Scientists are exploring launching a nuclear bomb ‘millions of miles’ into space to stop a catastrophic asteroid

Scientists are exploring launching a nuclear bomb 'millions of miles' into space to stop a catastrophic asteroid


Scientists explore whether they can save Earth with a plot straight out of a sci-fi disaster movie.

A study released this month investigated whether it would be possible to launch a nuclear bomb “millions of miles” into space to prevent a catastrophic asteroid from destroying the planet.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a modeling tool that can evaluate this possibility in the wake of a 2022 NASA mission that successfully misdirected a giant space rock.

The new tool, detailed in the Planetary Science Journal, helps scientists understand whether there may be another option at their disposal after NASA deployed a kinetic impactor, in this case a spacecraft, to knock the 2022 asteroid off course during an asteroid redirection test. Dual (DART). ) a task.

“If we had enough warning time, we could potentially launch a nuclear device, sending it millions of miles away to an asteroid heading toward Earth,” LLNL physicist Mary Bourque, who was head of the research team, said in a statement.

Nuclear devices have a higher energy density per unit than the kinetic collider used by the space agency, making them a more effective method against asteroids, Burke noted.

When the device contacts the asteroid, there are two possible scenarios.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory physicist Mary Burke. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

“We would then detonate the device and either deflect the asteroid, keeping it intact but providing a controlled push away from Earth, or we could disable the asteroid, breaking it up into small, fast-moving fragments that might also miss the planet.” Porky pointed out.

She said the sophisticated multiphysics simulations run by LLNL cover a wide range of factors that will help figure out whether the nuclear deflection mission will succeed.

A nuclear weapon could prevent the asteroid from hurtling toward the planet. Mary Burkey/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

If a real threat against Earth materializes, modeling will help decision-makers decide how to proceed against an asteroid, said Megan Brooke Sial, head of the Planetary Defense Project at LLNL.

“Although the probability of a large asteroid impact occurring within our lifetime is low, the potential consequences could be devastating,” Brock Sial said in a statement.

But there are risks associated with launching a nuclear bomb on a collision course with an asteroid.

An asteroid expert previously told the New York Times that pieces of the exploded asteroid may be large enough to harm Earth.

“If you miscalculate the energy it takes to destroy it, a lot of fragments can form,” Dr. Patrick Michel said.

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