With new and advanced space technology, humans tend to feel more protected and not as scared if an asteroid was to ever threaten Earth. That’s because we believe that advanced technology allows us to be able to smash an asteroid into tiny pieces in order to protect our planet. However, new research indicates that blowing up an asteroid may not be as easy as we once thought.
In the early 2000s, a team of researchers conducted an experiment where they created a computer model of a simulated asteroid with a diameter of around one kilometer smashing head-first into a target asteroid with a diameter of 25 kilometers with a five kilometer per second impact velocity. Their results showed that the asteroid would have been totally destroyed.
However, newly conducted research by a new team suggests that after an asteroid is hit, its gravity would be so powerful that it would be able pull the destroyed pieces back together. After the impact, millions of cracks would form, pieces would fly off, and a crater would appear on the asteroid. After studying the cracks and predicting how they would multiply and move throughout the asteroid, they found that the entire body would not have broken up. They instead noticed that it had a huge damaged core that had such a powerful gravitation pull that the broken pieces would have been pulled back in. This means that the asteroid would need to be hit with a much stronger force than previously thought.
Charles El Mir, who is a doctoral graduate at Johns Hopkins University, explained in a statement, “It may sound like science fiction but a great deal of research considers asteroid collisions.” He went on to say, “For example, if there’s an asteroid coming at Earth, are we better off breaking it into small pieces, or nudging it to go a different direction? And if the latter, how much force should we hit it with to move it away without causing it to break? These are actual questions under consideration.”
While scientists don’t have much information about the interior structure of asteroids, they once believed that the bigger it was, the easier it would be to destroy, but they now think differently. “We used to believe that the larger the object, the more easily it would break, because bigger objects are more likely to have flaws,” El Mir explained, “Our findings, however, show that asteroids are stronger than we used to think and require more energy to be completely shattered.”