Scientists model destruction of an Earth-bound asteroid

July 28, 2016
Tatiana Galushina is an employee of the Department of Celestial Mechanics and Astrometry, Tomsk State University. Credit: ©TSU

Researchers at Tomsk State University (Russia) and colleagues are developing measures to protect the Earth from potentially dangerous celestial bodies. With the help of the supercomputer SKIF Cyberia, the scientists simulated the nuclear explosion of an asteroid 200 meters in diameter in such a way that its irradiated fragments do not fall to the Earth.

"The way we propose to eliminate the threat from space is reasonable to use in case of the impossibility of the soft disposal of an object from a collision in orbit and for the elimination of an object that is constantly returning to Earth," says Tatiana Galushina, an employee of the Department of Celestial Mechanics and Astrometry. Previously, as a , scientists proposed to destroy the on its approach to Earth, but this could result in a catastrophic shower of highly radioactive fragments.

TSU scientists and colleagues from other research centres propose another solution to the problem. It is known that the majority of dangerous objects make several Earth passes before collision. Therefore, there is window of time during which the asteroid can be destroyed further away from the planet. This would be much safer and more effective.

The researchers modeled a with a diameter of 200 meters, similar to the asteroid Apophis, which in 2029 will approach Earth at a distance of 38,000 kilometers. Calculations have shown that destroying Apophis would require the impact of a nuclear device with the equivalent energy of one megaton of TNT. This impact would render part of the asteroid into gas and liquid droplets, while much of the object would break into pieces no larger than 10 meters. This is the minimum requirement to assure safety for the Earth.

"Because the rocket detonates behind the asteroid, almost all the pieces after the destruction will fly forward," says Galushina. "In this case, the orbit of the fragments will be significantly different from the asteroid's orbit. For 10 years after the explosion, an insignificant number of fragments will fall to Earth. Their radioactivity during this time will be reduced considerably, and after a few years, they will not pose a danger. It is worth adding that nuclear explosions in space are prohibited by international treaty, but in the case of a real threat to humanity, perhaps there will be an exception to this rule."

Experts in and ballistics contributed to the project. The scientists note that the theoretical calculations are only the beginning of developing preventive measures for the Earth.

Explore further: Small asteroid is Earth's constant companion

More information: A. G. Aleksandrova et al, The preventive destruction of a hazardous asteroid, Astronomy Reports (2016). DOI: 10.1134/S1063772916040016

Related Stories

Small asteroid to pass close to Earth March 5

February 3, 2016

A small asteroid that two years ago flew past Earth at a comfortable distance of about 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers) will safely fly by our planet again in a few weeks, though this time it may be much closer.

Research shows collision created Chelyabinsk asteroid

May 23, 2014

(Phys.org) —On February 15 2013, an asteroid exploded about 30 kilometers above Chelyabinsk, Russia. The explosion, shared on video around the world, was the Earth's second largest recorded airburst. By analyzing fragments ...

Asteroid 2012 KA to buzz Earth on May 17

May 17, 2012

On the heels of a bus-sized asteroid that passed harmlessly between Earth and the orbit of the Moon on May 13, another asteroid between 4.5 and 10 meters (14-33 feet) wide will buzz by at about the same distance on May 17, ...

Recommended for you

Webcam on Mars Express surveys high-altitude clouds

October 17, 2017

An unprecedented catalogue of more than 21 000 images taken by a webcam on ESA's Mars Express is proving its worth as a science instrument, providing a global survey of unusual high-altitude cloud features on the Red Planet.

Microbes leave 'fingerprints' on Martian rocks

October 17, 2017

Scientists around Tetyana Milojevic from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna are in search of unique biosignatures, which are left on synthetic extraterrestrial minerals by microbial activity. The biochemist ...

Astronomers identify new asynchronous short period polar

October 16, 2017

(Phys.org)—An international team of astronomers led by Gagik H. Tovmassian of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has uncovered new details into the nature of a cataclysmic variable known as IGR J19552+0044. ...

The remarkable jet of the quasar 4C+19.44

October 16, 2017

Quasars are galaxies with massive black holes at their cores. So much energy is being radiated from near the nucleus of a quasar that it is much brighter than the rest of the entire galaxy. Much of that radiation is at radio ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.