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1 in 600 Chance of a 100 Megaton Explosion

by edlu | on Mar 06, 2012 | No Comments

I gave a talk today at Sandia Labs about the B612 Foundation.  One of the things we discussed was asteroid 2011 AG5, which has a 1 in 600 chance of hitting Earth on February 5, 2040 at around 4AM GMT.  If it hits, it will have an explosive energy of about 100 Megatons, which is about double the largest nuclear weapon ever tested, or equivalently about 7000 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb.  There is currently some controversy over whether or not we should do some detailed analysis to figure out when our last chance to divert this asteroid is, should future observations not be able to rule out an impact.  We won’t be able to see the asteroid again for about another year and a half, so rather than sit around doing nothing, why not do some preparation work?   I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do some more detailed engineering analysis work now (it’s cheap) just to get ahead of things in the tiny chance it does turn out to be on a collision course.  We don’t need to build anything to divert the asteroid yet (that would be expensive), but why not hedge our bets and do some advance planning now?  It is of course overwhelmingly likely that this asteroid will NOT strike the Earth, but my feeling is we should be prepared if it will.

Asteroid AG5 is not a cause for alarm, but rather a wake up call.

I asked the crowd the question, if we had a 100 megaton nuclear weapon that had a 1 in 600 chance of accidentally exploding in 2040, would we take measures now to make sure that didn’t happen?  Of course we would.

How is the situation with AG5 any different?

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