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. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
NASA rover Curiosity drills HOLE in MARS 'GOLF COURSE'
Joins 'traffic light' and perfect stony sphere on the Red Planet
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.