There has always been fear of a massive asteroid cruising towards the Earth and wiping out the entire civilization in an instant.
It has happened millions of years ago—when dinosaurs were completely eradicated—and there is a possibility that an asteroid of such magnitude can enter the Earth’s atmosphere again.
There have been many films that have tried to capture such a catastrophic scenario and the latest Netflix flick ‘Don’t Look Up’ is no exception.
Just like the film, two scientists from the United States are running various simulations to analyse whether is it possible to thwart a 10km-wide asteroid from striking down the Earth.
The scientists believe there is a “technical” chance.
“We show that humanity has crossed a technological threshold to prevent us from ‘going the way of the dinosaurs’,” Prof Philip Lubin and Alex Cohen, both physics researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara, conclude in their paper posted this week on the Arxiv database.
The 15-page analysis begins by analysing the catastrophic events that could follow after a 10km-wide asteroid hits the Earth.
It says that the impact would have a similar energy to the asteroid event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Allowing such an object to enter the Earth’s atmosphere could, in an extreme scenario, result in staggering atmospheric temperature rises of 300C, destroying virtually all life on Earth, the study noted.
They then discuss the options available with the humans to destroy the asteroid.
The first method is to pulverize it. This involves firing an array of nuclear missiles that would split the asteroid into smaller fragments that would either miss Earth entirely or be small enough to burn up in the atmosphere.
Radioactive fragments hitting the Earth would not be a major concern, the paper said.
The approach would pose political challenges, since testing the detonators before deployment would currently be banned under the nuclear test ban treaty, they said.
“In any realistic scenario of an existential threat, presumably logic would prevail, at least one would hope,” the authors write.
The paper overall paints an optimistic picture stating that averting the existential threat of a large, Earthbound asteroid is just at the limit of our technological capabilities.
“Ideally, we would never be in this situation, but better ready than dead.”
(With inputs from agencies)