General, Research, Technology

Why is destroying asteroids harder than we think?

Despite the fact that many people trulythey are afraid of the fall of a giant asteroid on our planet that would destroy us like dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the probability of civilization's death from another heavenly body’s impact on Earth is extremely small. To be precise, according to the calculation of American experts it is equal to 1 in 280,000. But even such figures do not make such a scenario possible, so knowing how to repel such a threat is clearly not going to hurt anyone. So, according to a study published in the journal Icarus, a strong blow to the asteroid can break, but not destroy it. Does this mean that the fall of the asteroid cannot be stopped? Let's get it right.

It turns out that blowing up an asteroid is not as easy as we thought

Surely many of you remember the movie Armageddon,starring in the role of Bruce Willis. According to the plot, a huge asteroid was approaching Earth, so a brave team was assembled, which was to save humanity from death. As a result, the heroes went straight to the asteroid and blew it up. The film, traditionally, ended well, but is such a development possible? The results of a new study suggest that humanity may have to come up with an even more incredible way to destroy an asteroid, since it is very difficult to do.

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In the course of the study, scientists used the latestdata on the processes of rock destruction, as well as improved computer code to simulate what happens if you hit an asteroid with something very large. The researchers wanted to understand how much energy is needed to actually destroy the asteroid, breaking it into pieces. It turns out that the answer to this question is that asteroids are much stronger than we are used to thinking, and for their complete destruction it will take a huge amount of energy.

Two-step process

Modeling by specialistsallowed us to study the consequences of a collision with an asteroid using the “hybrid” approach, which focuses on two different stages of impact using two different types of computer code. Researchers have found that during both the first and second phases of a collision, an asteroid will not crash upon impact. Instead, the initial impact leads to the formation of millions of internal cracks, and the areas closest to the impact will actually flow like sand, allowing the crater to form. But these cracks will not destroy the asteroid.

Frame from the movie Armageddon

The results obtained differ significantly fromprevious studies in the early 2000s in which scientists simulated an identical collision. In a recent study, a larger body was completely destroyed. In a number of previous works, according to experts, the small-scale processes that occur on the asteroid during the initial collision were not taken into account. The authors argue that since cracks propagate through the asteroid at a limited speed, they cannot destroy the asteroid as easily as previously thought.

More than just movie magic

There are also applications for future missions in the work.on the extraction of material from asteroids. The fact is that the material that broke away during the collision will eventually be scattered on the surface of the asteroid - and this potentially opens up the inner wealth of the celestial object for easier access to them. Although a new study shows that a Hollywood-style explosion will not save the Earth from an asteroid, scientists have all the necessary data to answer the difficult question of how to destroy a huge asteroid, in case it does come nearer to us.