Can nukes protect us from meteors?

I understand that NASA is considering stopping meteorites on their way to Earth with nuclear bombs. Is it really feasible?

I understand that NASA is considering stopping meteorites on their way to Earth with nuclear bombs. Is it really feasible?

A nuclear bomb can – at least in theory – stop a meteorite. However, the method can probably only be considered as a very last resort. That was the result of careful observation by American scientists in 2021.

John Hopkins University astrophysicist Patrick King led the project, and the results highlight that the best solution is to discover such a meteorite many years before it hits Earth.

It provides an opportunity to push it, for example with the DART system developed by NASA and tested for the first time in September 2022. This only changes the direction of the meteorite slightly, but if done early enough, it is enough for the meteorite to pass by safely distance.

Smaller meteorites can get very close before they are detected, and in such conditions nuclear power would come into play.

Patrick King and his colleagues ran computer models of explosions on meteorites, 100 meters in diameter, that would have traveled to Earth in anywhere from half a year to a week.

The model’s nuclear bomb was one megaton, or about 65 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and such a bomb proved to shatter a meteorite into small pieces.

Nuclear weapons can save the world

American and Russian scientists have calculated how to use nuclear bombs to break up dangerous meteorites.

1. The bomb is an emergency solution

If a meteor comes close to Earth, an explosion may be the best solution. Even powerful nuclear bombs weigh less than a ton, and rockets are good at carrying them.

2. The stone shatters

The bomb should be able to shatter the meteorite. Calculations show that 1 megaton is enough to crush a 100 meter meteor into small pieces.

3. Only a few pebbles

The sooner the meteorite is detonated, the better. If it happens when it has two months to go, only 0.1% of its mass reaches Earth.

In 2018, Russian scientists investigated the possibility of exploding a larger meteorite about 200 meters in diameter. Their analyzes showed that a three-megaton bomb would work, but the effect would also be greater the closer the bomb was to the center of the rock, for example on top of a crater.

Direct experiments with meteorite explosions are difficult because international treaties prohibit nuclear weapons in space. But if the world is really threatened by a meteorite, most countries will probably be prepared to make exceptions.

Related Posts