To be big enough to kill all life on Earth, all an asteroid has to do is kick up enough dust to cloud the atmosphere, change the climate, and cause a global extinction. To do so, the asteroid must be larger than 270 meters across — and there are millions of asteroids that size relatively close to Earth. How do we defend against random destruction or an extinction-level event?
The meteor that killed the dinosaurs is estimated to be three to ten miles in diameter. Much smaller than that is the Apophis asteroid, at the aforementioned 270 meters across. Apophis will pass close enough to earth to hit communication satellites in 2029 – and NASA was worried it could shift orbit enough in that pass to make contact in 2036.
It's not just Apophis. NASA is always watching near-earth objects for potential disasters, tracking 18,000 globally. What they do when they see one is still up for debate. Are they equipped to handle it? Will the Space Force be operational by then? Who will step in and save Earth's population from extinction from above.
No. No no no no no no no no no.That's where the B612 Foundation comes in. This group works towards protecting the Earth from asteroid impacts
through discovery and deflection. The NGO is dedicated to all planetary defense issues. This group of physicists, astronomers, engineers, and astronauts is looking out for you – and are motivated to do it.
They warn that there's a 100-perfect likeliness that Earth will get hit by an asteroid in the future, they just aren't sure when. It could have been in April 2017, when a "huge object" narrowly missed Earth. Earth saw that one coming, but it's what we can't see that worries B612.
Detection is difficult. NASA estimates that at least 1,000 near-earth objects are discovered every year, but that a potential 10,000 remain undiscovered. Once we find them, destroying them is a matter of contention as well. Lasers and nuclear weapons are considered, but B612 recommends a "space tractor" to fly alongside the heavenly body and pull it into a different orbit.
If an asteroid does hit Earth, all our troubles will be over (we'll be dead). But for those looking to survive, you need to prepare for high, hot winds and shock waves first and foremost. Those will do the most killing of life on Earth — roughly 60 percent. But also be prepared for tsunamis, seismic activity, debris, and heat. Unrelenting heat.
But what do you know about that?
- Planetary Defense Frequently Asked Questions | NASA ›
- Asteroid impact avoidance - Wikipedia ›
- NASA unveils plan to test asteroid defense technique - CNN ›
- Discovery Channel - Large Asteroid Impact Simulation - YouTube ›
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- Only 117 years 'til this asteroid (possibly) hits us - CNN ›