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Author Topic: How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?  (Read 13824 times)

Tomislav Belosic

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« on: 27/05/2008 21:03:37 »
Tomislav Belosic  asked the Naked Scientists:

We often hear that a statistical chance of dying from a large meteor strike is quite high. In addition, it is said that we would probably have difficulty to actually spot anything that might be approaching us.
   
My question is: in case we do spot a large, extinction-event worthy meteor on a collision course with Earth couple of years in advance would there be any way to stop it? And if so, how would we do it?
   
Thanks,
   
Tomi

What do you think?


 

Offline Soul Surfer

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #1 on: 28/05/2008 09:07:22 »
There is a great deal of work going on and published on this subject.  The most likely ones to work involve applying small forces for a long period of time rather than large violent forces like explosions.  Most small asteroids and comets are heaps of rubble loosely held together and would easily fall apart.

There is also a serious programme looking for small asteroids that could cause damage to the earth. In the case of ones with periodic orbits this should give years of notice of collision risks.

Non periodic comets coming at us from deep space outside the solar system would be detected but we would probably not have time to take action.  The ones we wouldn't detect are non periodic comets coming at us after going round the sun.
« Last Edit: 28/05/2008 09:09:06 by Soul Surfer »
 

Offline hurricane221

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #2 on: 31/05/2008 03:32:44 »
Tomislav Belosic  asked the Naked Scientists:

it is said that we would probably have difficulty to actually spot anything that might be approaching us.

the likelihood of us spotting a meteor is probably higher than you expect (i cannot give numbers sorry) though we may end up just panicking. we track hundreds of thousands of "hazards" in space. keep in mind, "quite high" still not a very good chance.

Tomislav Belosic  asked the Naked Scientists:

My question is: in case we do spot a large, extinction-event worthy meteor on a collision course with Earth couple of years in advance would there be any way to stop it? And if so, how would we do it?

we have a few options on what to do when we find it:
we could nuke it and it would mostly burn up in the atmosphere
we could tow it away although this requires years of notice
we could attach a rocket to it. again, this would take at least a year
an odd option is we focus the suns rays on it using a parabolic mirror and hope the vaporising bits of rock would propel it

each one (except the nuke) would take years so bombing it remains the best option until we discover one
 :)
 

Offline LeeE

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #3 on: 31/05/2008 17:02:25 »
Nuking a relatively small one, like the one hypothesised in the Tunguska event, might be an option but the best you could achieve by nuking a Dino-killer would be to turn it into many Tunguska sized objects, if you could make any real difference to it at all.
 

lyner

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #4 on: 01/06/2008 10:10:03 »
If you know, accurately, the trajectory of your asteroid and you can get to it soon enough, then a relatively small force for a short time would be enough to divert its path away from an Earth impact.
'Nuking' it sounds an easy solution but you still have to get the bomb into the right place at the right time to have the right effect. I would not be just a matter of setting a rocket off towards the asteroid and meeting it on its way to a direct impact. We would be unlikely to have the rocket capability (energy) to do it that way; we'd have to use an indirect method, using an orbit around the Earth or Sun and possibly with a slingshot around the Moon or other a planet to get it where it was needed.
A long time (even years) would be required, possibly, to manouver into the right place.  At that advanced time, the accuracy of prediction could be such that you didn't even need to take action and the effort was needless.
It could be a good idea to launch a vehicle as soon as possible and put it in an orbit from which it could be deployed rapidly when needed., funded by international contributions.
« Last Edit: 01/06/2008 15:03:37 by sophiecentaur »
 

paul.fr

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #5 on: 01/06/2008 16:08:05 »
NORAD can detect a near eath object the size of a ballpoint pen, if that helps?
 

Offline syhprum

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #6 on: 01/06/2008 17:24:49 »
There is a very good novel by A C Clark on this theme 'Rendezvous with Rama' where just such a patrol prepared to intercept dangerous meteorites has been established after the destruction of a city by one
 

lyner

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #7 on: 01/06/2008 23:51:32 »
NORAD can detect a near eath object the size of a ballpoint pen, if that helps?
How far in advance and with what accuracy?
 

Offline that mad man

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #8 on: 02/06/2008 03:11:09 »
If you set of a Nuke in the vacuum of space do you get the same blast effect as on Earth?

At a guess I would say that the radiation would be greater and any "fireball" would be small or maybe non-existent, so the destructive effect and blast wave would also be small.

Not sure though.
 

lyner

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #9 on: 02/06/2008 09:42:34 »
The explosion would be very different; the total mass of material in an space explosion would be less that in an atmospheric explosion (no air to move) this would mean higher velocity for the pieces of the casing flying outwards and they wouldn't run out of steam.
There would be no 'mushroom cloud', of course, but an ever-spreading spherical wall of high speed material.
 
The effect on a target would be less and less for a more distant explosion (inverse square law would apply) so accurate aiming would be very good value for  money if the idea is to knock something out of the way.  Just giving it a bad headache wouldn't be particularly useful.

In terms of energy efficiency a nuke would be much worse value than a rocket towing the asteroid. But it would be much easier to operate it because you wouldn't have to match your speed and latch onto it as you would with a rocket. Ideally, you would penetrate the asteroid before detonation - like all good military ordnance does, these days.
 

paul.fr

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #10 on: 03/06/2008 16:11:57 »
NORAD can detect a near eath object the size of a ballpoint pen, if that helps?
How far in advance and with what accuracy?

Don't know, would depend on the definition of a NEO. this is why i just used it as a throw away line.
 

Offline qazibasit

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #11 on: 13/06/2008 14:27:46 »
there is only one thing we can do either fission or fusion reaction coz we dont have oxygen to help explosion.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #12 on: 13/06/2008 18:12:43 »
And we can send out another thousand rockets to take care of the fragments from the first explosion if we hit it given that one of the rockets aimed at Baghdad landed in Iran.
The earth will probably absorb it without much fuss and disprove the meteorite extinction of the dinosaurs into the bargain, just as it has done with all of the other huge meteorites and comets that have hit us in the past. One only need look at the moon for evidence of this.
 

lyner

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #13 on: 13/06/2008 21:34:14 »
Have you any idea of how old the craters on the Moon are thought to be? They weren't formed last week you know.
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #14 on: 13/06/2008 22:33:22 »
Why, have you got any idea how old they really are? Have you any idea how stupid that remark is?
 

Offline that mad man

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #15 on: 14/06/2008 02:19:36 »
Given the size of a modern nuke I doubt if there would be any fragments from any casing left to worry about.

No bits would be left as the initial explosion would destroy them so there would be no high speed wall of material or fragments.


 

lyner

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #16 on: 14/06/2008 07:01:58 »
Why, have you got any idea how old they really are? Have you any idea how stupid that remark is?
No, to both questions. But you quoted their existence as a way of trying to prove something. I didn't.
 

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How could we stop a killer meteor or asteroid?
« Reply #16 on: 14/06/2008 07:01:58 »

 

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