econintersect.com
       
  

FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.



posted on 09 September 2016

Extinction Alert: Saving The World From A Deadly Asteroid Impact

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Michael Dello-Iacovo, UNSW Australia

Sixty-five million years ago, disaster struck the Earth. An asteroid or comet around 10km in diameter slammed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

While the idea was ridiculed at first, this event is now widely believed to be the reason the dinosaurs became extinct.

This realisation led to a rallying of scientists and engineers around the world to detect and monitor the asteroids in the heavens, and if need be, to be prepared to deflect one from hitting us.

Today, we have a Planetary Defense Coordination Office under NASA whose sole mission is to prepare us for this unlikely but devastating possibility.

It is believed that we have found all of the asteroids the size of that which killed the dinosaurs (at least those near Earth).

Recent impacts

But there are many smaller asteroids that can still do a lot of damage which are undetected. In 1908, the Tunguska event flattened about 2,000 square kilometres of forest in Siberia.

This asteroid was only about 50 metres across, but we have only found about 1% of the near Earth objects (NEOs) of this size.

Despite being so rare, if a large asteroid did hit Earth, it would cause extraordinary damage. In fact, you're more likely to be killed by an asteroid than die in a shark attack.

We know about a number of recent asteroid impacts, but we're still discovering more in the geological record. Currently it's estimated that NEOs which can cause global ecological effects occur around once every 500,000 years.

Right now, despite being able to detect and track large asteroids (you can look at current known asteroid positions yourself using online databases), we know very little about their interior.

Much of what we do know is based on meteorite samples which have fallen to Earth. But it is difficult to extrapolate small samples to understanding what asteroids look like as a whole.

Asteroid types

Asteroids have several types based on mineral composition, but their internal structure can also potentially take several forms.

Some might be rubble piles, weakly held together by gravity and electrostatic forces, while others might be solid bodies of rock. Different structural types would require different methods of deflection.

For example, a rubble pile might break up if we hit it with an object, with each smaller piece still posing a threat. This might dictate a more finessed approach, such as hitting it with a smart cloud of smaller particles released by a space craft.

The use of explosive devices to move an asteroid is expected to be about 100 times less efficient on porous asteroids compared to more solid bodies.

Inside an asteroid

My research involves repurposing geophysical techniques used for more than a century on Earth to determine the strength and structure of asteroids. To test whether these techniques will work requires simulating asteroid conditions in a lab.

This means we have to recreate the gravity, atmospheric and temperature conditions. We also have to find a material that matches the properties of an asteroid surface to test our equipment on.

NASA performs experiments in low gravity using a parabolic jet, which is temporarily in free fall. Atmospheric conditions can be modified in a vacuum chamber.

Researchers have developed simulant materials that are similar in chemical composition to various classes of asteroids. As well as being useful for testing mining equipment that might be used on asteroids, they can also be used to test geophysical equipment might be able to determine useful properties, such as structure.

Once this technology is proven, it can potentially be used to land on an asteroid and peer into its interior. By understanding its structure, porosity and strength, we can then start to plan deflection strategies for individual asteroids, and for asteroids in general.

Being prepared

The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program. Luckily, we are more prepared (although Australia is still one of just two OECD nations without a space program, the other is Iceland).

If we were to detect an inbound asteroid with warning of at least several years, we can send a mission to find out what it's made of. Then we can plan the optimal strategy complete with backup plans.

In 1995, a workshop with ex-Cold War US and Russian weapons designers was held to propose a way of deflecting an asteroid if it was detected at the last minute. They came up with (though never built) a nuclear weapon capable of instantly vaporising a 1km asteroid.

It would also have the potential to move an extinction class asteroid out of our path given at least a few months notice, or a comet given two years notice. Given any less time, we may have to be content with evacuating as many people as possible from the predicted landing site.

Asteroid impacts aren't the only event that might wipe us out. Nuclear warfare, biological terrorism and artificial intelligence all have the potential to destroy us. Some researchers have even suggested that the probability of humanity surviving until 2100 is just one in two.

Given this level of risk, one thing is certain: we can and should spend more time and resources trying to reduce these risks.

The ConversationMichael Dello-Iacovo, PhD candidate (Mining Engineering), UNSW Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing










Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.



You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.





Econintersect Contributors


search_box

Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF


The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.


Take a look at what is going on inside of Econintersect.com
Main Home
Analysis Blog
The Expected Effects of Petitions to Improve the Monetary System
Energy and Falling Productivity
News Blog
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Down, Fed Wants Banks' Commodity Limits, Treasuries Being Sold, EZ Business Output Softens, France Contraction, Saudi's Boost Banks, Canada Tightens Borders For Chinese And More
Most Read Articles Last Week Ending 24 September
How Britain Owes Its Immigrants A Debt Of Gratitude
Super Mario, The Timeless Bestseller
Explainer: The Nine Swing States That Will Decide The Next US President
How Long Does Apple Support Older IPhone Models
What We Read Today 25 September 2016
Dangerous Ultra Pure Water
Job Employment Tenure Down
Mobile Payments Promise To Improve Financial Accessibility In Mexico
Aging Populations May Mean Lower Economic Growth
Urban Rebound Causes Large Shift In Lower Credit Borrowers To Seek The Outer Suburbs
Infographic Of The Day: How Oil Is Formed
Investing Blog
Monday Morning Call 26 September
We're Back Here We Started
Opinion Blog
Heading For A Fall? With Summer Over, Europe Must Face Up To Its Mounting Crises
What If We're In A Depression But Don't Know It?
Precious Metals Blog
War On Cash Turns To $20, $50, And $100 Bills
Live Markets
23Sep2016 Market Close: US Indexes Close Lower As Crude Prices Slip, Fed Lowers Economic Growth Prospects, Indicators Melting Into Bearish Territory
Amazon Books & More






.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government



Crowdfunding ....






























 navigate econintersect.com

Blogs

Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day
Weather

Newspapers

Asia / Pacific
Europe
Middle East / Africa
Americas
USA Government
     

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed
Google+
Facebook
Twitter
Digg

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution

Contact

About

  Top Economics Site

Investing.com Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2016 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved