Our Defenses Against Meteors, Ctd

Feb 19 2013 @ 2:56pm

meteor impact map

Tim Murphy tracks down one man in charge of our defenses: Dr. Bong Wei, who approves of the Bruckheimer method:

Wie’s plan for destroying an Earth-bound asteroid is simple: Stick a massive nuclear device into it and blast it to smithereens. Notwithstanding the 168 factual inaccuracies NASA engineers have reportedly found in Armageddon, Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton got it essentially right. “Astronauts will not be required, so clearly this would be an unmanned robotic mission—but we will need a nuclear device,” Wie says.

The key is, as Jerry Bruckheimer surmised, to drill beneath the surface of the asteroid. If the nuclear device explodes upon impact, it wouldn’t pack enough force to knock the asteroid off its collision course with us. And if the device hits the asteroid at too high a velocity—anything above 300 meters per second—it will simply disintegrate. Wie’s idea is to build a rocket that splits in two just before impact. The front end thereby acts as a blocker, plowing into the asteroid and forming a crater, which the nuclear device then drops into.

“Basically the whole thing was correctly described in the movie,” he says.

Carl Franzen explains the above map:

Now you can see the location of every recorded meteorite impact on Earth going back to 2,300 BCE all in one heat map created by Javier de la Torre, cofounder of geo software companies Vizzuality and CartoDB. De la Torre created the map using CartoDB’s mapping software, which relies on the free crowdsourced OpenStreetMap for its base layer. The meteorite impact site data — 34,513 individual points of impact in total — came from the [Meteoritical] Society, an international nonprofit scientific collaboration.