflict, the confusion and panic could easily have sparked a nuclear response from either country.
While the United States was able to quickly determine the source of the...