Nuking a rogue asteroid is a safe strategy for Earth after all, says study

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Oct 07, 2021, 01:53 PM IST

Representative image of a near-Earth asteroid Photograph:(Twitter)

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If we get our calculations wrong, firing a nuclear missile to destroy an asteroid on the way to hit the Earth has dangerous consequences. This approach was hence drawing a lot of criticism

A rogue asteroid hitting Earth to end human civilisation as we know it is very much possible. Last time such an asteroid hit Earth, it eliminated more than half of life on the planet and ended the reign of dinosaurs. To avoid such a fate, space agencies around the worl keep a close watch at out planetary surroundings.

If an asteroid slated to hit Earth is detected, one of the strategies is to fire nuclear warheads to disintegrate it before it makes contact with Earth.

However, this approach needs careful calculations. Smallest of the mistakes would mean that we will just be splitting one asteroid into two or more parts. This means that instead of just one impact, we would get several at different locations of Earth. Hence this approach draws criticism.

However, researchers have now concluded in a study that such an approach is safe. For this, they created computer models that analysed effect of 1-megaton-yield nuclear bomb on a 100-meter wide asteroid.

Five different asteroid orbits were analysed and the researchers concluded that if we could hit the asteroid two months before impact, it is possible to reduce the debris to just 0.1 per cent of the total mass of the asteroid. If we could hit it six months before impact, researchers say that the debris can be reduced to 1 per cent of the total mass.

The study has been published in journal Acta Astronautica.