December 10, 2008
Scientists study how to destroy asteroids
Israeli scientists say they are studying how Earth might avoid a collision with an asteroid, as fictionally shown in the 1998 movie Armageddon.
But Noah Brosch, director of Tel Aviv University's Wise Observatory, and doctoral student David Polishook said while the chances of an asteroid hitting the Earth are very real, blowing up an asteroid would be much more complicated than movies depict.
Astrophysicists agree the best method for avoiding a catastrophic collision would be to change the path of the asteroid heading toward our planet, said Polishook, but he said for that to work, scientists need to be able to predict what would happen in such an explosion.
Although blowing up an asteroid might avoid a collision, the researchers said it might also create many equally dangerous smaller asteroids, each about 325-feet in diameter -- twice the size of the asteroid that created the famous Barringer crater in Arizona 50,000 years ago.
Science needs to know whether asteroids are solid pieces of rock or piles of gravel, what forces are holding them together and how they will break apart if bombed, said Polishook.
The most recent results of the research were presented in July during the 2008 meeting of Asteroids, Comets and Meteors, sponsored by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.