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What was previously the stuff of Hollywood movies is seemingly moving from the safety of science fiction to the realm of harsh, possible reality.
NASA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other government agencies engaged last month in a planetary protection exercise to consider the potentially devastating consequences of a 330-foot asteroid hitting the Earth.
The exercise projected a worst-case blast wave by an asteroid strike in 2020 that could level structures within a radius of 30 miles, require a mass evacuation of the Los Angeles area and cause tens of thousands of casualties.
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says the center relies on several telescopes, such as the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona, to track potentially hazardous asteroids and comets.
The center lists 659 asteroids that have some probability of striking the planet, "but none pose a significant threat over the next century, either because the probabilities are extraordinarily small, or the asteroids themselves are extremely small... nevertheless, we must continue searching for asteroids in case there is one that is heading our way," Mr. Chodas said.
There's also another reason why the haunting 'asteroid attack' prospect is something not to be shrugged off as too remote to be of concern: It's already happened several times.
Asteroid Day is observed each year on June 30, the anniversary of what is believed to be the largest space-related explosion in human history: an asteroid strike in Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908.
An asteroid, believed to be less than 100 feet in diameter, exploded at the altitude of an airliner and flattened tens of millions of trees across 800 square miles.
Researchers estimated the explosion was as powerful as a medium-size hydrogen bomb and several hundred times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Although there were no official reports of human casualties, hundreds of reindeer were reduced to charred carcases in the explosion, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.
In more recent times, an asteroid exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, shattering windows for miles and injuring more than 1,000 people.
Scientists have suggested that the Earth is vulnerable to many more Chelyabinsk-size space rocks. In research published in 2013 by the journal Nature, they estimated that such
strikes could occur as often as every decade or two instead of an average of once every 100 to 200 years as previously thought.
And the frequency possibilities are even scarier if the latest simulation is any indication. As Sarah Lewin recently wrote for the Fox News, the probability of a 2020 impact was initially only 2 percent.
However, as the group continued to simulate tracking it over time and the fictional months went by, the impact probability rose to 65 percent -- and then 100 percent, in May 2017.
By November of that year, in the scenario, they found that it would hit across Southern California or nearby in the Pacific Ocean.
Is it also possible that an eventual asteroid strike on Planet Earth is also predicted in the Bible?
Some observers of the scriptures believe that Revelation Chapter 8:10 - 11 gives an indication of this. 10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; 11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.
Could it be that the "great star" named Wormwood is an asteroid that would poison the natural waters - rivers and fountains of the earth?
Gotquestions.com goes into some detail regarding the meaning of Wormwood in the Book of Revelation.
The seven trumpets are the judgments of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1-5). The first trumpet causes hail and fire that destroy much of the plant life in the world (Revelation 8:7). The second trumpet brings about what seems to be a meteor, comet, or other heavenly body hitting the oceans and causing the death of one-third of the world's sea life (Revelation 8:8-9).
The third trumpet is similar to the second, except it affects the world's lakes and rivers instead of the oceans (Revelation 8:10-11). It will cause a third part of all fresh water on earth to turn bitter and many people will die from drinking it.
The word "wormwood" is mentioned only here in the New Testament, but it appears eight times in the Old Testament, each time associated with bitterness, poison and death.