Questions for ‘Death by asteroid may come in unexpected ways’

The actual impact of an asteroid hitting Earth would kill far fewer people than other effects, new studies show.


To accompany feature “Death by asteroid may come in unexpected ways” 


Before Reading: 

1.  What is the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a meteorite? Consult a dictionary or the internet if you don’t know the answer.

2.  What might happen if an asteroid were to hit the Earth? What if that impact happened near your home? What do you think would happen to you?

During Reading: 

1.  What effect of an asteroid impact would likely prove most deadly?

2.  In a scenario in which a huge space rock hits London, England, how many people would die, according to new computer simulations?

3.  Why are asteroids that explode in the air still considered potentially dangerous?

4.  Why did the researchers make sure that about 72 percent of their simulations had an asteroid falling into water, and not land?

5.  What are three factors that went into the researchers’ simulations of asteroid hits that helped them determine how many human deaths to expect from an asteroid impact?

6.  In the simulations, what happened to incoming space rocks fewer than 56 meters (180 feet) across? 

7.  What are the three effects most likely to kill people if an asteroid hit Earth’s surface?

8.  Why are deadly asteroid impacts rare?

9.  An asteroid at least 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide has been blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs. How often does a rock that big hit Earth?

10.  Describe three ways that nations might respond to news that an asteroid was headed toward Earth.

After Reading: 

1.  You hear a news report that an asteroid is headed toward your city. There is no description, though, of how big the rock is. How do you respond? Explain your answer using information from the story.

2.  Astronomers have begun cataloging large space rocks that could potentially hit Earth. What size of rocks should they concentrate on? Use information from the story to explain your answer.


1.  In one asteroid-impact scenario, a space rock 200 meters (660 feet) across hits London, England, killing 8.7 million people. Using information from the story, determine how many of those people would die from wind and shock wave. Show your work.