The results of the 2021 asteroid impact simulation highlight threats posed by asteroids

Shane McGlaun - May 1, 2021, 11:58am CDT
The results of the 2021 asteroid impact simulation highlight threats posed by asteroids

Recently scientists participated in an international exercise meant to simulate the effects of an asteroid striking the earth. The exercise simulated that a 460-foot-wide asteroid that would impact Central Europe. The specific region was a 185-mile-wide zone bordering Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

While the simulation may sound a bit like a videogame, it’s meant to give scientists and researchers information on planning what to do if an actual asteroid was about impact the earth. The simulation is hosted by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and was conducted virtually at the seventh IAA Planetary Defense Conference. Researcher Andy Rivkin from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Labs said that practice and training for different simulations is an essential part of preparedness.

One of the differentiators between the simulation this year and the simulation held previously is that the asteroid in the current year’s simulation was a complete surprise with no indication it was on a collision path with the earth until it was discovered. The simulated asteroid was dubbed 2021 PDC and was only found six months before it impacted the planet.

Initially, the odds of an impact were set at one in 2500, but after the first day of the simulation, participants increase the odds of impact to one in 100. By the second day, the odds of an impact with the planet were 100 percent, and the impact site was identified. Simulation participants deemed an interception of the asteroid impossible given the short timeframe, so the simulation was geared towards disaster response and the importance of identifying similar asteroids in advance.

Once an impact was guaranteed, the simulation turned into predicting the possible damage that could be inflicted. By the third day of the simulation, scientists created a refined estimate for the asteroid’s size at 460 feet. Researchers predicted that Ground Zero for the impact would be within a 14-mile range, but it was later narrowed even further. The impact was expected to inflict damage extending for 93 miles in all directions.

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