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Space & Astronomy

Could a nuclear missile be used to save the Earth from a killer asteroid?

By T.K. Randall
December 23, 2023 · Comment icon 3 comments
An asteroid striking the Earth.
Could nuclear weapons actually save the world ? Image Credit: Bing AI / Dall-E 3
Scientists have developed a new modeling tool to help simulate the effects of a nuclear device on a large asteroid.
In the 1998 Michael Bay disaster movie 'Armageddon', Bruce Willis uses a nuclear bomb to break apart an asteroid that would have caused untold devastation had it actually hit the Earth.

But could something like this actually be done in real life ?

Scientists have toyed with the idea of using nuclear weapons for planetary defense purposes for years, but it has been difficult to determine exactly what would happen if such a device were to be detonated on (or beneath) the surface of a large object hurtling toward our planet.

Now, though, researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a new computer modeling tool capable of simulating a nuclear detonation on an incoming asteroid.

The data it provides, in conjunction with the data returned by NASA's recent Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, could one day help to save us all from a cataclysmic impact.
"If we have enough warning time, we could potentially launch a nuclear device, sending it millions of miles away to an asteroid that is headed toward Earth," said study leader Mary Burkey.

"We would then detonate the device and either deflect the asteroid, keeping it intact but providing a controlled push away from Earth, or we could disrupt the asteroid, breaking it up into small, fast-moving fragments that would also miss the planet."

Ultimately, it is the information provided by such a modeling tool that could make the difference between finding an actionable solution and launching a mission that would fail to stop the asteroid.

The more data we have and the more sophisticated the simulation, the better our chances.

"While the probability of a large asteroid impact during our lifetime is low, the potential consequences could be devastating," said LLNL planetary defense head Megan Bruck Syal.

Source: | Comments (3)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Alchopwn 4 months ago
There is literally no need to even try this approach.  What we need is to use the solar sail technique.  If we can merely paint the asteroid with white paint, or lay down thin white fabric, on the side we want to impart spin to, and it will change trajectory.  Nuclear pool may well make things worse.  We might shatter the asteroid and then shower ourselves in radioactive chunks.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jon the frog 4 months ago
Putting a pîle of nuclear fuel on one side to heat it up could make it change course, nuking it look like a stange idea, nuclear explosion in vaccum will not create that much of a bang if it's outside the asteroid. Placing one inside look pretty difficult and it would better to just push it with some kind of engine if it need to land on it.
Comment icon #3 Posted by qxcontinuum 4 months ago
After watching the movie "never look up" no, I don't think it will be possible ?  

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