The sun is blinding us to thousands of potentially lethal asteroids. Can scientists spot them before it’s too late?

On the morning of Feb. 15, 2013, a meteor the size of a semitrailer shot out from the direction of the rising sun and exploded in a fireball over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia. Briefly glowing brighter than the sun itself, the meteor exploded with 30 times more energy than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, exploding some 14 miles (22 kilometers) above the ground. The blast shattered windows on more than 7,000 buildings, temporarily blinded pedestrians, inflicted instantaneous ultraviolet burns and otherwise injured more than 1,600 people. Fortunately, no known deaths resulted.

The Chelyabinsk meteor is thought to be the biggest natural space object to enter Earth’s atmosphere in more than 100 years. Yet no observatory on Earth saw it coming. Arriving from the direction of the sun, the rock remained hidden in our biggest blind spot, until it was too late.

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