How to save Earth from an asteroid impact

March 27th, 2009 - 5:10 pm ICT by ANI  

London, March 27 (ANI): Scientists have used a virtual model to investigate options to save the Earth from an asteroid impact.

According to a report in New Scientist, the model was developed by a team led by David Dearborn of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which modelled the impact of a nuclear explosion on an asteroid’s trajectory.

It is based on the option of gently nudging the asteroid away from Earth without breaking it apart, either by exploding a nuclear device at a distance or zapping it with high-powered lasers.

The team’s virtual asteroid was 1 kilometer in diameter and made of rocky rubble loosely bound together by gravity, which is considered by many planetary scientists to be the most likely composition for small asteroids.

Thirty years before the asteroid was set to collide with Earth, a nuclear blast, equivalent to 100 kilotonnes of TNT, was set off 250 meters behind it.

The nudge from the explosion increased its velocity by 6.5 millimeters per second, a slight change but enough for it to miss us.

The technique also reduced the risk of a break-up.

Just 1 per cent of the asteroid’s material was dislodged by the blast, and of that only about 1 part in a million remained on a collision course with Earth.

Dearborn adds that the technology for this method is already established, unlike for the use of a heavy object to shove the asteroid onto a different path - the “kinetic impactor” strategy.

“Should an emergency arise, we should know that the technology is available, and we should have some idea of how to properly use it,” he said.

He has now begun simulating the effect of nudging an asteroid with a smaller nuclear explosion - less than 1 kilotonne - 1 meter below its surface.

This would reduce the device’s weight, making it easier and quicker to launch. (ANI)

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