The same day as the Chelyabinsk meteorite, the 40-meter asteroid 2012 DA 14 passed the earth in a distance of only about 26,000 kilometres – the closest fly-by scientists ever recorded. These two events were not linked to each other but highlight the growing danger meteorites pose to our planet.
Meteorites are ambiguous. As shooting stars they are messengers of good luck. But as massive missiles they spread fear of death and destruction. In the planet’s history, there have been numerous impacts with cataclysmic consequences.
Scientists have racked their brains about how to fend off a potential disastrous impact. Ideas range from solar sails or special ‘tractor’ spacecraft that could deflect approaching meteors from their collision course to blasting them with nuclear missiles.
But most meteorites are fragments of asteroids – leftovers from the genesis of our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago. They contain crucial information about the way the planets were created. Better still, researchers have found numerous substances in meteorites that are regarded as preliminary stages of the organic compounds on which life is based. This means that meteorites may have played a part in the creation of life, providing a sort of start-up aid to evolution. Again, their involvement in both life and death makes meteorites ambiguous.
In this UK premiere one-off film, state-of-the-art computer graphics, spectacular meteorite videos, on-location sequences and expert interviews add up to a comprehensive portrait of these celestial bodies.