A science writer revealed that there’s a chance that a 20-mile-wide killer asteroid could approach Earth completely undetected. If an asteroid of this size collides with the planet, it would wipe out almost all life on Earth.

Corey S. Powell is a science writer and journalist. He also served as the former editor for “Discover” magazine and Scientific American. Last year, Powell offered his insights regarding the possibility of Earth experiencing a major impact event caused by a massive asteroid.

Although NASA closely monitors all asteroids that are known to approach Earth, Powell noted that it is still possible for a giant space boulder to slip past the agency’s tracking systems.

“First off, could there be an undiscovered 20-mile-wide asteroid headed our way in the foreseeable future?” Powell wrote on Quora. “The answer is a qualified yes. The killer could not come from the asteroid belt.”

According to Powell, the cosmic threat could come from Kuiper Belt, the circumstellar disc that’s about 200 times more massive than the asteroid belt. Many scientists believe that the Kuiper Belt, which lies within the outer Solar System, could be hiding massive mountain-sized asteroids.

Powell noted that if a massive object from the Kuiper Belt gets dislodged from its natural orbit, it could follow the Sun’s path and head towards Earth. If this happens, space agencies might not be able to detect the massive object due to the Sun.

“There is one way that an object like that could be on its way without anyone knowing, however,” Powell explained. “If it were a giant comet or dislodged Kuiper Belt Object coming toward us on an extremely elliptical path (ie, falling almost straight toward the Sun), it would be very hard to detect.”

“We plausibly might not spot it until it was somewhere between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune,” he added.

According to Powell, if an asteroid that’s 20 miles wide hits the planet, the energy from the impact would be 100 times more powerful than the one released by the space rock that triggered the extinction of the dinosaurs. The expert said that the catastrophic impact would cause a series of events that would kill off almost all life on Earth.

“All of Earth’s surface would be set on fire. There would be tremendous earthquakes and tsunamis, followed by massive volcanism around the impact zone,” he stated. “The ozone layer would be destroyed. The oceans would turn acidic. The Sun would be blotted out, probably for decades. All surface infrastructure would be destroyed. Most complex species would surely perish in the aftermath.”

Asteroid Impacts A new report indicates that a total of 26 nuclear-level asteroid impacts have hit Earth since 2000. Photo: Donald Davis