When you hear about an asteroid hitting Earth, you probably think about Hollywood movies. But have you ever thought of what would happen if an asteroid actually struck Earth? The chances are slim, but it is possible. And if it did happen, the human race as we know it would be obliterated.
Astronomer Duncan Steele has warned the government about the effects of an asteroid striking Earth. “If a half-mile [wide] asteroid hits us, we’ll have a six-seconds warning. When it hits, the sky will light up like one thousand suns. By the time you’ve turned to look at it, it will have struck the ground, releasing energy equivalent to 10,000 times the Hiroshima bomb. Then it’s goodbye.”
The Earth’s closest encounter with an asteroid was the 1994 XL1, located by Jim Scotti on December 9, 1994. “While I did find this little guy, I missed the 40 or 50 objects of similar size that passed within the Moon’s distance.”
Even though the chance of having an asteroid slam into Earth is pretty small, we would need approximately five months lead time to try to prevent one from crashing into us. Smaller asteroids could be stopped by using missiles to blow them up. However, there is the risk of the debris falling onto Earth. Johndale Solem of Los Almos National Laboratory has a safer alternative. Solem and his team had an idea that they could launch a nuclear missile in front of an asteroid to move it off course to miss Earth. Another possibility would be to launch missiles onto the asteroid. The missiles would act as rocket boosters and would take the asteroid off into space and melt its core.
These ideas would be for the future; as for now, we don’t have the technology to develop them.
[Source: Secrets of the Universe]