What Are The Effects Of An Asteroid Impact, How Can We Be Protected?

ASTEROID IMPACT

Have you ever thought what would happen if an asteroid threatens to hit our world? After watching a movie like Armageddon, did you think that such a scenario could really happen?

Today, June 30, is celebrated as the International Asteroid Day. Since today has been announced as “Asteroid Day” to create global awareness of asteroids, we will take a journey on asteroids, the threats posed by asteroids, and how we can be protected from asteroid strike in this article.

WHAT ARE ASTEROIDS AND HOW ARE ASTEROIDS DISTINGUISHED?

"What are asteroids and how are asteroids distinguished?" It is among the most fascinating topics when it comes to our beautiful sky. The most famous asteroid we know crashed Earth millions of years ago, causing the extinction of dinosaurs. Scientists describe asteroids as "rocky celestial bodies that orbit the Sun and are much smaller than planets". There are thousands of oddly shaped asteroids in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid belt is thought to be either residuals from a planet formed due to Jupiter's close-up force, or "rubble" left over from a planet shattered by a collision.

Ceres, the largest of the asteroids, whose dimensions can vary from 10 meters to 1000 kilometers wide, is about 960 km wide. One of the biggest reasons for scientific interest in asteroids is the possibility of having relatively unchanged remnants of the solar system's formation process from 4.6 billion years ago.

WHAT HAPPENS IF AN ASTEROID HITS OUR PLANET?

It is totally acceptable to worry about an asteroid crashing into the Earth, even though most asteroids are smashed before they enter the Earth's atmosphere. Just like the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, they can leave their orbits and hit the Earth.

So what happens if the bad scenario happens, that is, an asteroid hits Earth? With an asteroid hitting the Earth; dust and smoke rising in the atmosphere prevents sunlight from reaching our world and causes the total temperature to drop. This event can lead to the death of many living things. If an asteroid the size of an apartment hits Earth, this blow could possibly destroy a small city. If an asteroid the size of a 20-storey building hits Earth, this blow can completely flatten a small country.

The biggest reasons for scientists to research asteroids, in addition to having more information about the solar system, is that they want to learn their total numbers and learn more about their trajectories and physical properties. If the course of an asteroid turns towards us, of course we would like to know!

On June 30, 1908, a 40-meter asteroid hit the Tunguska region in Siberia. This impact destroyed a London-sized woodland, making it the most influential and most important asteroid impact in recent world history. On June 30, 2016, it was declared as "International Asteroid Day" by the United Nations, and it was aimed to raise awareness about the threat of collision with Earth, created by countless celestial bodies floating in space. Every year on Asteroid Day, scientists, astronauts, and celebrities come together to help raise awareness about the dangers our planet faces from Earth-crossing asteroids. In these events, our poor defense state in space is emphasized against potential asteroid collisions, and in the event that these dangerous and free-floating celestial objects turn to Earth, science fiction scenarios and possible solutions are explained.

So how can we protect our home, our Earth, from this threat?

The only way to eliminate the threat of the asteroid hitting the Earth is to detect them and divert them from their course. Many organizations, primarily NASA, perform regular scans of the sky to identify celestial bodies at risk of hitting our planet. These organizations actively seek out the best ways to protect the Earth from celestial bodies that could hit it. By preparing with good planning, we can prevent the destructive effect an asteroid can have.

These studies, called planetary defense, consist of five steps.

  • Detecting the Asteroid
    We cannot prevent an asteroid from hitting the Earth, if we do not know about its existence. Astronomers use ground-space-based telescopes to detect celestial bodies that could pose a threat of impact. In addition, infrared imaging tools help find objects that are too dark to see through the reflected lights.

  • Observing the Asteroid
    Even if we find the asteroid, how do we know if it will hit Earth? We may need to monitor and obtain information with several telescopic observations that last for days, months or even years and every information we acquire helps us determine the estimated trajectory of the asteroid.

  • Defining the Asteroid
    We can use many telescopic and spacecraft observations that can tell us about the features of the asteroid such as rotation rate, structure, speed, and if they threaten the Earth, we can use it to change their routes.

  • Changing the Course of the Asteroid
    What do we do when an asteroid headed towards Earth is spotted? The possibility that this asteroid destroys a city or creates a giant tsunami is not something we want to think about in the first place. There are possible preparedness techniques for bad scenarios; however, these scenarios need further development and testing. Depending on the situation, our options vary depending on how much time we have, whether we are faced with a large or small size asteroid. Measures that can be applied in such a case include the development of techniques regarding the use of a gravitational builder (changing the course of the asteroid by creating gravitational force with a spacecraft), medium-distance collision (hitting one or more spacecraft on the asteroid), or a laser beam (heating a part of it to generate a thrust force on the asteroid). As a last resort, nuclear options can be used to break down the asteroid.

  • Training and Coordination
    Any asteroid hitting the Earth will require international disaster response. In addition, training is required in disaster and emergency management institutions and the public regarding the asteroid threat. It is important that everyone is aware of the level of threats and the potential to eliminate this threat.

Apart from all these, amateur astronomers can work together with scientists to defend our planet. Amateur astronomers can help identify smaller and potentially destructive asteroids hidden in the universe.

So would you like to be an amateur astronomer?

Who knows, maybe you can be one of the guards of our "home"!

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