Top 10 Natural Disasters And Their Historical Consequences

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Top 10 Natural Disasters And Their Historical Consequences


Natural disasters have changed the course of human history. Although not everyone agrees on their effects, the links between these events and the social and economic changes afterward are intriguing.

Natural disasters have led to some of our greatest innovations, to periods of civil war and political unrest, to the destruction and creation of empires, to massive human migrations and clashes of cultures, and ultimately, to the world we know today.

10The Toba Supervolcanic Eruption
Circa 75,000 Years Ago

Photo credit: Anynobody

Lake Toba in Indonesia is home to a supervolcano that erupted some 75,000 years ago. It has been linked to a population bottleneck within our ancestors’ past. The event was by far the largest supervolcanic event in recent geologic history and attained a Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) rating of 8, the maximum possible on this scale. It pushed an estimated 2,800 cubic kilometers (670 mi3) of dust and rock into the atmosphere.

The Lake Toba Theory holds that the event coincided with the last major glacial period, which ended some 5,000 years ago, and the event itself led to a 1,000-year-long global cooling event. This may have contributed to or accelerated the planet’s entrance into the last ice age.

A genetic bottleneck in human DNA occurred around the same time as the eruption. According to the theory, the human breeding population fell to between 3,000 and 10,000 individuals around 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. The link to Toba is that 70,000 years ago, there were 1,000–10,000 breeding pairs, a very small population of humans who created this genetic bottleneck. As a result, human DNA has one of the lowest proportions of genetic diversity, which is why racism is such a fallacy based on this fact alone.

The Toba eruption would have caused worldwide global ecological disaster, devastating vegetation and the global food chain dependent on it. Bottlenecks have also been observed in other primate groups around this time, including chimps, gorillas, and orangutans as well as in macaques, tigers, and cheetahs.

The timing of the eruption is also closely linked to the migration of early humans from Africa 60,000–70,000 years ago and is quite possibly the disaster that started our epic journey.

9The Minoan Eruption
Circa 1500 BC

Photo credit: Live Science

The Minoan eruption (aka the Thera or Santorini eruption) occurred approximately 3,500 years ago and devastated the Minoan civilization and the Mediterranean cultures of the time. The eruption was between 6 and 7 on the VEI, pushing some 60 cubic kilometers (14 mi3) of dust and rock into the atmosphere.

The volcanic explosion and resulting tsunamis wiped out many communities in Akrotiri, Crete (Minoan), Cyprus, Canaan, ancient Greece, Egypt, and most areas of the Aegean Sea. The resulting devastation allowed the Mycenaean civilization to take over the Minoan culture and blend it with their own.

This formed the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. It also heralded the first steps toward our modern cultures and the development of Koine Greek, the language of the original Bible.

At the time, the event itself had worldwide repercussions. In China, the volcanic winter effect of the Thera eruption corresponds to the collapse of the Xia dynasty, thus allowing the Shang dynasty to rise. The Bamboo Annals describe the time as “yellow fog, a dim Sun, then three Suns, frost in July, famine, and the withering of all five cereals.”

In Egypt, there is evidence to suggest that the calamity heralded the end of the Second Intermediate Period. Apocalyptic storms, climatic change, and tsunamis were the gods’ way of showing displeasure with this period, resulting in the New Kingdom period and ancient Egypt’s most prosperous time as well as the peak of its power.

8The Bhola Cyclone

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The Bhola cyclone struck the coast of Bengal in 1970 in an area then known as East Pakistan. Today, we know that area as Bangladesh. The storm was responsible for over 500,000 deaths, with most from a storm surge that inundated the low-lying islands of the Ganges peninsula.

At the time, Pakistan was ruled by a military junta headed by General Yahya Khan. Their response to this disaster was utterly disorganized, and many thousands died needlessly while awaiting relief operations. Unfortunately for the junta, an election had already been called for just a month after the event took place. This resulted in an overwhelming landslide victory in East Pakistan for the Awami League.

During the months that followed, continuous civil unrest and distrust between an already marginalized East Pakistan and the central government resulted in one of the worst periods in modern world politics. The Bangladesh Liberation War broke out, later developing into the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.

This led to multiple heinous atrocities, resulting in the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971. Sadly, 30 million people became displaced and three million people died. Pakistani soldiers raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bangladeshi women. Compare this to the modern-day exodus of five million from the Middle East because of Islamic fundamentalism, and it puts the current situation neatly in context.

The Bangladeshi Liberation War was also fought as part of the larger Cold War. The superpowers fought over ideology within the region, exacerbating the problem for political gain and proof of their ideologies. The US supported its old ally Pakistan, no matter the atrocities they committed, and the Soviet Union supported India and Bangladesh.

It was all ended by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar with The Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. No, not really, this is sarcasm. Megastars have zero power in conflict, but this was the first major global superstar event of its kind.

7The Black Death

Photo credit: CDC

The Black Death, a pandemic caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, devastated Eurasia in the mid-14th century. The plague was responsible for the deaths of up to 60 percent of the population of Europe and Asia during this period, which means that 75–200 million people perished.

The plague is thought to have originated in the Central Asian plains. It was transported to Europe via the Silk Road to Crimea and then spread by Oriental rat fleas infesting the black rats that were regular stowaways on merchant ships. This exploitation of economic trade routes made the plague difficult to eradicate, and there were several instances of localized reemergences over the following five centuries.

It also created social upheaval with renewed vigor within the Christian church. Several groups were demonized and held responsible for the Black Death, including Jews, beggars, lepers, foreigners, friars, pilgrims, and Romani. Those with skin diseases, such as lepers, were singled out and exterminated by the vengeful.

In particular, Jews were persecuted as they were thought to be the vector. The rumor of Jews poisoning wells was heard throughout Europe. In February 1349, 2,000 Jews were executed in Strasbourg alone by a vengeful populace. Many Jews in Cologne and at least 200 other Jewish communities were destroyed as part of these purges, which were sanctioned by those caught up in this new religious fervor and by a Christian church that did nothing to stop these atrocities.

This is remarkably similar to where we find ourselves today by demonizing a whole religion as a means to an end.

6The Kuwae Eruption

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Kuwae is an undersea volcano and caldera in Vanuatu. It is one of the most active volcanic regions in the world, with many undersea eruptions. Sometimes, they break the surface and leave behind small islands that slowly sink beneath the waves. For example, the eruption of 1901 left an island that was 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) long and 15 meters (50 ft) above sea level. It had sunk back beneath the waves within six months of surfacing.

The giant eruption of 1452–1453 destroyed the island of Kuwae, leaving behind two smaller islands named Tongoa and Epi with a 12-kilometer (7 mi) by 6-kilometer (4 mi) caldera between them. The caldera has frequent volcanic activity.

The eruption released some 39 cubic kilometers (9 mi3) of ash and dust, and the island collapsed to a depth of 1,100 meters (3,600 ft) below sea level. One of the largest volcanic events in the last 10,000 years, it was six times larger than Mount Pinatubo event of 1991 in the Philippines.

The eruption is linked to the second pulse of the Little Ice Age and was felt around the world with climate cooling. This is suggested by modern tree rings, Greenland ice cores, and the many crop failures around the world that were noted in the written history of the time.

Chinese writers of the Ming dynasty named the date specifically and wrote about “nonstop snow damaged wheat crops.” Later, as dust blotted out the sunlight, they wrote, “Several feet of snow fell in six provinces; tens of thousands of people froze to death.” There are more references to long periods of heavy snowfall, icebound seas, and the many people who succumbed to hunger and cold.

But its biggest victim may well have been the Byzantine Empire via the fall of Constantinople.

Under the leadership of Sultan Mehmed II, the Ottoman Turks invaded Constantinople on April 5, 1453, and conquered it on May 29, 1453. Historical accounts of the city at that time mention the volcanic aftereffects, including a thick fog in May that was otherwise unheard of, severe thunderstorms, a daytime red sky, and numerous floods.

People outside the city thought it was on fire. According to historians, “Flames engulfed the dome of the Hagia Sophia, and lights, too, could be seen from the walls, glimmering in the distant countryside far behind the Turkish camp (to the west).” But this was actually a reflection from the deeply red volcanic ash clouds in the atmosphere.

The siege could have been held if not for the failure of crops during the growing season prior to the sultan arriving at the gates. The crop failures and poor harvest, directly related to the volcanic winter, allowed the siege to be over in weeks rather than months. This destroyed the Byzantine Empire and permitted the Ottoman Empire to flourish.

All because of a now-nonexistent island in the Pacific Ocean, the emigres from Constantinople (refugees and economic migrants)—including the writers, musicians, astronomers, architects, artists, philosophers, scientists, politicians, theologians, and more—brought to Western Europe the far greater preserved and accumulated knowledge of their civilization, enriching our own.

5The Tangshan Earthquake

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The Tangshan earthquake of July 28, 1976, was the third-deadliest earthquake in human history. Officially, 240,000–255,000 people were killed in the event. However, it is far more likely that 600,000–700,000 people perished in the earthquake.

The area is a densely populated industrial hub within China, and there were many warning signs prior to the event itself. Wang Chengmin, a State Seismological Bureau scientist, had predicted the earthquake with surprising accuracy, stating that it would happen between July 22 and August 5, 1976.

In China, large earthquakes are seen as preceding great dynastic change, and this event may have triggered the greatest change in Chinese history. At the time, the Gang of Four—Mao Tse-tung’s last wife, Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen—were the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party. However, no one can agree if they were acting alone or on Mao Tse-tung’s official orders. As the de facto leaders of the Cultural Revolution, they were responsible for some of the worst excesses and atrocities of that period in Chinese history, leading to stagnation politically and economically.

Deng Xiaoping had already risen to significant influence in Chinese politics. However, his policies of economic reform following the Great Leap Forward had seen him removed from office twice by Mao and his chosen successor, Hua Guofeng.

Deng was vilified in the press during the earthquake’s aftermath with various slogans and sound bites such as: “There were merely several hundred thousand deaths. So what? Denouncing Deng Xiaoping concerns 800 million people” and “Be alert to Deng Xiaoping’s criminal attempt to exploit earthquake phobia to suppress revolution!”

Mao Tse-tung died in September 1976. In traditional Chinese minds, the earthquake had heralded a new dynasty, which would be under Deng Xiaoping and his pragmatic “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” slogan. This process has raised China from an agrarian farming society under Mao with one-sixth of the world’s population and less than 5 percent of world GDP in 1976 to second place in 2016 with 15 percent of world GDP. China will likely pull ahead of the US by 2025.

Deng Xiaoping was never the actual leader of the Chinese Communist Party or even China itself. He worked his political ideology through his careful social, political, and economic maneuvering. Deng built China into the powerhouse we know today and became known as the “architect of modern China.”

4The Eruption Of Mount Tambora

Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine

The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora is the largest eruption in modern history with a VEI rating of 7. It had a massive impact worldwide with what became known as the “year without a summer.”

This event is also the last pulse of what has been termed the Little Ice Age, a period of increased volcanism, decreased solar activity, and reduced human interaction with our climate. There were three distinct pulses during this period, with the Kuwae eruption above as the second such period of increased climate instability.

From 1808 to 1815, there were several significant volcanic eruptions, with Tambora being the latest and largest. There was a mystery VEI 6 eruption in 1808–09 (unknown origin), the La Soufriere eruption of 1812 (Saint Vincent), the Mount Awu eruption of 1812 (Indonesia), the Suwanosejima eruption of 1813 (Japan), and the Mount Mayon eruption of 1814 (Philippines). These combined events made the 1810s the coldest decade of the last 500 years.

The ash cloud generated by the Tambora eruption significantly blocked solar radiation, leading to very late frosts and widespread crop failures that were well-documented in Europe, America, and China. This led to widespread price hikes of up to four times the previous year’s cost, resulting in rioting, looting, and civil unrest throughout Europe.

In addition, there were huge storms, floods, and abnormal frosts throughout many parts of the world. The effects were particularly felt in Europe, with many social policies and rights being sought directly after this period. In the years following the eruption, there was also a significant increase in typhus and cholera in Europe and India.

Culturally, the paintings of J.M.W. Turner specifically show the red sky as spectacular sunsets. The lack of a feedstock for horses and other beasts of burden may have been the jolt needed for Karl Drais to invent his velocipede, the precursor to modern mechanized transport.

These eruptions may have also triggered the settlement of the American heartland as settlers relocated from New England due to the crop failures, and it was possibly the first era of the antislavery movement. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, Byron wrote “Darkness,” and Polidori wrote “The Vampyre,” all while staying in Villa Diodati, shaping much of modern fantasy literature.

Mineral fertilizers were created as a direct result of this worldwide famine. Justus Freiherr von Liebig, a German chemist, remembered his childhood during the famine period and subsequently became known as the “father of modern fertilizer.” He also invented Oxo.

3The Laki Eruption

Photo credit: Chmee2/Valtameri

The Laki fissure volcano in Iceland is a 25-kilometer-long (16 mi) rent in the Earth with 130 volcanic vents along its course. It erupted through this fissure during 1783–84 with a VEI of 6. Approximately 14 cubic kilometers (3 mi3) of basalt lava spewed out, along with poisonous clouds of sulfur dioxide compounds and hydrofluoric acid that spread throughout the world.

This caused acid rain over much of Europe as well as dust across the world that blocked the Sun and lowered global temperatures. The result was widespread famine, disease, and death. This occurred not many years after the previous Lisbon quake (discussed below) had already seeded the questioning of authority.

The effect in Iceland was to cause the deaths of 25 percent of the population, 50 percent of livestock, and most of that year’s crops.Lava fountains from the eruption sometimes reached 1,400 meters (4,600 ft) in the air. This is almost five times as high as the reach of Hawaii’s famous lava fountains, giving an indication of the size of this event over a length of 25 kilometers (16 mi).

The total eruption released approximately 8 million tons of hydrogen fluoride and 120 million tons of sulfur dioxide, which was later called the “Laki haze” throughout Europe. These gases and dust caused weakened monsoons in Africa and India and led to the deaths of about one-sixth of Egypt’s population during a famine in 1784.

Across the whole of Europe, crops failed. The sulfur dioxide in the air caused severe respiratory illnesses, with an estimated death toll of over 23,000 in Britain alone.

In America, the coldest and longest winter ever recorded even delayed the end of the American Revolutionary War by preventing Congressmen from getting to Annapolis on time to vote for the Treaty of Paris. Famine and disease spread throughout Europe, and the recovery lasted nearly a decade.

When confronted by a starving populace in France, Marie Antoinette is supposed to have exclaimed, “Let them eat cake.” France was already in perilous shape after the Seven Years’ War. Then the American Revolutionary War put the country in severe debt, resulting in social unrest and highly unpopular tax initiatives. The famine caused by the Laki eruption, along with these unpopular taxes and the effects of the Enlightenment, set the wheels in motion for the French Revolution.

One of the most important events in human history was partially caused by a volcanic disaster in Iceland. It triggered the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies.

It also inspired liberal and radical ideas that resulted in the suppression of the feudal system, the emancipation of the individual, the greater division of landed property, the abolition of the privileges of noble birth, and the establishment of equality. This led to the spread of liberalism, radicalism, nationalism, socialism, capitalism, feminism, and secularism.

2The Late Antique Little Ice Age
AD 535–660

Photo credit: Taro Taylor

The Late Antique Little Ice Age began in what are called the extreme weatherevents of AD 535–536. Those two years were the coolest of the last 2,000 years and left a trail of unseasonable weather, crop failures, and famines worldwide.

The events are attributed to either a volcanic eruption or to a bolide impact with the Earth, creating a veil of dust around the planet that the Sun could not get through. Volcanism is by far the most likely candidate as it corresponds with other such “volcanic winter” scenarios we have seen previously.

The evidence is collected from many sources, including the Byzantine historian Procopius. He wrote, “During this year, a most dread portent took place. For the Sun gave forth its light without brightness . . . and it seemed exceedingly like the Sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.”

It is also mentioned in several Irish annals. Other sources recorded snow in summer in China, dense fogs over Europe and Asia, and a drought in Peru, which influenced the Moche culture. A spate of volcanic eruptions in AD 535, 540, and 547 at the Rabaul caldera, Krakatoa, and Ilopango caldera in central El Salvador are the likely culprits for these events and the cataclysmic changes around this period of time. However, there were also other large volcanic events in North America at this time.

The following decades saw some of the largest changes in human history, attributed in part to the events described above. Many cultures suffered due to the long-lasting effects of this dust and haze in the atmosphere.

The dates correspond to the late Migration Period of the Scandinavians as well as the decline and fall of Teotihuacan, a massive city-state in Mesoamerica where droughts from the climate changes provoked civil unrest and famines. The Plague of Justinian is attributed to the lasting effects of this event as is the decline of the Avars, the fall of the Gupta and Sassanid Empires, the westward migration of the Mongolian tribes, and the expansion of Turkic tribes.

But perhaps the biggest world-changing event that can be linked to these cataclysms is the rise of Islam. In the continued chaos from the various plagues, empires collapsed and reemerged. Islam and Muhammad, the religion’s prophet, prospered as the areas were relatively free of strong military force. The region was still recovering from the previous chaos, which provided a relatively safe area in which to nurture this new belief.

Not everyone agrees with the above, and there are many questions to be answered. But the concept is sound given the political and military vacuum created by this period in Earth’s history. It was discussed in depth inCatastrophe! How the World Changed, the WNET and Channel Four documentary that was based on a book by David Keys.

1The Lisbon Earthquake And The Age Of Enlightenment

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The Lisbon earthquake and tsunami was one of the largest earthquakes the modern era has seen, with a possible magnitude of 9 on the moment magnitude scale. This would be equivalent to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2004.

The 1755 earthquake virtually destroyed Lisbon, with as many as 100,000 people killed. Massive fissures up to 5 meters (16 ft) wide opened in the city. Survivors hurried to the port area, which was relatively open and unscathed, only to be met with a 30-meter-high (100 ft) tsunami.

The earthquake was felt as far away as Greenland, Finland, the Caribbean, and North Africa. Tsunamis 20 meters (66 ft) high hit North Africa, inundating Barbados and Martinique. A 3-meter (10 ft) wave reached as far as Cornwall in the UK.

The cultural effect of this earthquake has had repercussions and ramifications throughout the following centuries. It was the precursor to the intelligentsia of the era discussing the fundamental understanding of our world and knowledge. The Age of Enlightenment is directly linked to the events on November 1, 1755, which was the celebration of All Saints’ Day, as the disaster destroyed nearly every religious building and church throughout Lisbon and, more importantly, Portugal.

This caused mass confusion about how a God so venerated in the staunchly Roman Catholic country could be so vengeful. It led to the great philosophers debating this idea with theologians. The earthquake also had a disastrous effect on Portugal’s economy. At a stroke, it took away their power as a seafaring empire, costing the country approximately 45 percent of its GDP.

Voltaire used a poem, “Poeme sur le desastre de Lisbonne,” and various parts of Candide to attack the then-current philosophy of “God knows best” in which people were not to question His authority. This defiance set the stage for the overthrow of blind religious indoctrination and a move toward a more logical questioning of why we observe what we do. It set the stage for the scientific method to take over, providing evidence for our physical reality.

Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and many others took inspiration from the earthquake and led us to our cultural, political, ideological, and industrial revolutions in Europe. It was also one of the most significant points in the study of seismology and why the Earth reacts the way it does.

This reasoning became the primary source of authority and legitimacy. It came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government, and the separation of church and state.

The phrase Sapere aude, “Dare to know,” delivered our current knowledge. Our intellectual and philosophical ideas based on reason are a direct and indirect result of this massive earthquake, which shifted our culture seismically as much as it shifted Lisbon.


Read more about the surprising consequences of natural disasters on 10 Devastating Natural Disasters Forgotten By Time and 10 Natural Disasters That Created A More Beautiful World.

Top 10 Cases Of Military Attacks On Civilians

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Top 10 Cases Of Military Attacks On Civilians


Often swept under the rug and given nonthreatening names such as “collateral damage,” the deaths of civilians at the hands of military forces can sometimes surpass even the deaths of fighting men. Given humanity’slong history of warfare, it’s no surprise there is an equally long list of military attacks on civilians. Here are ten of the worst examples.

10Shimabara Rebellion

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Christianity had begun to flourish in Japan during the 17th century, as the country had been slowly opening up more and more to foreigners (mainly Europeans) since 1543. However, the influence of nanbans (Japanese for “southern barbarians,” a term loosely applied to Europeans) began to worry the ruling shogunate, and the age of sakoku (“closed country”) began to take shape. Christianity was seen as one of those influences. There were many Christian peasants, and their dissatisfaction was the reason for therebellion which occurred in the Shimabara Peninsula in 1637.

Like many before them, the local officials of the area were taxing the peasants heavily, utilizing their powers to abuse the civilians in any number of ways. The spark that lit the fire was the murder of the daimyo’s henchman, who was killed because he was torturing a local farmer’s daughter. (A daimyo was similar to a feudal lord.) Fighting broke out, and the peasants quickly assembled into a massive group. They were aided by former samurai, many of whom had converted to Christianity, who became leaders of the rebellion.

Unable to defeat the rebels with local forces, the shogun set 120,000 men to kill the civilians. Though they held out for a while, the rebels were eventually killed to the last person, women and children included. Estimates range from 20,000 to 37,000 deaths. As a result, Christianity, as well as other foreign influences, were increasingly forced out of Japan.

9Bombing Of Dresden

Photo credit: Deutsche Fotothek?

Often seen, perhaps erroneously, as an act of revenge for the similar bombing of their own cities suffered at the hands of the Luftwaffe, Britain’s bombing of the German city of Dresden in February 1945 has been covered in controversy ever since. One of the reasons for this controversy is that the city was not of military or economic importance. Rather, the bombing was an attack on a culturally important city: the “Florence of the Elbe.”

The Nazis had been bombing British cities for a while by 1945, and in the eyes of some, the bombing of German cities was just their chickens coming home to roost. So, from February 13 to 15, 1945, British planes (with a few Americans) flew over the city of Dresden, devastating the area. Like many attacks during World War II, the death tolls are disputed, with ranges as low as 35,000 and as high as 135,000. However, what isn’t in dispute is the complete destruction of nearly every building in the city. Only a handful of the historic buildings in the city were ever rebuilt.

8Guangzhou Massacre

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Thanks to a number of natural disasters which resulted in widespread famine, Huang Chao led an agrarian rebellion throughout China, eventually culminating with his ascension to the throne. The Tang dynasty attempted, unsuccessfully, to defeat Huang’s forces, who managed to sack a number of provincial capitals. Huang then turned his sight toward Guangzhou, which had suffered at the hands of a rebellious army more than a century earlier. (Thousands of foreign-born merchants were killed.)

So, from 878 to 879, Huang’s men attacked the city, specifically targeting Muslims, Jews, and Christians, initiating a xenophobic pogrom, an act with which humanity is all too familiar. An otherwise nondescript Arab traveler named Abu Zaid Hassan wrote about the attack, claiming that as many as 120,000 people were massacred. As for Huang, his army was eventually defeated, and he died at the hands of his nephew. His entire reign lasted only four years.

7Manila Massacre

Photo credit: US Military

Colloquially known as the “Pearl of the Orient,” Manila was a magnificent city, the capital of the Philippines, and it would suffer more than any Allied city outside of Warsaw. First occupied by Japan in 1942, the Pacific island chain endured years of military abuse, with hundreds of thousands of Filipinos perishing during the intervening years. Finally, in 1945, US forces arrived, with General MacArthur fulfilling the promise he gave three years prior to return to drive the Japanese away and retake the country.

However, the Japanese military refused to give up easily, and in a continuance of their policy at the time, they began to speed up their killing of civilians. During the Battle of Manila, which lasted about a month, around 70,000 Filipinos were raped and/or massacred by the Japanese army. A further 30,000 died in the crossfire between Japan and the US. In addition to the civilian casualties, vast portions of the city were destroyed in the fighting, some down to the very last building.

6Firebombing Of Tokyo

Photo credit: US Military

While deserving of much of their attention, the nuclear weapons dropped on Japan at the end of World War II weren’t the only causes of devastating numbers of civilian deaths suffered there: Another example is the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945. Later known by the name “the Night of the Black Snow,” Operation Meetinghouse took place from March 9 to March 10, with US bombers dropping 1,665 tons of incendiary bombs on the city.

In all, 41 square kilometers (16 mi2) were burned, with as many as 130,000 deaths due to the resulting inferno. The smell of burning human flesh was so severe that the pilots in the air had to don oxygen masks to keep from vomiting. When asked about it later, Curtis LeMay, the major general in charge, said, “Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time. It was getting the war over that bothered me.” The firebombing of Tokyo is often cited as one of the most, if not the most, destructive acts of war in the history of mankind.

5Siege Of Changchun

Photo credit: Epoch Times

May 23, 1948. The People’s Liberation Army began surrounding the city of Changchun, one of the largest in Northeastern China, defended by Nationalist forces. Not wishing to attempt to force their way into the city, the Communists decided to starve the population out, hoping to push the defenders to surrender bloodlessly. The civilian population of around 500,000 was caught unprepared, and they quickly ran out of food.

It later became clear there was an ulterior motive to the siege: The Communists were purposely starving the citizens, whom they saw as the enemy. Stories of women sold to awaiting husbands-to-be for mere scraps of food were all too common. When the siege finally ended in October, a minimum of 160,000 civilians had starved to death. Those who hadsurvived had only managed to live by eating virtually every edible thing in the city, down to the bark on the trees and the grass in the fields. A Communist soldier later remarked, “We’re supposed to fighting for the poor, but of all these dead here, how many are rich? [ . . . ] Aren’t they all poor people?”

4Siege Of Jerusalem

Photo credit: Emile Signol

Though Jerusalem has seen a number of sieges take place outside its walls, perhaps none was bloodier than the climactic battle of the First Crusade. Initiated in 1095 by Pope Urban II’s decrying of the persecution suffered by Christians in the Holy Land, tens of thousands of Western Europeans streamed into the Middle East like a deluge, massacring anyone who was in their way, soldier or civilian.

Facing little resistance, the wave of crusaders finally broke against the walls of Jerusalem on June 7, 1099. Finding it to be incredibly well-protected, the Christian forces began constructing three massive siege engines with which to defeat the defenses. After about a month, the crusaders finally broke into the city, and the slaughter began. A contemporary account of the fighting told a horrifying tale of senseless barbarism, of deaths so numerous that, “The blood was running up to ankles of the mounted Frankish knights.” Whether or not that was hyperbole, tens of thousands of the civilian inhabitants were murdered, even women and children.

3The Harrying Of The North

Photo credit: History Extra

“Harry” is defined as “to ravage, as in war; devastate.” The Harrying of the North, undertaken by William the Conqueror against Northern England, lived up to that definition in every conceivable way. The old Viking lineage which persisted in the North refused to bow to William, with numerous rebellions popping up until the Norman ruler could only come to one conclusion: He would destroy the entire place, starving out the enemy. That the civilians would also suffer was of no consequence.

So, in the winter of 1069, William’s men marched north, destroying everything in their way, down to the last blade of grass. Though the Harrying directly killed a large number of civilians, many more perished as a result of the enormous famine which resulted from the destruction of the land, livestock, and food stores. The campaign was so horrific that Orderic Vitalis, a monk who otherwise wrote glowingly of William, said the following: “I can say nothing good about this brutal slaughter. God will punish him.” Though the death tolls are often debated, contemporary reports say as many as 100,000 people died.

2Massacre Of Novgorod

Photo credit: Apollinary Vasnetsov

In late 1569, the grand prince of Moscow had begun to reach the peak of his paranoia, believing that the people of Novgorod were about to turn over their city to Poland. Better known as Ivan IV, or Ivan the Terrible, he decided that the citizens of Novgorod would need to be punished. So, along with his 1,500-man personal guard, the tsar marched on the city, ravaging smaller towns and villages along the way, warming up for what was to be the horrifying main event.

Arriving just after the start of the new year, Ivan IV began the horror with the priests and monks of Novgorod, having them beaten to death with staffs. He then moved on to the populace, setting up a special court in the city in which to extract “confessions” through torture. Often, the victims were then thrown into the Volkhov River to drown or freeze to death. Man, woman, and child alike met the same fate, and their blood ran so much that the snow around the city was painted red. When it was all over about five weeks later, at least 60,000 citizens were dead, and it took six weeks to clear their bodies.

1Rotterdam Blitz

Photo credit: US Military

Expecting to remain neutral as they had during World War I, the people of Rotterdam in the Netherlands never expected the Nazis to come knocking. But knock they did. On May 10, 1940, the Germans attacked. They were ultimately repelled and locked into a stalemate with their Dutch adversaries. Unwilling to risk too many lives or time, Nazi general Rudolf Schmidt issued an ultimatum: Surrender or face the might of the Luftwaffe. The Dutch refused.

A few days later, May 14 to be exact, the bombing began. Between 80 and 90 German planes indiscriminately dropped their ordinance all over the city. Owing to the fact that they had virtually no antiaircraft weapons in the city, not to mention inferior air power, all the Dutch could do was watch as their city was leveled. In the end, nearly 1,000 people died, and most of the historic buildings within the city center were destroyed.

Though the deaths directly attributed to the Rotterdam Blitz are low, the argument could be made that it, along with the other Nazi bombing raids, unleashed the extensive destruction perpetrated by the Allies. As the British air marshal Arthur Travers Harris said, “The Nazis entered this war under the rather childish delusion that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind.”

Top 10 Near-Death Experiences In Space

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Top 10 Near-Death Experiences In Space


Throughout history, several astronaut and cosmonaut fatalities have occurred in space-related accidents. We have all heard about the Challengerand Columbia disasters that unfortunately caused many of these fatalities. However, many more incidents did not result in such horrific deaths and, therefore, have not gained much media coverage. Here are a few of these near-death experiences in space.

Featured image credit: NASA

10Liberty Bell 7

Photo credit: NASA

Also named Mercury-Redstone 4, this space mission successfully sent the second American man into space. The launch occurred on July 21, 1961, after days of delay due to unfavorable weather conditions. The main goal was to have one man accomplish an orbit in space and study his reactions. The lucky man chosen to participate in such a feat was Virgil I. Grissom(nicknamed “Gus”).

The trip only lasted a little over 15 minutes, but NASA deemed it a complete success. Many would disagree, however, because of the rocky landing and Gus’s near-death experience.

Everything was going “swimmingly” for the mission until splashdown. The hatch cover, which would be activated explosively in the event of an emergency, was accidentally activated. This led to Grissom nearly drowning in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

He escaped the craft immediately to avoid such a fate, which ultimately saved his life. To make matters worse, the first helicopter that was sent to retrieve the spacecraft failed and Grissom remained in the water for nearly five minutes while awaiting rescue.

9Voskhod 2

Photo credit:

On March 18, 1965, Voskhod 2 was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Soviet Union. The goal was to prove that men could survive in space with the appropriate suit. The two pilot cosmonauts on the mission were Pavel I. Belyayev and Aleksey A. Leonov (some spell his name as “Alexei”).

Leonov was chosen to perform the first ever ExtraVehicular Activity (EVA), which is basically a space walk. Such a feat would be momentous for the science community and would awe curious audiences everywhere. It would also annoy the United States during the Space Race.

The two men prepared for the dangerous mission. Leonov stepped into the air lock as Belyayev lowered the air pressure. Leonov made his way out into the void of space, which was immediately broadcast across the world to show the Soviet success. The entire walk lasted 10 minutes, after which Leonov unenthusiastically returned to the air lock.

However, the unique absence of atmosphere in space caused Leonov’s suit to fill with air, making it nearly impossible for him to move. With only 40 minutes of oxygen left, he needed to rush for a solution before suffocating.

He discovered the solution by releasing small amounts of oxygen into space to deflate his suit. He did so until he could comfortably fit into the tight air lock, nearly overheating in the process.

Leonov was lucky to escape such a horrific death in just under three minutes, but even more trouble awaited the Voskhod 2 mission. After a fire hazard caused by an increase of oxygen inside the cabin came the discovery of the autopilot being broken.

The men had to manually land themselves in the Siberian wilderness, where they spent two nights away from civilization. On the second day, they were rescued by skiers, with whom they spent the second night in celebration.

8Gemini 8

Photo credit: NASA

This mission, which launched on March 16, 1966, was a United States attempt to perform an EVA and rendezvous with the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle (GATV). The two astronauts on the mission were David Scott and the famous Neil Armstrong.

As usual, everything was normal, but then the two craft began to spin and roll uncontrollably. This is when the mission began to take a dangerous and deadly turn.

In an attempt to regain control of the craft, Armstrong disconnected from the GATV. This only made matters worse and strengthened the spinning and rolling. The two pilots deactivated the Orbit Attitude and Maneuver System (OAMS), and then all the reentry control system (RCS) thrusters were activated to soften the tumbling.

This last resort worked, but it only left the RCS with 25 percent of the fuel originally stocked. It was then discovered that the one of the OAMS had accidentally been in continuous use, causing it to short-circuit, which was found to be the source of the rolling. The mission had to be cut short, and the space walk was never performed.

7Soyuz 5

Photo credit: Lunokhod 2

The main mission of Soyuz 5 was to successfully dock with the Soyuz 4 in space. The mission went without any complications and was scheduled to return to Earth on January 18, 1969. As the Soyuz 5 attempted to disengage from the Soyuz 4, the service and reentry modules failed to separate from each other, which caused the danger that lay ahead for Boris Volynov, the only cosmonaut aboard.

The failed separation caused the craft to reenter the atmosphere nose-first, making it extremely aerodynamic. The accelerated speed caused a major indention on the nose of the hatch and melted the seal, which sent smoke into the cabin.

The smoke made the craft very difficult to pilot. Hope came when the service and reentry modules finally separated, which fixed the direction the craft was facing. However, it was still traveling at an alarming speed.

The parachute deployed correctly, but then the soft-landing rocketsmalfunctioned. This made the landing extremely harsh, causing Volynov to jolt forward in his harness and break several teeth. He exited the craft safely but had to walk through the snowy weather and tremendously cold temperature of -40 degrees Celsius (-40 °F) to get to Kustani, Russia, where he was finally rescued.

6Apollo 12

Photo credit: NASA

The Apollo 12 mission was set to launch on November 14, 1969, shortly after the famous Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the Moon. Now, the Apollo 12 mission would attempt to recreate the Moon landing, along with other mission objectives. The crew consisted of three astronauts: Dick Gordon, Pete Conrad, and Alan Bean. However, the mission almost ended in a deadly way shortly after it began.

The launch went as expected until the crew was about 2,000 meters (6,500 ft) into the air. At precisely 36 seconds into the mission, lightning struck the craft. The alarm system immediately turned on, and astronaut Bean stated that it was “more lights than [he] had ever seen ever in the simulator.”

Things took a turn for the worse when another lightning strike hit the craft 16 seconds later. This time, all the systems crashed and the command module shorted out of power. The battery backups could only last a few hours.

After moments of increasing panic, environmental control engineer John Aaron offered the solution: Switch the craft from SCE to AUX, which would put the craft into auxiliary mode. When the crew followed directions, power was restored and the mission was carried on as intended.

The little-known switch saved the mission and the crew members’ lives, but it was a close call.

5Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Photo credit: NASA

The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was a momentous mission in the history ofspace exploration. It was the first space collaboration between two countries, the United States and the Soviet Union.

The mission date was July 15, 1975, just after completion of the Space Race. The three American astronauts were Thomas Stafford, Vance Brand, and Donald Slayton. It was a very successful mission, despite the deadly incident experienced by the Americans during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

The automatic landing mechanism failed the Americans, and the crew had to switch to manual for the parachutes to deploy in time. This caused the craft to shake but was corrected when the automatic system was restored 30 seconds later.

However, the pressure relief valve had automatically opened, letting in gases from outside the craft. Along with oxygen, the crew was exposed to toxic gases. They were nearly unconscious by splashdown, and Brand actually did become unconscious for a brief period.

Stafford had to put an oxygen mask on Brand for him to regain consciousness. The whole ordeal left the crew in a Honolulu hospital for two weeks, but they were lucky not to have experienced more extreme health problems after such a close brush with death.

4Soyuz T-10-1

Photo credit:

The Soyuz T-10-1 was a very unsuccessful Soviet space mission. The goal was to change the Salyut 7 (the Soviet Union’s space station) solar arrays. The mission could not be completed with the current crew because of the horrific disaster that occurred right before the launch was scheduled.

Just a minute before the launch, a huge fire engulfed the booster of the Soyuz craft. The crew was lucky to be experienced enough to tell when something was wrong. They both buckled their harnesses in preparation for the launch, which they assumed would be extremely dangerous.

The escape tower accelerated at an alarming speed but took the capsule to a safe distance from the fiery pad. This abort system saved the lives of the two cosmonauts aboard. Luckily, neither of them was harmed during this flaming ordeal, which potentially could have resulted in both of their deaths.


Photo credit: NASA/Crew of STS-86

The Mir space station has experienced several mishaps throughout the years, but two incidents in 1997 set it apart. The first was a fire aboard the station that occurred on February 23. The station was performing a routine that involves igniting an oxygen-creating canister, but the fire suddenly went out of control.

The Russian crew had to use gas masks while extinguishing the fire, and their Soyuz spacecraft was filled with smoke. The smoke later cleared, and the crew did not experience any threatening health problems.

The second incident was the worst space collision the Earth had ever witnessed. The collision occurred on June 25, just a few short months after the fire incident. A crew member was performing a docking test with a remote control when he suddenly lost control of a cargo ship. The ship collided with the station and left a dangerous air leakage.

Luckily, the crew heard the hissing before a major loss and located the sound in the Spektr module. They resolved the issue by cutting the cables that led to the Spektr and sealed the hatches. The crew’s quick response to both issues ensured their safety and is the reason they did not experience any significant harm.


Photo credit: NASA

The STS-98 mission launched on February 7, 2001. The five-person crew included Ken Cockrell, Mark Polansky, Robert Curbeam, Thomas Jones, and Marsha Ivins. Three space walks occurred during the mission, the first of which nearly ended in disaster.

The first space walk lasted a little over 7.5 hours. Jones and Curbeam connected data and electrical cables as well as cooling lines. An accident occurred while Curbeam was connecting the cooling lines and allowed a small amount of ammonia crystals to leak.

Fortunately, the leak was stopped very quickly, but some of the toxic ammonia crystals attached to Curbeam. He had to stay in the Sun for an extra 34 minutes to evaporate the crystals as a precautionary measure.

Jones decontaminated the equipment and the suit. Slight pressurization was performed in the air lock to ensure that the ammonia could not penetrate the cabin. If the crew were exposed to such toxic chemicals, the mission would not have been viewed as such a success.

1ISS Expedition 36

Photo credit: NASA

The disastrous event of Expedition 36 occurred on the International Space Station on July 9, 2013. It is the most recent space-related accident as of mid-2017. The 22nd spacewalk had just been performed during this mission when American astronaut Luca Parmitano discovered that his helmet was filling with water.

There was 0.5–1.0 liter (17–34 oz) of liquid in his helmet, nearly up to his mouth. His crewmates determined that the origin of the leak was Parmitano’s drink bag, which likely leaked while he leaned forward in the air lock.

During the next EVA a week later, Parmitano’s helmet began filling with water again. He continued the space walk until there was over 1 liter (34 oz) of water, making it nearly impossible for him to see and breathe. The walk had to be aborted, so Parmitano and his crewmate returned to the craft.

It was later determined that the leakage was not from his drink bag but from a “contamination and blockage” inside his suit. Parmitano nearlydrowned in space. Due to this unfortunate event, new measures have been established to ensure that this type of accident never occurs again.

Hunter is a new college student who has a fondness for writing. He hopes his readers enjoy reading his work just as much as he does writing it.

10 Amazing Discoveries Involving Asteroids

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10 Amazing Discoveries Involving Asteroids


At first glance, all asteroids look the same and don’t get much attention unless one destroys modern life in a movie. In reality, these ancient space mountains still surprise astronomers with their origins, bizarre behavior, and effects on the planets. In recent years, science has identified unique traits, devastating weather, and amazing individual rocks not even the experts could have predicted.

10Towers Within Craters

Photo credit: Live Science

In 2016, researchers were looking to study cosmic impacts on other worlds. To do this, they chose the Chicxulub crater in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Said to be the footprint of the asteroid that bumped dinosaurs off the face of the Earth, the crater had one trait that made it useful to study impacts on other planets.

So-called “peak rings” are tall hills circling the center inside of major craters. They exist across the solar system but in only one place on Earth: the epic crash that left an impression 180 kilometers (110 mi) wide across the Yucatan Peninsula. The 65-million-year-old scar was a rare opportunity to study the origin of these structures and revealed how asteroids are capable of violent and dramatic landscaping.

The force of the collision almost pierced Earth’s crust and caused the soil to behave like a thick fluid. Within minutes, deeply buried granite shot up like a water drop following an object dropped in liquid. The rising center reached the height of about 15 kilometers (9 mi) before collapsing downward and outward into a ring of peaks.

9Martian Tornadoes

Photo credit:

Asteroid impacts can whip up extreme weather and not just on Earth. In this case, they spawned frightening tornadoes on ancient Mars. Scientists first became aware of this when they studied NASA images and found strange streaks.

The streaks scoured the surface near large craters and were only visible in thermal infrared during Martian nights. A simulated environment was created in a laboratory to find out what caused these unusual surface lines.

Turns out, an asteroid would hit the red planet once in a while. After the asteroid vaporized itself and tons of material from the surface, air was forced from the crater at supersonic speed. Traveling at more than 800 kilometers per hour (500 mph), these plumes surfed just above the surface.

Wherever the flow encountered any raised geography, it created funnels with the strength of an F8 tornado. These scattered storms were responsible for the unusual streaks, leaving trails as they stripped the ground bare. This type of wind phenomenon on Mars is unique to asteroid arrivals and won’t occur again until the next one hits.

8The Olivine Trojans

Photo credit:

Mars has several companion asteroids that share its orbit. Called Trojans, they come in so-called families that drift around other planets as well, notably a group of 6,000 near Jupiter.

Mars Trojans are unique. So far, nine have been discovered and are the only ones in a stable planetary orbit. They also group together in a way that’s repeated nowhere else in the solar system. Eight keep the same distance from Mars and form the “Eureka family,” named for the asteroid at the nucleus of the cluster.

In 2016, scientists wanted to determine if a common link existed between them and used a spectograph to study three, one being Eureka. By studying the colors that sunlight reflects across the asteroids’ surfaces, their chemical composition could be determined.

The color spectrum turned out to be identical, which is rare enough among asteroids. But even more uniquely, they consisted mostly of olivine. This mineral is evidence that the group is likely ancient remains of the inner mantle of a mini-planet destroyed eons ago.

7The Clovis Killer

Photo credit: Heinrich Harder

When researchers found an abnormal amount of platinum at sites belonging to the Clovis culture, they realized that a long-standing mystery was possibly solved. Around 12,800 years ago, the Clovis Paleoindians suddenly vanished along with over 35 species of Ice Age animals, including the mammoth and saber-toothed tiger.

Scholars aren’t exactly sure why this happened. The unnaturally high deposit of platinum suggested that an impact could be behind it. The scarce metal showed up at 11 archaeological sites linked with the Clovis culture in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Earlier, in 2013, another team found platinum-enriched ice in Greenland dating back to the “Young-Dryas” period. During this era, temperatures mysteriously plummeted and lasted for 1,400 years. It also began around the same time that the Clovis culture disappeared.

While rare on Earth, platinum is abundant in comets and asteroids. All research points to an extinction event that hit North America. Most likely, fragments from a comet or asteroid caused disaster, such as the climate suddenly cooling, on a continental or even global scale.

6The Eternal Fallout

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Earth gets bombarded with around 100 tons of extraterrestrial objects on a daily basis. Luckily, most are microscopic and burn up in the planet’s atmosphere. Those that reach the surface are mostly rocky meteorites called chondrites. Depending on which ancient collision event they were born from, they are classed H, L, or LL. At the moment, the vast majority are types H and L.

To find out what kind of space “rains” occurred on Earth in the distant past, researchers traveled to Russia. Near St. Petersburg exists an area with a rich buildup of such materials dating back to antiquity. Hundreds of samples were taken and chemically tested to determine their type.

Surprisingly, they found a barrage of L-chondrites starting around 466 million years ago. This particular shower is currently still going strong. It began with what must have been an impressive impact involving an asteroid somewhere in the solar system. The resulting fallout on Earth was so thick that it dominated the geological record for a million years, to the point of covering up all other impacts.

5The Lomonosov Tsunamis

Photo credit: National Geographic

A theory suggesting Mars once had water recently received dramatic backup—signs that tsunamis raged across the red surface. Where there are tidal waves, there are oceans, and one probably existed on the northern plains of Mars.

Some three billion years ago, an asteroid hit the area and scooped out the Lomonosov crater, measuring 70 kilometers (43 mi) in diameter. After studying the formations of the landscape, it was determined that a pair of giant tsunamis was forced from the crater at 60 meters per second (197 ft/sec).

The first was 300 meters (985 ft) high and reached land within a few hours. The size, speed, and power of the waves would have been monumental. Tsunamis leave their mark on shorelines, and researchers found these typical deposits at what would have been a Martian beach.

Nearby was another distinctive ground pattern called a thumbprint terrain, which occurs when one set of tsunamis bounce back from the shore and smash into a second set. There’s no other way to explain the evidence other than assuming Mars had a northern ocean that got hit by an asteroid, which then sparked devastating tsunamis.

4The Million-Year Volcanic Eruption

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One rock stimulated the Earth to erupt for as long as a million years. Measuring 15 kilometers (9 mi), it hit Canada 1.85 billion years ago in theSudbury basin. The resulting damage left the second-biggest crater found thus far with a diameter of roughly 150–260 kilometers (93–161 mi).

Since most craters eventually end up being destroyed by geological processes, it’s difficult to study the link between space impactors andvolcanism. However, the Sudbury event left behind a remarkably preserved site that is perfect for this kind of research.

During 2013–2014, scientists climbed into the crater and extracted over a hundred samples from the 1.5-kilometer-thick (0.93 mi) rock layers within. The samples consisted of melted surface material as well as volcanic fragments shaped like crab claws. The peculiar formations resulted when gas inside the superheated rock caused them to explode violently.

The rocks were different enough to show that continual, volatile eruptions produced them. The process lasted an incredibly long time, from hundreds of thousands of years to a million years at most.

3Protoplanet Building Blocks

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The second-largest asteroid in the solar system, Vesta, is special. Apart from being an asteroid, it’s also the last remaining protoplanet from the solar system’s beginnings. Vesta is approximately 525 kilometers (326 mi) wide, but its inner structure doesn’t match that of other asteroids.

Instead, like Earth and Mars, it has a core of iron and nickel and a rocky surface. At one point, a violent impact carved a crater near the southern pole and ejected the Vestoids. One such Vestoid, called 1999 AT10, is unlike any known asteroid. It did not come from the outer crust of its parent but from deep within.

This makes it a priceless find. To even begin to understand how the planets formed around 4.5 billion years ago, the exact thickness of Vesta’s crust needs to be calculated. In turn, this will allow scientists to identify which materials existed at the birth of the solar system and blended to form theprotoplanet.

Since 1999 AT10 came from inside of Vesta, this suggests that the maximum crust breadth is equal to the depth of the crater, which is about 25 kilometers (16 mi) deep.

2The Wrong-Way Asteroid

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In 2015, astronomers found a bizarre boulder among Jupiter’s Trojans. Nicknamed “BZ,” it shares Jupiter’s orbit but moves in the opposite direction of every planet, the Sun, and 99.99 percent of solar asteroids. This is calledretrograde motion. But while rare, it’s not unique.

Even so, BZ does something spectacular. Since reversed paths spell an almost inevitable collision, other retrograde asteroids avoid planets. But not BZ. With every orbital lap, it comes dangerously close to Jupiter. No other planet in the solar system owns an asteroid that behaves in this manner.

Remarkably, the plucky asteroid has remained safe for thousands of laps and researchers estimate that it will continue to play its lethal game for at least another million years. Jupiter may represent the greatest threat to BZ. But for now, the gas giant’s gravity also keeps BZ safe.

Every time the pair orbits the Sun, the asteroid passes inside and then outside of Jupiter. Each turn’s gravitational tug cancels out the other, and this keeps the asteroid out of harm’s way.

1Six-Tailed Asteroid

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Comets are famous for their fiery tails, but one asteroid outshines them all. In 2013, the Hubble telescope revealed an unknown phenomenon in the solar system’s asteroid belt—a space rock with tails.

For asteroids to develop comet-like dust trails is unheard of, and incredibly, this one flaunted six glowing tails. Dubbed P/2013 P5, its existence shocked scientists. They were also amazed by the way the beams shifted. When found, the tails were radiating from one side of the asteroid. But within 13 days, they ended up on the complete opposite side.

It would appear that the tails didn’t sprout all at once but in bursts. For this reason, it’s likely that a collision didn’t bring on this change. Rather, it probably occurred because P/2013 P5 started to tumble out of control after experiencing radiation pressure.

This destabilized the asteroid so much that its gravity could no longer hold onto material from the nucleus and surface. The 425-meter-wide (1,400 ft) rock is believed to be a 200-million-year-old fragment of a long-destroyed larger object. So far, P/2013 P5 has lost up to 1,000 tons of dust.