Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Brace for impact: What JPL scientists are learning from a simulation of an asteroid crashing into the planet




An artist's rendering of an asteroid flying be close to Earth.
An artist's rendering of an asteroid flying be close to Earth.
ESA/P.Carril

Listen to story

09:59
Download this story 4MB

Michael Bay’s 1998 film “Armageddon,” about humanity’s attempt to save itself from an asteroid the size of Texas that’s on a collision course with Earth, might have seemed like a far-fetched concept to some, but for the attendees of the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland this week, a massive asteroid strike on our planet is anything but a Hollywood plot device.  

Every other year since 2013, the conference held by The International Academy of Astronautics has held a hypothetical near-earth object (NEO) impact event. This time, experts will pretend that an asteroid from 300 to 1,000 feet across was spotted about 35 million miles away from earth and has about a 1 percent chance of striking our planet in 2027.

Though NEO experts say an event like this is very unlikely, and though the eight years until the potential strike might seem like a long time to prepare, they add that the timeline does present a challenge, as NASA would likely want to conduct several missions to the pretend asteroid to gather data. They would also have to make choices regarding whether the asteroid could potentially be redirected by a spacecraft or destroyed with a nuclear weapon, and if not, how to get as many people as possible in the strike zone to safety.

What exactly goes into preparation for an asteroid impact? What will experts be studying as they conduct the drill? Is the Earth in danger of being in the path of an asteroid strike any time soon? Is there anything the humble people of Earth can do to prepare for a catastrophic event such as this?

Guests:

Marina Brozovic, a radar scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who works on radar observations of near-Earth objects (NEOs); she co-chaired a session on near-earth objects this morning at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland 

Davide Farnocchia, an astronomer at JPL's Center for Near Earth Objects Studies (CNEOS), who co-chaired a session on near-earth objects this morning at the 2019 Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland