At a US government lab in New Mexico, government scientists race to launch a one megaton nuclear weapon toward a giant asteroid, hoping the massive explosion will save the earth.
While this may sound like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster, in fact it is the latest hi-tech computer simulation carried out by government scientists.
A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a United States Department of Energy facility in New Mexico, used a supercomputer to model a nuclear weapon's anti-asteroid effectiveness.
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Eminent danger: Scientists are looking into ways to destroy large asteroids heading toward Earth
Massive capacity: 32,000 computers ran the program, which tested whether an atomic blast could break apart an asteroid 500m across
Researchers were told to deal with a 1,650-foot-long (500-meter) space rock using a one-megaton nuclear weapon — about 50 times more powerful than the U.S. blast inflicted on Nagasaki, Japan during World War II.
Thankfully, they say that even though it was only a virtual test, the approach was successful.
'Ultimately this one-megaton blast will disrupt all of the rocks in the rockpile of this asteroid, and if this were an Earth-crossing asteroid, would fully mitigate the hazard represented by the initial asteroid itself,' Los Alamos scientist Bob Weaver said in a recent video released by the lab.
Effectiveness: The blast in theory entered only parts of the asteroid. In actuality, a nuclear explosion would be used as a last resort
Last resort: In the 1998 film Armageddon, staring Bruce Willis, explosives had to be placed on the inside of the asteroid to dissipate it
‘If one of these objects is spotted at a distance of a few months away, there could be potentially devastation on a worldwide scale.’
The team used the labs supercomputer, which has the power of 32,000 processors found in a normal computer, to recreate as accurately as possible exactly what would happen to the asteroid should the blast hit its surface.
Luckily, the plan worked, meaning a weapon may not have to be deposited inside the asteroid as in the 1998 Bruce Willis film 'Armageddon.'
However the team stress the giant nuclear weapon was only a last resort and researchers are also investigating other methods, including using spacecraft or even the gravitational pull of planets to alter its course.
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Source: Daily Mail