The Asteroid Peril Isn’t Science Fiction
Even if we managed to spot a small but dangerous asteroid heading for Earth, we currently have no means to stop it
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July 7, 2019 - by Gordon L. Dillow for wsj.com
- Even if we managed to spot a small but dangerous asteroid heading for Earth, we currently have no means to stop it
In May, a group of international scientists assembled near Washington, D.C., to tackle an alarming problem: what to do about an asteroid hurtling toward Earth.
Astronomers at a mountaintop observatory in Hawaii had spotted an 800-foot-wide asteroid, dubbed 2019 PDC, when it was 35 million miles away. By asteroid standards, it was relatively small—not even close to the six-mile-wide piece of space rock believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Still, this asteroid was traveling at 31,000 miles an hour, and if it hit Earth, the impact could release the equivalent of 500 megatons of TNT—about 10 times more powerful than the largest nuclear weapon ever built.
Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory calculated that the big rock was headed toward Denver. Unless the asteroid could be deflected, two million people would have to be relocated, and the city would be obliterated.
All of this was hair-raising but...