Software Models Consequences Of Asteroid Strikes

University of Southampton researchers have developed NEOImpactor, a software package that models asteroid impacts and assesses the potential consequences for human beings and their economy. The software package was developed by Nick Bailey and Dr Graham Swinerd of the University of Southampton's School of Engineering Sciences, and Dr Richard Crowther of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

NEOImpactor is specifically designed for measuring the impact and consequences of "small" asteroids - those measuring less than one kilometer in diameter. According to NEOImpactor, the ten countries most at risk from small asteroid strikes are China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the United States, the Philippines, Italy, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.

The International Spaceguard survey has been cataloguing near Earth asteroids larger than one kilometer in diameter. Smaller asteroids remain undetected. Some, like asteroid 2003 SQ222 come very close to Earth - just 54,700 miles. Astronomers estimate that there are about 500 million undiscovered asteroids the size of 2003 SQ222 or larger that exist in the same area of space through which Earth orbits.

The damage that an asteroid can do increases with size and impact velocity. An asteroid just 200 meters in diameter hitting one of Earth's oceans could cause tsunamis around the world. The largest asteroid strike in recent human memory, at the Tunguska River in Russia, felled 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 kilometers. That object's size has been estimated at about 50 meters in diameter.

As human civilization spreads across the Earth, the possibility of disaster from an asteroid impact increases. These stories demonstrate the variety of possible responses:

However, we might be able to find a use for asteroids; see Undergrad Proposes Asteroids As Radiation Shields for details.

Read more at Centauri Dreams.

(This Science Fiction in the News story used with permission from Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction.)