Many people share the fear that in years to come an Asteroid will collide with the planet and either end life as known or kill countless billions. The real concern however should be, if an asteroid was to have a trajectory leading to that of Earth’s would scientists be able to do anything about it? Although the next Asteroid heading this way is set on a course that will miss Earth, preparations have been made in case the event of an Asteroid colliding with Earth was to occur.
Of course in order to protect the Earth form an Asteroid collision scientists would need to know if and when one was coming, NASA have been tracking most Asteroids (also known as near earth objects-or NEO) on their wide angle Wise telescope. NASA as well as other organizations have been monitoring Asteroids and have also come up with the three methods best thought for dealing with them:
The Kinetic Energy Impactor is the idea that in the event Earth was to collide with an Asteroid, an object (e.g. Spacecraft) would be launched to absorb the first layer of impact, this could slow down the asteroid enough to miss the Earth entirely.
The Gravity tractor is a spacecraft that deflects objects in space- the science behind it is that it doesn’t come into physical contact with the object, but rather uses its own gravitational field to push it away. The concern with this idea is that the gravitational field may not be strong enough to divert a large Asteroid, or would cause parts of it to splinter off-which could also leave the Earth in danger of an impact.
Blast deflection is also another concept if this circumstance was to occur. Blast deflection is the indication that a weapon would be launch and detonated, (most likely a nuclear device) in the path of the Asteroid. This method is the least favored as the results could be catastrophic to the Earth and its atmosphere.
If an Asteroid was set to strike Earth the three above methods would be considered, fortunately though despite some speculations the next Asteroid set to hit Earth will actually miss-but will give ”Earth an uncomfortably close shave.” The date estimated by astronomers for this to occur is February 15th 2013-fortunatley as previously mentioned there is nothing to worry about, but scientists are still making preparations incase the event that the Asteroid may collide with Earth should occur, or if parts of it do happen to splinter off.
For now at least scientists are confident that the Earth is safe, some even claim that for the next few hundred years at least no Asteroids will impact the planet. In the event that one should have a collision course with Earth scientists have developed the above methods and are in the process of developing more. Asteroids are deadly, one with the diameter of 5-10 meters is estimated to contain as much energy as the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, equivalent to 15 kilotonnes of TNT. As mentioned the development of methods to deflect near Earth objects are under way, Earth is currently not under threat of being hit by an Asteroid, hopefully that will give scientists enough time to fully develop a way to save the planet from an Asteroid without causing any other type of damage to the planet.