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That Asteroid Headed Straight for Earth? Blow it Up With a Nuke!

by Brandon Russell | March 18, 2012March 18, 2012 6:00 am PDT

Los Alamos National LaboratoryApparently there’s more truth to the plot of Armageddon than first thought. If an asteroid large enough to end mankind ever does hurtle towards Earth, we may actually be able to avoid total annihilation by nuking the damned thing. At least, that’s what computer simulations are suggesting.

Space is vast, and crazy and unpredictable. Even though NASA and other space agencies have some of the nearby space rocks under surveillance, there’s always the off chance of being surprised. And not the good surprised, either. So naturally curious scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are running simulations designed to see how a one-megaton nuke would affect an incoming asteroid; the results show a well-placed explosion may actually thwart an asteroid’s collision with Earth, preserving humanity.

“Ultimately this 1-megaton blast will disrupt all of the rocks in the rockpile of this asteroid, and if this were an Earth-crossing asteroid, would fully mitigate the hazard represented by the initial asteroid itself,” Los Alamos scientist Bob Weaver said.

The Los Alamos lab used a Cielo supercomputer – a rig equipped with 32,000 processors – to simulate a bomb blast on the surface of the half-kilometer wide Itokawa asteroid. As Weaver said, the explosion would be enough to “mitigate” the threat, meaning the original cast of Armageddon is not needed for deep drilling.

There are other methods for avoiding asteroids, said – at least theoretically. Mankind can land a robotic probe on the threat which scientists believe would eventually throw off the rock’s gravity and push it into a different, more benign orbit. Or we could just use brute force by smashing a spacecraft into the asteroid and hope it pushes the asteroid off course.

Whichever method scientists employ, it seems as though pessimism is fueling their journey for asteroid destruction. wrote, “Huge impacts are part of our planet’s history; one wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. It’s just a matter of time before another big space rock lines Earth up in its sight, astronomers say.”

[via Space]

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...