back to article Asteroids as powerful as NUCLEAR BOMBS strike Earth TWICE YEARLY

A study using data from monitoring stations designed to enforce a nuclear test ban treaty shows that the Earth is enduring far more dangerous asteroid impacts than previously thought. Between 2000 and 2013, the Earth was hit by 26 asteroids that exploded with a force of between one and 600 kilotons – an average of one every …

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  1. ecofeco Silver badge

    A shooting gallery

    Someone once said a long time ago (and I tried to google this but only got recent results) that ..."we live in a galactic shooting gallery."

    There is more and more evidence that there have been past fairly advanced civilizations and societies that have fallen due to extreme changes in environment.

    Too bad we still haven't learned THAT lesson.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blind Luck?

      Or simply the odds?

      Planet is 75% covered in water. And 95% of what's left is virtually uninhabited: deserts, great swaths of tundra, lovely forests, huge farms growing wheat.

      So roughly 99% of the time, who cares?

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Blind Luck?

        The odds aren't as good as you seem to think.

        Roughly 1% of the earth's surface is considered "urban". (Source.) Two strikes per year means, over a 50 year period, there's a 64% chance at least one town/city will get, at the very least, a Chelyabinsk-style light show.

        Chelyabinsk got lucky, in that their meteor entered the atmosphere at a very shallow angle. Had it hit square-on, the city would have been pretty much flattened. So the question is, what proportion of those "2 a year" are actually (a) large enough and (b) squarely aimed enough to inflict real damage on the ground?

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Dumb Luck?

          Talking statistics is talking rubbish.

          The article says that none has ever seen any sign of thes things until after they happen. How the hell do they manage to miss every one of them when they are as common as solstices?

          And how come none of these things have ever hit the moon?

          Or did you all think that lunar craters are nearly perfectly symmetrical because that how meteor strikes operate on the moon as opposed to the ones that hit earth?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I can live with that!

            I am just annoyed that, so far, the asteroids have missed Goldman Sachs and Saudi Arabia.

            1. John 62

              Re: I can live with that!

              Saudi Arabia is mostly a vast desert. It has a population of just under 30 million people in a country just a little smaller than Greenland.

              It's a fair bet they get lots of meteor hits.

          2. PassingStrange

            Re: Dumb Luck?

            The craters on the moon ARE impact craters. And they're mostly symmetrical because only near-grazing impacts form craters that AREN'T. That's what happens at cosmic speeds. The sheer energy of the impact blasts material near-equally in all directions long before such trivia as impact direction have any chance to influence things.

            The effect was first confirmed back in the early 20th century, using rifle bullets fired into mud, by Daniel Barringer (the man who also showed that Meteor Crater in Arizona was precisely that).

            For a more detailed explanation, see, e.g., http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-are-impact-craters-al/ . Or www.barringercrater.com has classroom instructions on how to demonstrate the effect.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: A shooting gallery

      Thumb down? Why?

    3. Gerardo McFitzpatrick-O'Toole

      Re: A shooting gallery

      It's ironic that you should try to crowbar-in your Anthropogenic Global Warming sentiments here, because de-industrialising or depopulating the human race (which is what every single "mitigation" proposal that I have seen ultimately amounts to) is only going to render us yet more helpless in identifying and averting potential asteroid extinction-level events.

  2. Maty

    er ... wot?

    'When the earth wandered into the path of a comet.'

    'Wander' means to move randomly, aimlessly and without purpose. I kind of got the impression the earth followed a set route around the sun every year. If it were to digress from, for example to visit Mercury or Neptune, asteroids would be the least of our problems.

    (and yes, I know the solar system is proceeding through the galaxy too, but that's a different issue)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: er ... wot?

      Perhaps the author knows that the word "planet" is derived from a Greek word that means "wanderer"..

      1. David Pollard

        Re: er ... wot?

        Wanderers? Wasn't that the other planets?

        1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

          Re: er ... wot?

          Wanderers? Wasn't that the other planets?

          Yes that's right, when viewed from this planet. And if you go stand on Mars you'll see that Earth wanders across the stars just like the other planets do.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I kind of got the impression the earth followed a set route around the sun every year"

      I hate to be a pedant (well not actually, I quite like it) but you got the wrong impression. Anything over 2 bodies and gravity gets a bit complicated. The "route" you describe is unpredictablein a certain sense and can only be approximated computationally.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: "I kind of got the impression the earth followed a set route around the sun every year"

        I was in a lecture the other week by Cedric Villani, and he said that the latest data says that the current solar system is stable for at least the next million years or so, so three-plus body problem stuff isn't so important on the time scales we are likely to worry about.

        The classical three-body problem involves two big masses and a small mass. When you have one really big mass and a bunch of really small masses, then it becomes more stable. If I remember correctly he said that the million-year instability is caused by Ceres.

  3. Herby Silver badge

    Break out the game....

    ...of asteroids. It was a nice game that used stroke (x-y) generation for the images, not raster generated images. The effects were pretty nice.

    From a galaxy far far away and a long time ago.

    At least you didn't shoot down living objects (life forms). Pretty harmless.

    1. Captain TickTock
      Boffin

      Re: Break out the game....

      Vector graphics is the term you're after

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > At least you didn't shoot down living objects (life forms). Pretty harmless.

      The widows of countless UFO pilots beg to differ, you callous murdering speciesist!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yeah, well

    if there was a big bang, the whole thing is a debris field anyway, so what does anyone expect? Of course we are going to get lambasted with space chunks. The main questions are, when, and how big? Not if.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: yeah, well

      The bits of debris are nothing to do directly with the Big Bang; they are the results of accretion of gas and dust from an earlier supernova.

      And this article is saying exactly what you are saying, i.e. we are getting hit with bits of different sizes and we need to get a grip on exactly what is going on. Unlike previous societies where cities were few and independent and the population was widely dispersed, a strike on some of the big centres (London, New York, you name them) would cause widespread economic dislocation. It looks like this is a bigger risk than a nuclear exchange, so the money that went into MAD needs to go into understanding, and then finding ways to mitigate, what is a very real external threat.

      1. Filippo

        Re: yeah, well

        Don't worry. Plenty of money will go into understanding, and then finding ways to mitigate, this very real external threat. It'll happen very quickly _after_ the first city gets levelled.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: yeah, well

          It'll happen very quickly _after_ the first city gets levelled.

          That was the idea in "Rendezvous with Rama" where Italy gets righteously flattened from above.

          But isn't there a risk that some automatic nuke launch system will be triggered, at which point the next asteroid is the least of our worries? Are these things off hairtrigger autoresponse? I am not sure...

      2. David Pollard

        Re: yeah, well

        "The bits of debris are nothing to do directly with the Big Bang"

        If the causal connection can't be established, then how can we know with any certainty that the big bang occurred?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: yeah, well - @David Pollard

          You're looking at things on the wrong scale.

          The evidence for the Big Bang lies in things like the cosmic background microwave radiation, and galactic red shift. If the laws of physics were slightly different, there could have been a Big Bang which did not result in star formation - except nobody would be around to observe it.

          The evidence doesn't only come from very large scales - particle physics shows that, for the present range of known particles to exist, at some time the universe was very hot and dense (replace "very" with "inconceivably" for best effect.) That's because, if that wasn't the case, there would never have been a stage at which the necessary quark soup existed to crystallise out into hadrons as the universe cooled. It is exactly the same way that we can tell that certain rocks were once extremely hot, because of the way that they have crystallised.

          From different ends, then, we know that at one time the universe was extremely small and hot, and that it is currently expanding; we can also detect the fossil radiation from the extremely hot stage. There are plenty of books which give a much, much fuller explanation, and I'm only posting this extremely superficial overview because without it you might not realise the kind of evidence they will be discussing, and how compelling it is.

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: yeah, well

          If the causal connection can't be established, then how can we know with any certainty that the big bang occurred?

          I don't even know that YOUR MOM occurred, so what are you on about?

    2. i like crisps
      Alien

      Re: yeah, well

      "Space Chunks", are they the same as the Pineapple variety?

      1. LINCARD1000

        Re: yeah, well

        Similar, only a lot more gritty and they'll do a real number on your teeth.

        Personally I prefer Jaffas... :-)

      2. ravenviz
        Coat

        Re: yeah, well

        "Space Chunks", are they the same as the Pineapple variety?

        You're thinking of Solar Cubes...

  5. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

    Nothing like the risk of death at any time from space debris to get everyone to stop fighting over stupid and petty differences and work together to do something about this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

      "Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

      Nothing like the risk of death at any time from space debris to get everyone to stop fighting over stupid and petty differences and work together to do something about this."

      Apparently a kiloton-range object exploding above a city with a population of over a million people and injuring people simply wasn't close enough to move the 'something must be done' knee into jerking, so how near a near miss would be needed? Answer: a hit.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

        Any hit with any human casualties, in a place that other folks can travel to, would be sufficient. Tunguska is too remote, in both space and time.

        BTW a kiloton-equivalent object vaporising ten or more miles above the surface (ie Chelyabinsk) is no great deal. Lots of broken glass, but few severe injuries. It's anything that reaches (or comes very close to) the ground and creates a nuke-equivalent plasma ball there, which we have to be more concerned about.

        The other danger, not mentioned above, is what might happen if a meteor strike devastated (say) Karachi. Would it be mis-identified, leading to an all-out nuclear strike and counterstrike in the following minutes? Indeed, are we sure that the USA or Russia would correctly identify what nature could throw at Washington or Moscow or other major cities?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

          "The other danger, not mentioned above, is what might happen if a meteor strike devastated (say) Karachi. Would it be mis-identified, leading to an all-out nuclear strike and counterstrike in the following minutes? Indeed, are we sure that the USA or Russia would correctly identify what nature could throw at Washington or Moscow or other major cities?"

          Fortunately nuclear detonations have a very distinct 'double-flash' that asteroid strikes do not. The outer flash is caused by the air itself being superheated by the release of hard radiation, the second by the expansion of the actual fireball, composed of the physical material of the bomb itself. Although facts don't automatically prevent the human element of panic, confusion and impulsive decisions I suppose.

          1. James O'Shea

            Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

            IIRC it was the fact that some explosions in the Indian Ocean area exhibited the nuke double-flash that indicated that Apartheid-era South Africa was playing with nukes, either home-grown or borrowed from Israel.

            And, oh, the possibility of a meteor strike causing a nuclear launch has been discussed, extensively, in fiction. For example, the late H. Beam Piper wrote a very long series of short stories and novels during the 1950s and early 1960s based on the notion of a Terran Federation, created by (mostly) people from the Southern Hemisphere after there was a short nuke war in the Northern Hemisphere. Early on he establishes that the primary cause of the war had been the total destruction of a town in the US, leading to an American strike against the USSR, leading to a Soviet counter-strike... and that, after the war, when some American and Soviet military and science types met in Argentina and tried to figure out who started the war both had lost, it becomes clear that the Soviets didn't launch first. Considerable further effort indicated that the first hit was due to a very large, very fast, extrasolar meteor. Oops. For another example, in Niven and Pournelle's _Lucifer's Hammer_ the Earth takes a serious hit from a very large comet (my fav scene: the Southern California surfer dude who rode the tsunami into downtown LA...) and that hit directly causes a nuclear war, as China observes that the Soviets are gonna get awfully chilly and that they are south of Sov-land and a lot warmer. The Indians and the Turks ain't too thrilled, either.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Maybe we need a couple hits near some major cities

              "IIRC it was the fact that some explosions in the Indian Ocean area exhibited the nuke double-flash that indicated that Apartheid-era South Africa was playing with nukes, either home-grown or borrowed from Israel."

              That's right - the 'Vela Incident' in 1979, although no corroborating evidence was ever found.

  6. VeganVegan
    Alien

    The odds are not too shabby

    It's been estimated that the total urban area on Earth is around 3 million sq. km.

    The Earth's surface area is ca. 150 million sq. km.

    So the odds of hitting some urban area is about 1 in 50 or so.

    1. Mikel

      Re: The odds are not too shabby

      Or at an average of one strike per year, two urban meteorites per century.

      1. Bilby

        Re: The odds are not too shabby

        Two per century, eh? Well we have already had Chelyabinsk, so if NASA could just steer a meteorite onto a collision course with somewhere urban that we won't mind losing - I vote for Canberra - that will be our quota, and we can stop worrying until 2100...

        1. glen waverley

          Re: The odds are not too shabby

          I nominate Bilbyville.

          (Unless Bilby lives in Queanbeyan.)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The odds are not too shabby

            Dear Glen.

            Syndal Boys, like me, would pick Glen Waverley.

            Just sayin'

            Fight?

            : )

        2. Grikath

          Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

          I think for Britain this would be Milton Keynes, or possibly Slough.

          ( One could argue for Central London on a busy day with parliament in full session. But while that would raise the average IQ of the nation by quite a bit, it would also destroy some beautiful Old Stuff that *would* be missed. )

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

            With family in both North and South London, I'd have to vote for North Oxfordshire, specifically Witney. A direct strike on David Cameron's constituency would not only get a lot of attention, but it would take out his constituency office (the people who demanded police protection from the Bishop of Oxford and threatened a 12 year old kid with an armed police response.)

          2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

            Come friendly asteroids, land on Milton Keynes?

            Just doesn't quite have the same ring to it as bombing Slough. Although I'd argue for Slough, Milton Keynes, Luton and a good few other places as well.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

              Bradford, Leicester, and the East End of London also spring to mind as highly desirable for large impacts.......

              1. Florida1920
                Mushroom

                Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

                Bradford, Leicester, and the East End of London also spring to mind as highly desirable for large impacts.......

                You Brits, always thinking about yourselves. But thinking small. As a loyal American, I vote for Mississippi.

          3. h4rm0ny

            Re: The odds are not too shabby @ Bilby

            >>"I think for Britain this would be Milton Keynes, or possibly Slough."

            Come friendly asteroids and fall on Slough,

            It isn't fit for humans now... ?

            EDIT: Huh, @Nick Ryan, beaten to it!

        3. Mikel

          Re: The odds are not too shabby

          Actually two per year, so four per century.

          These are not even the big deal. They are the biggest deal we can look for because they recur on a period where we can look.

          The big deal is that our sun is flying through a cloud of rocks that don't circle it. Most of the time it is less dense like now, but other times it is quite dense. In those times the speed of the worst possible sun-orbiting asteroid seems but a gentle kiss compared to an interstellar comet's smack. These threats don't recur, and there is no way to look for them. They will come, or not. The only way to deal with this threat is with distributed backups.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The odds are not too shabby

        So in fact, instead of looking at 2 per century we're looking at one every 150 years or so. Given that modern civilisation has only been around for about 150 years (defining "modern" here as the invention of the electric telegraph and reliable railways), there is the depressing possibility that the reason that civilisation took so long to develop after the Roman era is that we've repeatedly been knocked back by environmental factors, that civilisation has got started in an unusually benign period, and that this isn't likely to continue for very long, whether due to climate change, giant volcanoes or meteor strike.

        I'm feeling a bit Marvin this morning.

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: The odds are not too shabby

          That's the odds for hitting an urban area. It isn't the odds for hitting your urban area. Those odds are significantly longer.

    3. DanDanDan
      Coat

      Re: The odds are not too shabby

      "The odds of hitting some urban area is about 1 in 50 or so."

      But still they come...

      1. Acme Fixer

        Re: The odds are not too shabby

        More like "or so" than 50. The Earth's surface is 5/6 water. That's why those 20 some asteroids every year are not hitting anything important.

    4. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: The odds are not too shabby

      @VeganVegan

      You're calculating the chance of a direct strike on some metropolitan area by (incorrectly, as already pointed out) dividing metro area by earth surface area, but:

      a) anything Tunguska-sized that hits even several tens of km's outside such an area would only be slightly less disastrous.

      b) if something that size would hit the North Sea roughly at the Dogger Bank, or the Bay of Bengal a couple of 100km out from any coast, or the not-very-metropolitan island of La Palma, I figure that quite a few people in London, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Dhaka and Calcutta, and New York respectively, would need to get out their wellies.

  7. Wzrd1

    Here's something to think about when you go to bed

    Most of the asteroids detonated, for that *is* what they did, in the upper atmosphere over an ocean.

    Think of idiots on the ground, fingers near buttons, fear guiding their movements. Figure Russia and the US over the Ukraine, figure India and Pakistan, figure any of the usual nonsense that gets nations tense.

    Now, think of one of those asteroids popping off over Washington, D.C., Moscow, London, pick anywhere in India or Pakistan when tensions are high at a level between Chelyabinsk and Tunguska.

    A few years back, Pakistan and India *had* mobilized nuclear forces due to tensions between the two nations. Along came an asteroid that blew and set off these detectors globally.

    Thankfully, it blew apart over the Med, with chunks landing largely around Libya.

    That gave some pause and the nuclear forces of both sides stood down, for it'd have been only a short time later that that asteroid could've blown over their heads and a premature decision to launch could have triggered irretrievable actions.

    As one who grew up during the Cold War, served in the military under Reagan, actually watched a real nuclear countdown be initiated and thankfully cancelled after the realization that things weren't at a war footing, but something else happened, I know how quickly things can go unimaginably wrong.

    Something that occasionally does wake me up at night remembering programming flowing into a missile that was within seconds of launch.

    But, nobody is watching for these. One launch on warn is all we'd need to join the dodo.

    1. fandom

      Re: Here's something to think about when you go to bed

      I guess you are talking about the time NORAD systems started running a training program and suddenly people there thought that the Russians had launched an all out attack on the US.

      It's not the only time that nuclear war almost started by mistake, but it didn't, the system is not that brittle.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's interesting to study, to assess the (low but finite) risk, and to write reports that might get read and will get discarded.

    If a 50 metre chunk of iron is plummeting towards a city at 50000mph then there is nothing anybody can do about it one way or the other. There's no way to stop it happening and it's doubtful that you could evacuate the city in time, or even get people into some kind of deep underground shelter if there happened to be one nearby.

    There is very little point in trying to prepare for this, except perhaps a clean up plan for what happens afterwards.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Needs an ACME magnet.

      1. Isendel Steel
        Mushroom

        and a Coyote to wield it.

    2. Nigel 11

      If a 50 metre chunk of iron is plummeting towards a city at 50000mph then there is nothing anybody can do about it one way or the other. There's no way to stop it happening and it's doubtful that you could evacuate the city in time

      Depends how long ahead it is spotted. You don't need to impart much delta-V to convert an earth-hitting meteor into a near-missing meteor, if you spot it early enough.

      Even if it's too late to move it (or even just to steer it away from an urban centre onto a less-populated area tens of miles away), with a single day's warning you could get people away from ground zero and into basements and strong buildings with all the glass taped up. They'd then survive (and with a meteor, there's no radioactive fallout).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Many in the comment section don't seem to be aware we do have the technology to redirect asteroids that will impact us, given enough time. Google it or look in Wikipedia.

      The trick is finding them early, which is the entire point of the non-profit organization who made this video (B612 Foundation). They are privately funded through donations. If you want to help save the planet, this might be a way. Don't forget, asteroids also come in much larger varieties than city killers. Ask the dinosaurs.

      Due to some weirdness in statistics, you are more likely to die due to an asteroid impact, than to die in an airplane crash (assuming EVERYBODY dies in the asteroid impact that occurs every 50 million years or so),

      1. Acme Fixer

        Ask the dinosaurs?

        Are you kidding? You would get better results talking to a tree!

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    What's (also) in a name...

    I accept the origin of the foundation's name as mentioned in the article.

    However, I find it an interesting coincidence that an organization which correlates asteroid incidents with nuclear bombs is also (sort of) named the same as the workhorse of the US Air Force's nuclear bomb arsenal - the venerable B61 which has been, in several variants, in inventory for decades.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would this sort of frequency be described as 'random and light'?

    If there are really this many, has anyone checked to make sure they're not originating from the Arachnid Quarantine Zone? They may want to start making preparations for the evacuation of Buenos Aires!

    1. The last doughnut
      Alien

      Re: Would this sort of frequency be described as 'random and light'?

      No point panicking the populace until we are numerous enough and technologically advanced enough to put up a decent fight.

  11. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Had a little one near here off Bude coast in 2006

    The earth dropped beneath my feet and the windows rattled and all animal life shut up for a couple of minutes.

    It was about 250 tonnes of TNT equivalent and about 20 miles away from here - in daylight alas.

    Impressive - love to see a bigger one where no-one got hurt!

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. James O'Shea

      Re: I have nothing to add to the discourse but ...

      That was in Starship Storm Troopers, the movie which had very little to do with the book. In the book BA gets blown away by a nuke, not a rock. Sorry, no hordes of bugs attacking with claws and mandibles and, well, anti-spacecraft ballistic bug farts. Lots of bugs attacking with guns and missiles and anti-spacecraft directed energy weapons. In the book, anyway.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    once again

    natural forces deliver destruction at levels that dwarf what certain luddites, politicians opposed to progress they can't personally control, and the chemically altered minds of the sophmoric youth claim, if done by humanity instead, would lead to FIERY DEATH and CLIMATE DISASTER!!!

    Wasn't long ago that "experts" and "consensus" believed a mere handful of megaton detonations (or about a half years worth of incoming space debris impact) would throw up so much dust as to permanently alter the world's weather by significantly blocking the sun. Plenty of "experts" using that same sort of logic to somehow deny nuclear plant construction.

    Mother Nature gives not a single f**k about humanity's best efforts, those who can avoid the human conceit of "humans really matter" can see where we really fit in the earthly scale.

  14. Winkypop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Forget a detector satelite

    Is Gary Burghoff available?

    INCOMING!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forget a detector satelite

      Why the worry? We have Bruce Willis and his team of elite drillers.

      Posting anonymously because I can't believe I just admitted to watching that film. :)

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Forget a detector satelite

        That was the first DVD I ever watched, because it came free with my first DVD player.

  15. willi0000000

    worried?

    for everyone picking cities to target and the worriers about one of these city-killers setting off a nuclear war, i give you - the Yellowstone caldera.

    there's a huge magma chamber under there and a city-killer just might be enough to blow the top off of it. that would ruin your day! too lazy to look but i don't think that it's the only place like it on Earth. a hit on a major fault zone like somewhere on the Pacific Ring of Fire might also be spectacular.

    the folks at b612 and NASA (and others i'm sure) have plans to look for these things and NASA has even re-purposed an old IR telescope to do some looking. the problem is, as in so many things, lead time. we have to do the planning now and build and fly hardware as soon as possible to do some looking. we also have to simultaneously build and fly the equipment that would go out to one of these objects to actually do the deflection. it doesn't do a lot of good to have a three to five year warning if we don't have spacecraft and systems already built and tested.

    this is going to be a tough political heave so write a congresscritter or MP or your King or Emir or member of the Diet or Duma or whatever you are stuck with and tell them to get on it. an international effort at the average rate of only a dollar per human on the planet would provide enough for a pretty comprehensive program. i'll even send in $3 to cover me and two other folks who can't afford it. now i just need somewhere to send the money.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: worried?

      Much more to the point, the Yellowstone super-volcano is going to errupt all by itself "soon". (That's a geologists' "soon". Something like within 300ky, probability 0.9).

      So it probably won't happen within our lifetimes. OTOH, when it does happen, one might expect it to usher in global starvation, anarchy and war, leading to the death of at least half the human population of the planet. (It could be much worse than that). Statistically, that's around a one in 10,000 chance it'll kill you. And there are a dozen or so other supervolcanoes around the planet!

      Unlike looking out for large meteors, I'm not aware of any even slightly plausible way to tame a magma-filled supervolcano reservoir.

  16. Grave

    ablated?

    Asteroids are ablated by the earth's thick atmosphere and heat up to the point of explosion

    just to clariy: heat is generated by pressure not ablation. compressing atmosphere/air as object plunges downwards the gravity well. compressing air generates heat - same principle as air pump (it heats up as you pump it)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ablated?

      I am very bored of people making a comment along those lines every time the heating up of objects entering the earth's atmosphere is mentioned. Could you perhaps find a way of making yourself feel clever that doesn't bore everyone so much?

      1. Grave

        Re: ablated?

        as long as there are people spreading wrong information there should be people pointing it out so others can avoid it and possibly learn. nothing wrong with learning a little every day. just spreading some knowledge, until it becomes common and replaces the incorrect one :)

  17. Swiss Anton

    Why does Hiroshima always get mentioned in such stories?

    A 10k hit from an asteroid is not the same thing as a 10k nuke. In both cases it isn't so good for those in the blast zone, but asteroids don't produce any of that nasty radiation that goes on to kill more poor sods.

    1. Lord Raa

      Re: Why does Hiroshima always get mentioned in such stories?

      It depends on the composition of the asteroid. If one was made up of radioactive material(s), then it could potentially shower an area.

      Not as much as nuclear weapon of course, but it'd still ruin your day.

    2. James O'Shea

      Re: Why does Hiroshima always get mentioned in such stories?

      You'll get X-rays and hard ultraviolet as part of the prompt radiation from the fireball, but no prolonged radiation effects from the blast.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. asteroid impact

    This is acutely dangerous, for several reasons.

    1) Asteroid impact on nuclear reactor or reprocessing plant.

    If this happens, not only would there be a hot plume that would make Chernobyl look small, but close to 100% of the material would end up in the jet stream and be distributed globally.

    2) Asteroid impact on other geologically sensitive area.

    If this happens, even a small impact could be the triggering event for a global catastrophe.

    Some estimates put the yield equivalent needed to set off the supervolcanoes at Yellowstone, Sumatra and possibly the Phlagraean Fields (remember Vesuvius?) to be less than 20 megatons if the impactor hits at optimum angle.

    This would be a bad day for humanity.

  19. Acme Fixer

    What's really scary...

    is if the impact stirs up so much dust that the atmosphere all over the earth becomes fully loaded with it. Then the whole earth may go through a "nuclear winter."

    That should take care of the overpopulation problem, just like it did the dinosaurs.

  20. Rocksalt
    FAIL

    In the End....

    So picture the scene... years of talking, arguing belittling the costs, crying about who owns what etc... we know the problem, and we have many solutions, but in the end it all costs money, and that's something no one government has enough of to make any plan worth while in a time frame that would benefit the planet in general.

    Having said that, even if a city was leveled, i'd bet my last bag of malteasers that they would all stand shoulder to shoulder and promise everything, politicians at the front, SCI-Academ's behind supporting them.. and still nothing would get done. Second suburban area gets flattened ( maybe 10 years on ) and then someone puts their hands in their pockets and then the typical who owns what and who pays for which and what nation gets to do what starts... 30 years on we are still effectively in the same place... head firmly buried in the sands reading statistical journals by torch light.

    If something needs doing.. then by god just freaking well do it!!!!

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