The Latest on Avoiding the Asteroid Apocalypse

Sept 25, 2015

The first o' the Fall - the IGPP Friday seminar series, had Dr. Megan Syal from Lawrence Livermore Labs on the latest high resolution numerical simulations studying exactly how to deflect or destroy an incoming asteroid or comet. After a frustrating morning, and not having run for 3 days, I felt an uncontrollable need to do a trail run, and to surround myself with scientists and students of science. I threw caution to the wind 36 hours before my next race; Santa Cruz Triathlon on Sunday, and did the 8 mile run.

My run from home to Science Hill was indeed nice, especially the de rigor stop at the spring to drink and douse myself in this high 90's weather

Summary slide: weapons of choice in battling incoming death-dealing asteroids and comets

Since asteroids are on short-period orbits, we've already discovered almost everything 1 km or above in size. Smaller objects will be discovered and orbits calculated with time. Then, our worry will focus increasingly on long period comets, which come in unpredictably at high velocity from the Kuiper Belt or Oort Cloud and we will likely only have a few years or less in identifying them and targeting them for termination. With orbital periods of many centuries or millennia, they'll continue to surprise us. Long period comets - the advice - they'll need to be nuked "and not an off-the-shelf one; but a big custom-made one". The chart shows 1 Megaton nukes for the km-sized objects with only a few years before impact. For small objects with decades before impact (in green), just smashing a conventional Atlas or Space-X rocket into 'em will likely nudge them out of harm's way.

Finished my run, rode to the gym, and joined Ferrell for a final training swim in the pool before our triathlon in 2 days.