Feeds

Asteroid apocalypse: the online guide

Boffins deploy Armageddon analyser

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Intelligent flash storage arrays

If the newspapers and grant-seeking boffins are to be believed, it's only a matter of time before an enormous lump of rock comes hurtling out of the heavens and puts a serious downer on everbody's day.

Not satisfied with having wiped out the dinosaurs, asteroids are apparently hungry to inflict more terrestrial mayhem - and next time humanity itself could be on the menu.

We're obliged, therefore, to the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona which has developed a handy programme to calculate to what extent said apocalypse will immediately effect you, the innocent bystander.

The Impact Effects programme allows you to enter parameters such as your distance from impact, size of asteroid, etc. You then get told what happens next. Intrigued, we decided let the "impactometer" calculate the effect of a 50m ball of rock falling on not-too-distant Shenfield (a commuter town in Essex's commuter hinterland in need of "redevelopment" - asteroids take note):

  • Distance from impact: 50km
  • Projectile diameter: 50m
  • Projectile density: 3000kg/m3 (dense rock)
  • Impact velocity: 17 km/s (average for an asteroid, apparently)
  • Impact angle: 15
  • Target density: 1500kg/m3 (porous rock)

The programme then offered us the following:

Energy:

  • 2.84 x 1016 Joules = 6.78 MegaTons TNT
  • The average interval between impacts of this size somewhere on Earth is 480.1 years

Crater Size:

  • Transient Crater Diameter: 867 m = 2845 ft
  • Final Crater Diameter: 1353 m = 4438 ft
  • The crater formed is a simple crater

Thermal Radiation:

  • Time for maximum radiation: 0.04 seconds after impact
  • Visible fireball radius: 0.4 km = 0.3 miles
  • The fireball appears 1.9 times larger than the sun
  • Thermal Exposure: 3.24 x 102 Joules/m2
  • Duration of Irradiation: 1 seconds
  • Radiant flux (relative to the sun): 0.4

Seismic Effects:

  • The major seismic shaking will arrive at approximately 10.0 seconds.
  • Richter Scale Magnitude: 5.2
  • Mercalli Scale Intensity at a distance of 50 km:
  • VI. Felt by all. Many frightened and run outdoors. Persons walk unsteadily. Windows, dishes, glassware broken. Knickknacks, books, etc., off shelves. Pictures off walls. Furniture moved or overturned. Weak plaster and masonry D cracked. Small bells ring (church, school). Trees, bushes shaken (visibly, or heard to rustle).
  • VII. Difficult to stand. Noticed by drivers of motor cars. Hanging objects quiver. Furniture broken. Damage to masonry D, including cracks. Weak chimneys broken at roof line. Fall of plaster, loose bricks, stones, tiles, cornices (also unbraced parapets and architectural ornaments). Some cracks in masonry C. Waves on ponds; water turbid with mud. Small slides and caving in along sand or gravel banks. Large bells ring. Concrete irrigation ditches damaged.
  • Masonry C. Ordinary workmanship and mortar; no extreme weaknesses like failing to tie in at corners, but neither reinforced nor designed against horizontal forces.
  • Masonry D. Weak materials, such as adobe; poor mortar; low standards of workmanship; weak horizontally.

Ejecta:

  • Most ejecta is blocked by Earth's atmosphere

Air Blast:

  • The air blast will arrive at approximately 166.7 seconds.
  • Peak Overpressure: 4362.3 Pa = 0.0436 bars = 0.6194 psi
  • Max wind velocity: 9.2 m/s = 20.5 mph
  • Sound Intensity: 73 dB (Loud as heavy traffic)

Blimey. A blast equivalent to 6.78 MegaTons of TNT making a 867 metre crater? That's Shenfield permanently off the map, make no mistake.

Interesting stuff, although we can't help feeling that those of us who have studied the asteroid threat in depth should be allowed a further input option: Deploy Bruce Willis? Y/N?

Pressing "Y" would, of course, would be an end to the matter. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.