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Are you more likely to die from being hit by lightning or by being hit by an asteroid?

5079 day(s) ago

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The only modern record of a meteorite hitting a person happened in 1954. Ann E. Hodges was taking a nap on the couch in her Sylacauga, Alabama home when an 8.5 pound meteorite punched a hole in her roof. It wasn't a direct hit, bouncing off of her radio before striking her hip. She only suffered some minor bruising. Today the rock can be seen at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

However, you don't need to be hit by an asteroid directly for it to kill you, you just need to be in the blast area created by the impact. If that is taken into account there is a 1 in 70,000 chance of being killed by a meteorite. In 2011 the world population will be around seven billion which means an average of 10,000 people die every year from meteorites, with 440 in America alone. On the other hand, lighting deaths account for an average of only fifty-eight deaths per year in the U.S.* Meteorites are therefore far more dangerous.

Sort of.

Dying from an asteroid impact is a bit like winning the jackpot on a slot machine: While a machine may have a 98% payout, most of that money ends up in the hands of a few jackpot winners instead of being evenly split so each player gets ninety-eight cents each time they put in a dollar. If a meteorite 6.5mi (10km) in diameter hit the earth, it would wipe out everyone. It's estimated that the asteroid that may have wiped out the dinosaurs was between 9 to 12 miles (15 to 19km) in diameter. Average out this death toll over millions of years and you get 10,000 deaths per year.

Last year NASA was tracking six large "Near Earth Orbit" objects. These are meteorites that have some likelihood of hitting the Earth. The chances of the Earth being hit by one of these was 1 in about 2.5 million. "Near" in astronomical terms means these objects were still tens or hundreds of thousands of miles away when they passed by the planet.

Aside from species-destroying impacts, there's an average of one death worldwide from a direct or indirect meteorite strike every 180 years or one American every 5,000 years. Using today's statistics about 290,000 people should die from lightning in that same time period. Realistically you are far more likely to be struck by lightning.

*Currently there is no data on worldwide lightning deaths.

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