NASA prepares for a possible impact of an asteroid against Earth

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Asteroid hitting earth: the next scenario is apocalyptic. Let’s make it clear from the beginning that it’s not real.┬áBut just imagining it is terrifying.

An asteroid is rapidly approaching the Earth. It’s between 100 and 300 meters long and, if it were to impact our planet, it would release between 100,000 and 800,000 kilo tonnes of energy, causing great devastation.

As a reference, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was “only” 15 kilotons.

The International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) estimates that the asteroid will pass very close to us within eight years (29 April 2027) and have a 10 per cent chance of striking the Earth.

Faced with this threat, scientists have a mission against time: to prevent an unprecedented catastrophe on the planet.

Calm down. As we move forward, this scenario is fictional.

In fact, it is part of an exercise in which astronomers from different parts of the world are participating this week, gathered at the Planetary Defense Conference convened by the International Academy of Astronautics in Washington D.C., United States.

Within the conference, one of the central points is this simulation designed by NASA, in which experts must design preparation strategies in case one day an asteroid gets dangerously close to the Earth in a real way.

“This is a threat that could happen, although it’s very unlikely,” Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which designed the exercise, told NPR.

“Our goal is to follow all the steps we should take,” says Chodas, referring to how they prepare for a possible real scenario.

Mission: saving the planet

According to Chodas, the objective of the simulation is to adjust the decision-making system on how best to deal with this type of threat.

While an eight-year time frame for making a decision seems like a long time, Chodas warns that it is really not long enough.

Unlike scientific missions where researchers choose which asteroid they want to analyze, in matters of planetary defense the situation is the opposite.

“It’s the asteroid that chooses you,” says Chodas.

The challenge for the astronomers gathered in Washington is to make calculations to determine precisely the characteristics of the asteroid and, from there, propose what actions to take.

Possible strategies to save us from the asteroid could include diverting its trajectory with a ship or through a nuclear detonation.

According to CNEOS, the challenge is to deflect the asteroid without fracturing it, since its fragments could fall to Earth.

In the event that a crash is imminent, plans should focus on evacuating the impact zone.

Are we at risk?

According to NASA, about 100 tons of interplanetary material fall on Earth every day. Most of that material is dust released from comets.

But also, in an average of every 10,000 years, there is a possibility that asteroids larger than 100 meters could impact the Earth and cause disasters locally or generate waves that flood coastal areas.

NASA also estimates that every “several hundred thousand years”, an asteroid larger than one kilometer could hit the Earth.

If that happens, the debris would spread through the atmosphere. They would cause acid rain, partially block the sunlight, and the rocks would fall back into flames on the Earth.

Current technology allows us to detect an object approaching the planet several years in advance, but in any case, experts say that no one should be too concerned about the impact of an asteroid on Earth.

But we insist: CNEOS warns that, at this time, there is no known asteroid that has a “significant probability” of impacting the Earth in the next 100 years.

Asteroid approaching Earth: Impact possible as early as 2022

The asteroid 2009JF1 has set course for Earth and represents a potential danger. The impact is expected to occur on 6 May 2022. That would be an absolute disaster.

  • Nasa warns of asteroid 2009JF1 approaching Earth.
  • The object has a speed of 59,000 kilometers per hour.
  • The asteroid would impact with the force of 15 atomic bombs.

Washington – Ten years ago, Nasa researchers made a discovery in space that still worries them today: they spotted an asteroid with a diameter of about 15 meters approaching the Earth. In the worst case, it could collide on 6 May 2022.

For an asteroid heading for Earth, 15 meters in diameter may sound quite small. But a collision would have devastating consequences. Because the object is moving at a speed of 59,000 kilometers per hour and, according to Nasa, would impact with a force of 230,000 tons of TNT. That’s 15 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb.

Asteroid 2009JF1 is observed by NASA

Nasa is keeping a close eye on the asteroid. The European Space Agency (Esa) has also included it in its risk list. However, it is highly unlikely that the asteroid will actually collide with Earth. To do so, it would have to be brought off its course by other missiles or gravitational holes. The probability for this is 1:4000.

So the space body will pass the earth with great certainty. Similar to September 2019, when a mega asteroid twice the size of the Empire State Building passed by our planet.

Authorities take asteroids seriously – threat to Earth

Nevertheless, space agencies take such threats seriously and prepare for possible disasters. Nasa and Esa have joined forces to explore asteroid defenses. In 2020, a probe will set off to explore the Didymos asteroids, which will pass relatively close to Earth – 16 million kilometers away. It will collect samples from the missiles, as the Esa reports on its website.

Defense system DART: Nasa wants to divert asteroid off course

Nasa goes one step further: as part of the DART mission, it is sending out a probe to collide with Didymos in a controlled manner in 2022. The test is to show whether Nasa can divert asteroids off their course.

When asteroids fly close to Earth, it is not only interesting for researchers to observe. It is also a fascinating sight for laymen. Especially when the asteroid is visible to the naked eye.

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