Johns Hopkins Says Asteroid Deflection Will Be Difficult

Deflecting an asteroid will be much more difficult than previously believed, according to research published in Icarus (which does not seem like a very optimistic name to give a journal, just saying):

"We used to believe that the larger the object, the more easily it would break, because bigger objects are more likely to have flaws. Our findings, however, show that asteroids are stronger than we used to think and require more energy to be completely shattered," says Charles El Mir, a recent PhD graduate from the Whiting School of Engineering's Department of Mechanical Engineering and the paper's first author...

In the new study, El Mir and his colleagues—K.T. Ramesh, director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute and Derek Richardson, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland—entered the same scenario into a new computer model called the Tonge-Ramesh model, which Ramesh helped developed. The model accounts for the more detailed, smaller-scale processes that occur during an asteroid collision. Previous models did not properly account for the limited speed of cracks in the asteroids.

The simulation was separated into two phases: a short-timescale fragmentation phase and a long-timescale gravitational reaccumulation phase...

The research team found that the end result of the impact was not just a "rubble pile"—a collection of weak fragments loosely held together by gravity. Instead, the impacted asteroid retained significant strength because it had not cracked completely, indicating that more energy would be needed to destroy asteroids.

(Breaking up is hard to do: Asteroids are stronger, harder to destroy than previously thought (Johns Hopkins).)

We baby boomers have been thinking about this for a long time, thank you very much - since at least 1968, when this episode of Star Trek was first aired.


(The Paradise Syndrome)

SPOCK: This obelisk is one huge deflector mechanism. It is imperative that we get inside immediately. Captain, we do not have much time.
KIRK: I don't know how to get inside.
SPOCK: If we are not able to gain entry and activate the deflector mechanism within the next fifty minutes, this entire planet will be destroyed.
KIRK: The key must be in these symbols. We've got to decipher them!

Spoiler! Spock presses the middle button of a row of three, and other sections light up. A blue beam shoots out of the top of the obelisk and pushes the asteroid away. Hopefully, NASA will also succeed with this program.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/19/2019)

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