Nuclear weapons can be the last line of defense against a killer asteroid
The study suggests that nuclear weapons could save us from colliding with approaching large asteroids in the future.
The earth was bombarded by asteroids four billion years ago. This is evidenced by the craters that our planet is dotted with.
Today, the universe is not so wild. Our civilization lives in a happy period during which no great cosmic body has fallen on Earth. But no happiness lasts forever.
The impact of destructive asteroids in the future cannot be ruled out. That’s why astrologers observe the universe and calculate the orbits of asteroids. And experts are considering how to avert or destroy them.
Tilt or scatter?
American Space Agency In November, NASA will launch a mission to verify whether it would be possible to deflect asteroids that threaten to hit Earth with a probe impact (ie kinetic energy).. The small probe will be guided to the moon Dimorphos, which orbits the asteroid Didymos, collides with it, and then it is measured whether and to what extent the impact deviated the small moon from its orbit.
Experts from NASA and the US National Bureau of Nuclear Safety also presented the HAMMER plan. His goal is to point a vessel loaded with nuclear ammunition at an asteroid to scatter it.
However, hardly anyone will try to test such a possibility, because it is associated with significant risks. In addition, nuclear conventions in space are prohibited by international conventions.
However, researchers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory tested this possibility using sophisticated mathematical models and simulations. And they have reached a result after which you should sleep soundly.
Their study, published in a professional journal Astronautics Act, suggests that a nuclear attack is effective in protecting against asteroids. Experts recommend that it be considered the “last line of defense”, when dangerous cosmic bodies are close to Earth and with a year or less left until the impact.
When you are pressed for time…
Scientists’ models looked at the impact of a megaton nuclear bomb on an asteroid 100 meters wide. The researchers analyzed five different asteroid orbits with explosions with a week to six months to go. In the simulations, they determined the impact of the explosion on the asteroid’s structure and, using specialized software called Spheral, tracked a cloud of particles from which they determined how many pieces of asteroid would hit Earth.
You can see part of the simulation in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory video:
In one scenario, where two months were missing before the asteroid arrived at the time of the explosion, the researchers found that the number of parts of space rock falling on Earth decreased to only 0.1 percent of the body’s original mass.
Scientists call it a great result. However, they prefer to divert the asteroid from its orbit by kinetic energy using a conventional warhead.
“It simply came to our notice then. If the asteroid is close, all that remains is to crush it into as many small parts as possible. And a nuclear bomb, which is the most powerful bomb known, can be used for this. It is three million times more efficient than chemical bombs, “writes its lead author Patrick King on the web about the study Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. However, he points out: “When you have more time, it is better to use kinetic energy and deflect the asteroid from the trajectory. Then no particles fall on Earth. “
They are dark, almost invisible
It still happens that we notice some of the asteroids too late. Astronomers explain this by saying that planets coming from the Sun are difficult to find with optical telescopes, they are simply dark.
NASA is therefore developing a special NEO Surveyor telescope, which has to identify bodies arriving from the direction of our star reliably, and especially well in advance. If everything goes according to plan and the influx of money from the US Congress does not dry up, it will be launched in 2025.
“For now, we’re counting on the luck that keeps us safe from big asteroids. But luck is not the plan, “said Richard Binzel, an astronomer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at a hearing in Congress.