ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Asteroid Impact, Its Effects and Deflection Mission

Updated on September 1, 2019
Babu Mohan profile image

I am a marketing professional holding a postgraduate degree in management. Astronomy is my hobby.

Asteroid on an Impact Course - Illustration
Asteroid on an Impact Course - Illustration | Source

A near-earth object is the one that gets closer to Earth during its orbit. The near-earth object with a diameter of 150 meters or more would be designated a potentially hazardous object. Most near-earth objects are asteroids. A comet could also become a near Earth object on rare occasions. The effects of an impact caused by an asteroid or a comet could be catastrophic.

The near-earth asteroids larger than 150 meters in size are serious threats to our planet if they come closer than 4.6 million miles from Earth. An impact of a larger asteroid can cause serious damage to our planet. It is believed that a huge impact event that happened 65 million years ago was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.

There seems to be no serious threat to our planet from known asteroids in our lifetime. Small meteoroids bombard our Earth from time to time but these are not life-threatening events. There have been no human deaths in recorded history from an asteroid impact.

Impact Craters on Moon
Impact Craters on Moon | Source

Extinction Level Events

If a large asteroid measuring 6 miles or more in diameter impacts Earth, there would be a serious threat to most life forms including human beings. The exact point of impact would cause a huge crater and there is little chance that any life form would survive in this region seconds after the impact.

The impact would be so severe that it would be equivalent to several million nuclear bombs exploding together. So it would be instant death for the life forms at the point of impact.

It would be a slow death for the people and living beings located elsewhere on Earth. The dust thus formed around our planet would block most of sunlight leading to an end of all plant life. The absence of plants would make most of the herbivorous animals extinct. Carnivorous animals would not have much to hunt either leading to mass extinction of most animal and plant forms.

Humanity would be the most affected as we are the least adaptable of all species to survive tough times.

If the point of impact is on ocean, it would cause gigantic tsunami waves triggering widespread devastation. If this is not enough, the Earth would be shaken by a huge Earthquake at an unprecedented scale.

Here is the good news. No known asteroid is on a collision course with Earth for the next one hundred years. So we can breathe easy.


Recent Impact Events

Asteroids, meteoroids or comets have been striking our planet Earth at regular intervals for a long time. Two minor asteroid impact events have happened in the last two centuries in Russia. Many such events could have happened in Southern hemisphere also but might have gone unnoticed because of less landmass.

Tunguska blast was the first such major impact event recorded in recent times. Tunguska is a remote forest region in the Northern part of Russia that is sparsely populated. On 1908, people were shocked to find that a huge tract of an uninhabited forest was flattened under mysterious circumstances. There was none living in that area to recount of what happened.

From the eyewitness account of the few who lived close-by, it is possible that an asteroid, or a comet had impacted the region. Since they could not find any crater, the entire asteroid must have disintegrated in the skies before reaching the ground.

Hundreds of miles of forest area was flattened during the Tunguska event. An earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale followed the impact. About 80 million trees were destroyed because of this explosion. There were no human casualties because the area remained uninhabited.

Russia had to bear the fury of celestial impact again on 15th February 2013. A smaller asteroid exploded in the atmosphere over the town of Chelyabinsk. The window panes in the buildings shook during the explosion resulting in breakage of glass. More than a thousand people were injured when the window glasses shattered following the explosion. For a brief while, the meteor shone brighter than the Sun before vanishing in the atmosphere.


Impact Assessment

We need to prepare ourselves for any future asteroid impact. Most space research organizations focus their effort on mapping the sky to look for any celestial body that could have a probability of impacting Earth in the foreseeable future.

Most small meteorites impacting the Earth do not hit the ground because the atmosphere acts as a protective layer shielding the planet from celestial threats. If the object is larger than few meters, part of it could survive and hit the Earth. An object larger than 150 meters in diameter can cause severe damage at a local level. If the object is larger than 6 miles in diameter, then the damage would be very severe at the global level.

Torino scale is used by the scientific community to show the level of threat from celestial impact events. Torino scale takes into account the probability of impact and the size of the object.

The Torino scale runs from 0 to 10. An asteroid or a comet is given 0 on Torino scale if it has no chance of an impact in the foreseeable future. An object is given a score of 10 if the object is sure enough to hit Earth and can cause widespread devastation.

Asteroid Impact Avoidance

The threat from an asteroid impact can be handled either through deflection or destruction. Deflection refers to causing minor shifts in orbits or velocity that would cause the asteroid not to cross the path with Earth. Deflection is an option when we have sufficient time in our hands, say a few years.

When an asteroid threatens to strike us with just a few months of warning, then deflection may be less effective as an option. We have to destroy the asteroid before it hits us with a nuclear weapon. We may not be yet ready for this option.

A comet is also a potential candidate to strike our planet with less notice. Comets possess an additional challenge because they travel many times faster than asteroids and their impact could be far more devastating. Destruction could be the only option against a threatening comet too.

Kinetic impact technique works on deflecting the asteroid by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction. We need to slam the asteroid with an object traveling at a huge speed. A small nudge would be sufficient to enough to alter its course. So we need sufficient preparation time for this technique to work well.

Spaceguard refers to the collective efforts of various space agencies to protect our planet from such impact events. So we can have a peaceful sleep in the confidence that there are many good souls working hard to protect us from threats we may not even think of.

References

  1. Mike Wall. (2014, June 18). Earth Impact: Are Comets a Bigger Danger Than Asteroids? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.space.com/26264-asteroids-comets-earth-impact-risks.html
  2. Bruce Betts (2015, June 30). Five steps to prevent asteroid impacts [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.planetary.org/blogs/bruce-betts/2015/0630-5-steps-to-preventing-asteroid-impact.html
  3. Richard P Binzel. (2000, April 1). The Torino Impact Hazard Scale [Blog post). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S003206330000006

Please share your valuable feedback.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      Thank you.

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      9 months ago from Chennai, India

      That is a clever pun. Scientific pursuits need to balance between what is needed for us and what fascinates us. The budgets anyways need to come from real world.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      Agreed. I have to admit though looking at the distant objects is more fascinating. Space exploration has really, pardon the pun, taken off in this century.

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      9 months ago from Chennai, India

      Yes Robert Sacchi. You are right. Science should have some relevance to our existence and have more focus on things closer to us than away from us.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      The way I look at it every time a government telescope looks at something outside our solar system it's time that could be spent charting NEOs.

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      9 months ago from Chennai, India

      Space agencies take it seriously. But the Governments sanctioning the budget need to prioritize what is more important for their people. Space agencies and even some amateur astronomers do a great job in scanning the sky and identifying NEOs that could pose any threat.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      This leads me to believe those in the Space Agencies don't take it as a credible threat.

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      9 months ago from Chennai, India

      I doubt if our human race is ready right at this moment to execute an impact avoidance plan. Only when we have an experience of deflecting a real asteroid from its orbit, we can possibly feel ready.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 

      9 months ago

      It is a fascinating subject. Do you know if there are any impact avoidance contingencies that exist other than on a drawing board?

    • profile image

      Snakesmum 

      5 years ago

      Interesting read - thanks for sharing your knowledge of asteroids with us.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      This really is a very informative article on asteroid impacts with Earth. It is certainly an occurrence that I would love to miss.

    • seleen fouad profile image

      seleen fouad 

      5 years ago

      well, lets hope that big asteroids be away from our planet!! thank you for the info

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 

      5 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting, you sure know a lot about asteroid. I see you have a few lens also about this kind of thing.

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

    • Dave Lynch profile image

      David Edward Lynch 

      5 years ago from Port Elizabeth, South Africa

      A very interesting lens about asteroids. I read that space debris is hitting earth all the time but where it lands and whether it does any harm, I'm not sure?

    • sierradawn lm profile image

      sierradawn lm 

      5 years ago

      Fascinating and scary lens. I was happy for your assurance we need not worry about these things in our lifetime. Very informative and well-written!

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      5 years ago from Chennai, India

      @shadowfast7: Thanks for your comments.

    • shadowfast7 profile image

      Sure Temp 

      5 years ago

      nice lens :)

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 

      5 years ago

      I always wonder what people thought, centuries ago, when an asteroid or meteor hit within sight or when they discovered an impact crater. These things are so fascinating to us today, even with the benefit of scientific knowledge to give some understanding, they must have seemed like a mysterious, magical, powerful, frightening thing.

    • Babu Mohan profile imageAUTHOR

      Mohan Babu 

      5 years ago from Chennai, India

      @TanoCalvenoa: Thanks. I am yet to see one on Earth. I have watched the craters on Moon though.

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 

      5 years ago

      Meteors and impact craters are one of my favorite things to learn about. What a great page this is, I love it.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)