Fire in the Sky:
Cosmic Collisions, Killer Asteroids, and the Race to Defend Earth
Scribner, 2020, 288 pp., Paperback. $17.00. www.simonandschuster.com
One of these days, warns author Gordon Dillow, the Earth will be hit by a comet or asteroid of potentially catastrophic size. The only question is when. In the meantime, we need to get much better at finding objects hurtling our way, and if they’re large enough to penetrate the atmosphere without burning up, figure out what to do about them. We owe many of science’s most important discoveries to the famed Meteor Crater, a mile-wide dimple on the Colorado Plateau created by an asteroid impact 50,000 years ago. In this book, Dillow unpacks what the crater has to tell us. Prior to the early 1900s, the world believed that all craters — on the Earth and Moon — were formed by volcanic activity. Not so. The revelation that Meteor Crater and others like it were formed by impacts with space objects has led to a now-accepted theory about what killed off the dinosaurs, and it has opened up a new field of asteroid observation that is brimming with urgency. Dillow looks at great asteroid hits of the past and modern-day asteroid hunters and defense planning experts, including America’s first Planetary Defense Officer. Both a work of popular science and a warning to not take for granted the space objects hurtling overhead, this book is ultimately a testament to our universe’s celestial wonders.