Tagged: asteroid impact

NASA simulates the aftermath of a small asteroid striking Los Angeles… and it’s not pretty

(NATURAL NEWS) — An asteroid strike on planet Earth has been the stuff of hit science-fiction movies, in which devastation and death was widespread. In reality, the last known asteroid/meteor strikes occurred tens of millions of years ago, when the planet was far-less crowded.

A strike today, however, would be catastrophic no matter where it hit. And scientists believe it is not a matter of if, but when.

In recent days, a pair of federal agencies, NASA and FEMA, conducted an exercise simulating an asteroid strike on Los Angeles. As reported by The New York Times, the agencies were tasked with considering the devastating consequences of a 330-foot asteroid slamming into earth near a major metropolitan area.

The Times reported:

The simulation projected a worst-case blast wave by an asteroid strike in 2020 that could level structures across 30 miles, require a mass evacuation of the Los Angeles area and cause tens of thousands of casualties.

Up to one million potential objects out there
In the hit 1998 movie, “Armageddon,” a rag-tag group of geologists and oil-drillers were sent on a mission into space to land on a fast-approaching asteroid, drill a hole deep into its core and set off a nuclear weapon. But NASA and FEMA officials say that kind of theatrics isn’t very plausible in real life.

Fortunately, according to astrologists who track some 659 large asteroids, there is little chance one of them would strike the earth within the next century, said Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told the Times in an email.

The center is reliant upon several telescopes like the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona’s College of Science to track comets and asteroids that are potentially hazardous. These bodies are leftover fragments from the formation of planets and they can come dangerously close to Earth, the Times noted.

Chodas said of the 659 bodies currently being tracked, “none pose a significant threat over the next century, either because the probabilities are extraordinarily small, or the asteroids themselves are extremely small.” That said, Chodas noted further that it was important to continue searching for and tracking asteroids in the event one begins heading for Earth.

Others, like the organizers of Asteroid Day, believe there could be as many as 1 million objects in space that could strike earth, and that only about 1 percent have been discovered.

Either way, hence the Oct. 25 NASA/FEMA exercise, which was conducted in El Segundo, Calif. The simulation projected a strike in 2020, and while a four-year warning might seem like plenty of time to prepare or prevent, experts say it probably would not be enough to deflect an asteroid of the size laid out in the simulation.

Chodas said that engineers believe the best way to deal with pending strike is to build a “kinetic impactor” spacecraft and ram it into the approaching asteroid years before it is projected to hit Earth.

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NASA prepares for asteroid impact within the next 2 decades: “It’s going to happen”

(SHTFPLAN.COM) — NASA is preparing for the big one, as many astronomists have found several major rocks that will be headed straight for earth in the next 10-15 years and beyond.

The threat of a destructive asteroid event encroaching upon our life has become an increasing concern, and it is gaining serious attention. In the long run, it is an inevitability.

Though major asteroids big enough to wipe out life across the entire planet are rare, scientists believe they have taken place and reset entire epochs. Moreover, smaller asteroids, comets or meteors can all do major damage, even if they aren’t record breaking hunks of space rock.

via the UK Metro:

When American government representatives asked NASA head Charles Boden what the best response to a large asteroid headed for New York City would be, his answer was simple: ‘Pray.’

But what would happen if a smaller asteroid hit Los Angeles?

Describing the scenario as a ‘not if – but when,’ NASA recently simulated what would happen if a 300 to 800ft asteroid approached Los Angeles with an 100% chance of impact.

‘It’s not a matter of if – but when – we will deal with such a situation,’ said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

‘But unlike any other time in our history, we now have the ability to respond to an impact threat through continued observations, predictions, response planning and mitigation.’

What will it mean for civilization as we know it? There is a definite threat of an existential crisis that would change the planet over night – though the chances are extremely low, there is still a chance.

How much warning would we have? We could have as little as three days warning of an asteroid which would blast London with the power of a hydrogen bomb.

And it’s possible that we might have no warning at all – at least with a smaller asteroid capable of shattering windows across the city.

[…]

Bigger asteroids could cause nearly unimaginable damage – wiping out many species and plunging Earth into a bleak winter lasting for years – although the larger an asteroid is, the more warning we would have of its approach.

‘The high degree of initial uncertainty coupled with the relatively long impact warning time made this scenario unique and especially challenging for emergency managers,’ said FEMA National Response Coordination Branch Chief Leviticus A. Lewis.

On the other hand, really big asteroid are routinely monitored and there are several known ‘big ones’ that will approach in the next decade or so… and while they might be headed for the planet, space agencies aren’t planning to take it lying down, instead, they have a plan to exploit it as a major opportunity, born perhaps, out of an unavoidable risk they hope to mitigate.

Now that researchers are getting good at spotting these objects and tracking their path, scientists are beginning to formulate workable strategies for knocking any incoming asteroids off their trajectories and even ‘catching’ them in Earth’s orbit to mine and exploit.

This man on stage at a Ted Talk explains what is at stake:

Phil Plait: How to defend Earth from asteroids

Yes, asteroid defense is now a major enterprise, and somewhere in the shadows a team is gearing up to outdo the casts of Armageddon and Deep Impact combined.

When asteroids do hit, the damage they can do is unimaginably catastrophic – and can easily dwarf the power of a nuclear detonation, depending upon the size of the incoming rock.

But what is perhaps worse than a rock that could pack the punch of “3 billion nukes” is one that is just big enough to destroy a major area, but too small for NASA or other groups to track effectively. In fact, the latter scenario happens all the time – not long ago, a big enough meteor hit and NASA had no idea until it was too late.

Will they catch the one that counts? And will anyone be ready if they don’t?

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Raiding the 66 million-year-old crater holding the secrets of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs

(UK TELEGRAPH) — Scientists are traveling back more than 60 million years in history to drill deep under the ocean floor in search of clues about the event that wiped out the dinosaurs, and nearly extinguished life on earth.

Some 15 miles off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, on a platform above the crater left behind when a massive asteroid struck the earth, they are traveling back through 66 million years of the earth’s history.

The area surrounding the crater, known as Chicxulub, is now characterized by serene seas and breathtaking sunsets. But it was once the site of a collision with the force of about 100 million atomic bombs.

Joanna Morgan, a professor of geophysics at Imperial College London and co-chief of the study at Chicxulub, describes the immediate aftermath of the asteroid’s impact:

“The first thing you’d see would be thermal radiation, so it’s very much like a nuclear explosion. You get a great big, expanding vapor plume that then at a certain temperature turns red hot and radiates heat,” she says, explaining that everything within 1000km – an area that on a current map includes Miami to the Northeast, Mexico City to the West and stretches down to Nicaragua to the South – would be incinerated.

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Scientists are traveling back more than 60 million years in history by drilling under the ocean floor for clues about the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.