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Can a Nuclear Space Weapon Stop Asteroids From Crashing Into Earth?

·2 min read

Our blue planet is floating in space with millions of rocky cosmic entities surrounding it in the form of probable threat. It is because while some asteroids get disintegrated before coming close to the Earth’s outer atmosphere, others are malign and massive enough to make a significant impact on Earth’s surface. NASA realized this possible danger and launched the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) proposed by the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Maryland. However, sometimes, the situation calls for quick action that following the protocols of an asteroid-diversion program. Arising as an aid to DART, a team of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University, led by Patrick King, in a recent study suggests that in the case when the situation calls for quick action, rather than launching a spacecraft to divert it, we should blow up the asteroid using a nuclear weapon.

The method is highly effective and claims that using the ‘disruption’ method, almost 99% of the fragments of the blown-up asteroid will miss the Earth’s surface. “We have to factor in the entire process of building a spacecraft and launching it at the appropriate time. Not all orbits can be achieved by launching on some arbitrary date, and launch operations have to be carefully run in order to ensure the launch goes successfully,” said Patrick, in an interview with SYFY Wire.

The team used software specially developed to study the behaviour and path adopted by the scattered asteroid after the nuclear weapon impact, called Spheral. Using the software, Patrick, along with his colleagues Cody Raskin and Mike Owen, studied the possible trajectories of the hypothetical asteroid chunks dispersed into the orbit.

Patrick stated that in the case of planetary defence, changing the orbit of the asteroid can be critical. Therefore, to avoid any chance of mishap, the asteroid can be broken into fragments so small that they could simply burn while entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

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