So you’ve read about the big asteroid that collided with Earth 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs and leaving a 200km crater beneath the Yucutan peninsula. You’ve heard all the wacky theories about the Tunguska incident and understand that it was just a small solar system body impacting Earth and detonating in the atmosphere (even if there’s still debate about the details). Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see such an impact for yourself?
Purdue University’s Impact Earth website now carries an improved version of their impact simulator. A simple interface lets you describe an impactor by entering it’s size, composition (comet, iron asteroid, etc), speed and the angle at which it hits. A second section lets you choose the geology of the region where it hits, and finally you pick your own location in terms of how far you are from the impact. Click ‘Calculate Impact’ and watch the fireworks!
Great fun and packed with interesting details (“The heat from the blast will cause 2nd degree burns across most of your body, chunks of debris one meter across will rain down evenly”), the intention is obviously to raise awareness of the possibility of a life threatening asteroid strike. While the odds of such an impact happening within any of our lives is extremely slim, the consequences would be devastating. There’s certainly no need to panic, but we absolutely must fund observing networks to discover and chart every single solar system object so that we have time to take action if necessary.