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Russian Meteor is a 'Wake-Up Call' For the Rest of the World, Scientist Says

Update Date: Nov 06, 2013 09:12 PM EST

An enormous meteor that exploded over Russia in February that injured more than 1,200 people, was a "wake-up call" to Earth, scientists have warned.

The space rock was 20 meters in diameter and caused a blast equivalent to 600,000 tons of TNT.

Professor Qing-Zhu Yin, from the University of California at Davis, US, said the meteor strike was a "wake-up call".

"If humanity does not want to go the way of the dinosaurs, we need to study an event like this in detail,"

The asteroid that tore through the skies over central Russia in February, injuring more than 1,200 people, had a more powerful impact than scientists originally assessed, new studies released on Wednesday showed.

By readjusting how often these rocks strike and how damaging even small ones can be, "those two things together can increase the risk by an order of magnitude," said Mark Boslough, a Sandia National Lab physicist, co-author of one of the studies.

Lindley Johnson, manager of NASA's Near Earth Object program, which scans the heavens for dangerous objects, said the space agency is reassessing what size rocks to look for and how often they are likely to hit.

In addition, NASA this fall reactivated a dormant orbiting telescope called WISE specifically to hunt for asteroids, Johnson said. And the agency is expanding ground-based sky searches.

The exercise and the studies show there's a risk from smaller space rocks that strike before they are detected - not just from the giant, long-seen-in-advance ones like in the movie "Armageddon," said Bill Ailor, a space debris expert at the Aerospace Corporation who helped coordinate the drill.

"The biggest hazard from asteroids right now is the city-busting airbursts, not the civilization-busting impacts from 1-kilometer-diameter objects that has so far been the target of most astronomical surveys," Purdue University astronomer Jay Melosh, who wasn't part of the studies, wrote in an email.

"Old-fashioned civil defense, not Bruce Willis and his atom bombs, might be the best insurance against hazards of this kind."

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