Russian scientists use lasers to destroy mini asteroids

To simulate a nuclear explosion on an asteroid falling toward Earth, a team of scientists in Russia built models of miniature asteroids and bombarded them with lasers.

The results of their experiments: published in the Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Physics – could help scientists better understand the kind of explosive force needed to shoot down an asteroid bound for Earth outside its collision course.

Asteroids buzz around the Earth all the time, and most of them are relatively small. But some asteroids can extend a few hundred miles wide. If an asteroid struck the Earth, the collision could be powerful enough to trigger another event of mbad extinction.

Astronomers are not aware of any large space rock on the way to Earth, but scientists are discovering new asteroids.

In case the Earth finds its way in the way of the big asteroid, there are two options: to fly the asteroid or to divert its orbit.

The last experiments considered the possibility of the first option.

A fragment of the meteorite that exploded over Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, in 2013, served as a model for miniature asteroids. The manufacturing process was designed to replicate the natural process of asteroid formation, which involves sedimentation, compression and warming. Each stage of the training process was adjusted to ensure that the composition, density, porosity and rigidity of the model were as close as possible to reality.

Scientists used laser pulses to mimic shock waves produced by the explosion of a nuclear bomb. While blasting the space model rocks with the laser, the researchers measured the distribution and movement of heat and pressure through the small asteroids.

Their experiments produced results similar to those predicted by computer simulations. But the researchers found that the total destruction of the model asteroids required almost twice as much force per unit mbad as the force needed to disintegrate the Chelyabinsk meteor.

The experiments also proved that a succession of small explosive forces was no more efficient than a single large explosion for the destruction of the mini asteroids.

The data suggest that a non-metallic asteroid threatening to Earth 600 feet long would require a 3 megaton bomb.

In follow-up tests, scientists plan to measure the effects of explosive forces on asteroids with different shapes and compositions.

"By accumulating coefficients and dependencies for asteroids of different types, we allow a rapid modeling of the explosion so that the destruction criteria can be calculated quickly", Vladimir Yufa, a researcher at the Moscow Institute. of Physics and Technology, said in a press release. "At the moment, there are no asteroid threats, so our team has time to perfect this technique to use it later in the prevention of a planetary disaster."

Currently, NASA is managing several missions designed to study asteroids, including OSIRIS-REx, launched last year, and its Near-Earth Asteroid Explorer, a CubeSat to be launched in 2019

Related Links

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