Airs Wednesday, March 27 at 9:00 PM on WVIZ/PBS
A blinding streak of light screaming across the Russian sky, followed by a shuddering blast strong enough to damage buildings and send more than 1,000 people to the hospital. On the morning of February 15th, a 7,000-ton asteroid crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere, exploded and fell to earth across a wide swath near the Ural Mountains. According to NASA, the Siberian Meteor — which exploded with the power of 30 Hiroshima bombs — was the largest object to burst in the atmosphere since a 1908 event near Siberia’s Tunguska River. That time, there were few eyewitnesses and no record of the event except for thousands of acres of flattened trees. This time, however, the event was captured by countless digital dashboard cameras, which lately have become a common fixture in Russian autos and trucks. Within days, armed with this unprecedented crowd-sourced material, NOVA crews hit the ground in Russia along with impact scientists as they hunt for debris from the explosion and clues to the meteor’s origin and makeup. To understand how lucky we were this time, we explore even greater explosions in the past — from Tunguska to the asteroid that extinguished the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Meteor Strike puts it all together and asks: Is our solar system a deadly celestial shooting gallery — with Earth in the cross-hairs? What are the chances that another, even more massive asteroid is heading straight for us? Are we just years, months or days away from a total global reboot of civilization, or worse?