asteroid collision with Earth
The annual Taurids meteor shower is one of the highlights of the stargazing calendar. But the comet that causes this natural wonder could be hiding gigantic asteroids which are large enough to wipe out whole continents.

That's the warning from a team of academics at the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Science, who have been keeping a close eye on the Taurids.

Each year in late October and November, Earth's skies light up with shooting stars when the Earth passes through debris called the Taurids which is left behind by comet Encke.

However, the Czech astronomers claimed that asteroids called 2015 TX24 and 2005 UR are "direct members" of an undiscovered "branch" of the Taurids.

Both of these space rocks have been placed on the International Astronomical Union's list of "potentially hazardous" asteroids and are believed to be between 200 and 300 metres wide.

The Czech astronomers fear even larger space rocks could be hidden among the Taurids.

We encounter the potentially dangerous branch every few years, the researchers claimed, which could explain why the number of shooting stars seen during the meteor shower is much larger on some years than others.

"It is very likely that the new branch contains also numerous still not discovered objects of decameter [10 metres] or even larger size," the team wrote.

"Since asteroids of sizes of tens to hundreds of metres pose a threat to the ground even if they are intrinsically weak, impact hazard increases significantly when the Earth encounters the Taurid new branch every few years.