close menu

NASA Simulation Shows How An Asteroid Melts in the Atmosphere

Here it comes! The big one! A giant asteroid is heading right at us, and Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck are nowhere to be found. All hope is lost!

Or not.


Because as this computer simulation from NASA shows, a lot of an asteroid melts away in the heat of our atmosphere. But don’t get too comfortable, because while an asteroid strike is not guaranteed to end all life on the planet, it can still cause serious damage.

Using their Pleiades supercomputer, NASA modeled what happens to an asteroid the size of the one that hit Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013 (reportedly 17 meters wide, weighing 10,000 metric tons), in an attempt to predict impact scenarios so that first responders can be better prepared in the event of a strike.

As this brief video shows, much of an asteroid disappears in the incredible heat of our atmosphere. Even then, the one that hit Chelyabinsk still managed to create a shock wave that injured 1,200 people, broke windows, and damaged buildings 58 miles away, which is why NASA is working to protect us from them.

I obviously understand exactly all of the science behind what you see here, but I would hate to confuse you with a lot of mumbo jumbo. So I’ll let NASA explain:

This simulation shows a cross-section of a Chelyabinsk-like asteroid (gray) breaking up during atmospheric entry at 45,000 mph (20 km per second). A hot, high-pressure shock wave (red, orange, yellow) forms around the asteroid, causing it to fracture and flatten like a pancake. Aerodynamic instabilities shed waves of material from the surface and tear the asteroid apart. The dispersed fragments (black) deposit most of the energy into the atmosphere within a relatively short distance, creating dangerous blast waves and thermal radiation on the ground.



You can read more about the project at NASA’s webpage, where they have also announced that their “asteroid deflection technique for planetary defense—the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)—is moving from concept development to preliminary design phase, following NASA’s approval on June 23.”

Because the day could come when not only are Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck not around, but the atmosphere doesn’t melt enough of a giant asteroid to save us all.

And if that happens, we know Ned Flander’s bomb shelter won’t save us.

What did you think of this video? What surprised you about it? Burn up our comments section below with your thoughts.

Featured Image: Artur Alves/YouTube
Armageddon Images: Image: Touchstone Pictures



How Fast Were Dany's Dragons in Last Week's GAME OF THRONES?

How Fast Were Dany's Dragons in Last Week's GAME OF THRONES?

Nerdist Writers Panel

Nerdist Writers Panel : Legend of Korra/Avatar: the Last Airbender