Firing a warhead at an asteroid on a collision course with Earth could prevent 99 percent of the warhead from hitting the planet, according to a new study.
Every two years, the Center for Near Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California conducts a simulation of the outcome of an asteroid impact.
In this year’s scenario, a fictional 100-meter-long asteroid, dubbed 2021 PDC, was only discovered after it took six months to hit the planet. planet to save many lives.
However, new research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland found that a megaton nuclear bomb, exploding near the asteroid’s surface, would destroy it without leaving behind thousands of large fragments still on their way to Earth. .
“If we apply a robust nuclear disruption technique at least a month before the impact, we can prevent 99 percent or more of the impact mass from hitting the Earth,” said lead author Patrick King of the study. Gizmodo.
Firing a warhead at an asteroid on a collision course with Earth could prevent 99 percent of the warhead from hitting the planet, according to a new study (Stock image)
HOW IT WOULD WORK?
A large one megaton warhead would be fired from Earth at the asteroid headed for the planet.
This is 50 times more powerful than Little Boy, which was dropped on Hiroshima by the US in 1945.
It would detonate just above the asteroid’s surface.
This would send a shock wave that would tear the space rock apart, breaking it into thousands of much smaller pieces.
Experts followed the likely trajectory and found that if the nuclear bomb went up two months before the rock hit Earth, 99 percent of the fragments would miss the planet.
It is likely that the one percent that has arrived in Earth’s atmosphere will disintegrate and cause no damage.
This is an idea that has become a staple of Hollywood disaster movies, most famously in the 1998 film Armageddon, in which Bruce Willis and a team of deep drillers are sent to blow up a giant incoming asteroid.
Unlike at Armageddon, the Johns Hopkins University team believes it would be enough to fire the nuclear bomb at the asteroid from the ground up — there’s no need to take Willis out of retirement.
This isn’t the first time NASA or other planetary scientists have explored the idea of using a nuclear bomb to destroy an incoming asteroid, but the team looked at the potential path of the many resulting fragments.
It was previously thought that even if we managed to blow up a large space rock, some fragments would still be large enough to destroy cities and cause mass destruction.
Simulated exercises in May, funded by NASA, showed that even firing a nuclear bomb at a space rock six months before it hit Earth would not bring it down.
However, the Johns Hopkins team disputes these findings and has taken a much closer look at the nuclear explosion and the fragments it caused ‘upwards’.
To understand the true path of fragments from a destroyed asteroid, the team simulated their resulting orbit and orbit, followed by the detonation of a megaton nuclear bomb to their resulting orbit around the sun.
The team recorded the impact the gravity of other planets in the inner solar system, such as Venus and Mars, could have on their trajectory and whether it could prompt them to hit Earth.
Their simulation showed that this huge bomb, 50 times more powerful than Little Boy, which destroyed Hiroshima in WW2, would do if detonated near the surface of a 100-meter-long space rock on its way to Earth.
They tested their findings at five different distances from the planet and found that it worked in all cases – so it would be a viable option for last-minute arrivals.
Obviously, the more before impact the nuclear bomb is fired, the better, as it further reduces the volume of incoming materials, they found.
However, a new study from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, found that a megaton nuclear bomb, exploding near the asteroid’s surface, would destroy it without leaving behind thousands of large fragments still en route to the asteroid. earth (stock image)
Explained: the difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks
An asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.
AN comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.
AN meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.
This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small that they evaporate into the atmosphere.
When one of these meteoroids reaches Earth, it becomes a . called meteorite.
Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.
For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris in the atmosphere burns up, forming a meteor shower.
The bigger the asteroid headed for the planet, the more in advance you’ll have to fire the nuclear bomb to prevent large fragments from still dealing untold damage.
It’s still possible to have 99 percent of the resulting fragments of a large asteroid miss Earth, but you should hit it six months in advance, rather than one or two months with a smaller rock.
“We used different approaches to make the study feasible, but we believe we have gathered the essential physics needed to make general observations about nuclear disruption as a technique,” King told Gizmodo.
‘Much of our uncertainty is driven by our inherent uncertainty in the properties of the asteroids themselves; we definitely need to support more space missions to further explore their properties.’
It wouldn’t always be a viable option, according to King, who said there’s always a possibility that much smaller pieces could still hit Earth, causing worse problems than a large impact.
“By creating multiple fragments instead of a single impactor, we could multiply the threat,” he wrote in the paper.
“On the other hand, disruption has its own benefits and can succeed where a deflection could not. This is all part of the process of evaluating which technique to use.’
Even if we don’t find out about the rock until the very last minute, it could still be possible to “significantly reduce the magnitude of the disaster if we disrupt the object just two weeks before the impact,” King said.
“We find that disruption can be a very effective planetary defense strategy, even for very late … interventions, and should be considered an effective backup strategy if preferred methods, which require long warning times, fail.”
The findings are published in the journal Astronautical Law.
“Planetary Defense!” NASA launches November mission to fend ‘devastating’ asteroid from hitting Earth by NUDGEN it with spacecraft, agency says
NASA will launch a mission to deflect an asteroid into deep space in late November using a spacecraft.
Known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, the US space agency will send the DART spacecraft to a pair of asteroids — Didymos’ binary — at 1:20 a.m. EST on Nov. 24 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9- rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.
DART will impact one of the two asteroids known as Didymoon on October 2, 2022 at about 13,500 mph.
By doing so, it will change Didymoon’s speed by a fraction of a percent, but it will be enough for NASA to measure its altered orbit.
This will provide valuable input for future missions to deflect asteroids.
At about 160 meters (524 feet) wide, Didymoon revolves around a much larger space rock known as Didymos which is about 780 meters (2,559 feet) wide.
Didymoon came relatively close to Earth in 2003, within a radius of 3.7 million miles.