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Asteroids: Why Atomic Bombs Could Really Protect Earth


An asteroid is hurtling towards earth. Could he be turned off course by nuclear technology? Scientists have now simulated what is an obvious solution in Hollywood.

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Nuclear strike against asteroids (symbol image)

Photo: celafon / iStockphoto / Getty Images

Bruce Willis has already played through the scenario: In the blockbuster »Armageddon«, his film character Harry S. Stamper saves the earth from destruction by an approaching asteroid - with an atom bomb.

But not only film nerds, scientists too are discussing how absurd such an endeavor would be.

Many thought it was unrealistic.

Until now.

A last-minute strike with nuclear explosive devices could actually protect the planet from an asteroid impact - this was the result of a computer simulation by the US space agency NASA.

Their Center for Near Earth Object Studies calculates such scenarios on a regular basis.

In this case, the researchers assumed that the fictitious asteroid “2021 PDC” would only be discovered six months before it would hit Earth.

The scientists around the physicist Patrick King from Johns Hopkins University were less interested in whether an atom bomb could destroy an asteroid - that is considered to have been agreed.

The question was what happens to the debris.

If these nevertheless fly towards the earth, not much would be gained, so the assumption.

In their model, for example, the researchers detonated the bomb on a 100-meter-long asteroid and examined different variants, each with different trajectories of the debris, in which, for example, the gravitational forces were taken into account.

The results, which were published in the journal Acta Astronautica, are encouraging.

"If we draw back at least a month before the impact of a nuclear strike on a 100-meter-long flying object heading for the earth, we can prevent at least 99 percent of the mass from hitting the earth," King told the US specialist portal Gizmodo.

With two months, the rate even rises to almost 100 percent.

With larger asteroids, however, it would take more lead time for nuclear destruction so that the debris ultimately flies past Earth.

On the list of the most pressing human problems, approaching asteroids do not necessarily make it to one of the top places at the moment, but mathematically it will hit the earth again at some point in the future.

The danger is particularly great from a diameter of around 50 meters.

A huge crater could develop, cities could be wiped out, and in the worst case all life.

To avert a collision with such near earth objects, there are not too many options, actually only two: You push the asteroid a little out of its orbit so that it misses the earth.

Or you destroy it, like Bruce Willis with a bomb.

Pushing away with rockets or a spaceship, for example, would have the advantage that no fragments are created that would then rattle down on the earth.

Such an undertaking would be extremely complicated, which is why researchers have been playing through the atomic bomb option for years.

Detonations of smaller explosive devices could also achieve the same effect - diverting the asteroid.

If there was hardly any time before the impending impact, the bomb would have to explode directly on the surface - almost like in "Armageddon".


Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-10-15

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