Landsat / Copernicus / Google Earth / Geography Department of State
A giant asteroid is in terrible orbit and has a 1% chance of striking the Earth in just eight years. And – thank God – it does not actually exist.
This fictitious asteroid, is the focus of realistic exercises, designed for scientists and engineers from around the world who visit the Planetary Defense Conference 2019 held this week outside Washington, DC
Real asteroid of this size, if it ever hit the planet, could destroy an entire city.
"This is a threat that can happen, despite the fact that it is very unlikely," said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for the Study of NEOs in NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which created this realistic simulation. "Our goal here is to go through all the steps that we have to go."
He says that there were many learned from the previous three exercises held in the past international conferences and other asteroid exercises that were conducted separately by officials at NASA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
This time around, pretending an asteroid of about 300 to 1,000 feet in diameter, and was seen by about 35 million miles. What is known about its false path shows that it has a 1 percent chance of hitting our planet in 2027.
On the web page for the imaginary "Asteroid 2019 PDC," NASA warns that "does not describe the real potential impact of an asteroid."
Chodas deliberately designed to simulate this in order to emphasize the international system for decision-making. Every day at this conference in College Park, Md., Experts will gather to discuss the new information that gives them Chodas from his prepared script.
"The asteroid's orbit is not easy at all," he says. "It's not like one of these asteroids that we go to our science missions, where you get to choose a good asteroid, which is easily accessible. The Planetary Defense asteroid chooses you. "
And while eight years may seem like a lot of time to prepare, Chodas says that it is actually difficult schedule, as the experts would like to carry out several missions to simulate the asteroid to collect information.
"You do not even know, in fact, when he was going to hit the Earth, and also because the schedule tight, you have to start preparing for the study of the asteroid," he explains. "You do not know the size, in fact, and the size of the & # 39 is a key parameter. So you need first reconnaissance missions. "
Asteroid experts have to make decisions about how to try to deflect an asteroid, pushing him to the spaceship, or perhaps even by detonating a nuclear weapon. If these efforts fail, and it's still headed for Earth, emergency managers should consider a mass evacuation of the strike zone.
In real life, the asteroid hunters have found almost all of the really great space rocks that could create a devastating global catastrophe, says Chodas.
"That part of the danger has been solved," he says. "In fact, we found almost all of the really large asteroids."
But asteroids that with & # 39 are sized forged in this exercise, he says, are more numerous. In addition, they hit the Earth more frequently (though it is still tens of thousands of years between beats).
"The majority of the population" of small asteroids, Chodas says, "has not yet been found."
In the past, the federal government issued an action plan outlining the steps to be taken within the next decade, to be better prepared for this kind of unlikely, high consequence threats.