The Unexpected Way We Might Prevent An Asteroid From Hitting Earth
A disaster movie’s most popular theme is the vision of an asteroid or comet hitting Earth, potentially wiping out all life. This is one of my favorite themes. It is widely believed that dinosaurs became extinct after an asteroid measuring 6-9 miles in diameter collided with Earth. The result was a huge crater measuring 93 miles across and 12 miles deep. This event took place at least 66,000,000 years ago. It allowed for humankind to reproduce and also showed that extinction-level events like ELEs are rare.
Although the odds of anything similar happening again to Earth anytime soon are low, NASA scientists are keeping a close eye on matters for us, along with other experts. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California has the Center for Near Earth Object Studies. This center is responsible for analyzing the probability of Near-Earth Objects. These are comets and asteroids that may have close encounters with Earth within the next century. CNEOS is part of the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office, (PDCO), located in Washington, D.C. PDCO focuses on devising strategies and technologies to counter asteroids and comets that have been identified as potentially hazardous objects. This includes some techniques you might not expect to see in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Nukes or deflection
Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
Detlef Koschny (planetary scientist) says that we have mapped 90% or more asteroids larger than 1 km. Scientists are confident that no one of these will pose a threat to Earth in the next 100 year. Scientists have been working hard to devise strategies to combat any asteroid larger than one kilometer. NASA and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory are collaborating on a mission called Double Asteroid Redirection Test, (DART) that will attempt to redirect an asteroid in September. The spacecraft will impact an asteroid measuring 530 feet in size. The impact force will be equivalent to three tons of TNT and deflect the asteroid from its current trajectory.
If there is a real threat, it would be best to identify the danger early enough so that a deflection mission like the NASA DART project can be put together. If such a mission fails or if an impending collision is not detected within one-year of a possible impact, then more severe measures may be necessary. A targeted nuclear strike could be launched on the asteroid. This is according to a 2021 study. Scientists created a simulation that showed that a 1 megaton nuclear warhead could stop at least 99 percent of the impacting mass from an asteroid with a diameter of 330 feet. Asteroid: 0 – Humanity: 1.
Apophis will have eyes on April 13, 2029
Apophis is the largest asteroid that will pass our area in the next few decades. It measures 1,100 feet in width. Its trajectory will actually bring it so close that it will be visible from certain parts of Earth. It will pass within a distance of 20,000 miles from Earth according to calculations. NASA has classified this as a “close encounter”, but not as a potential impact. This refers to an object with a greater than 1% chance of striking us.
NASA has determined that Apophis will not be able to strike Earth in at least the next 100 year. Although it was thought that Apophis might make an impact on Earth in 2068, this was disproved by NASA scientists who made powerful radar observations of Apophis’ distant approach to Earth in March 2021. NASA still considers it a PHO (potentially dangerous object) and it is encouraging to know that scientists are closely monitoring it as well as the more than 2,000 other similarly classified asteroids.