Killing errant asteroids with nukes (PSDtv)



We’ve all seen Armageddon, but just how real is the threat to humanity from asteroids or other near-Earth objects (NEOs)? According to scientists, it’s very real. So real, in fact, that the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space recently created a special action team dedicated to gathering and analyzing data on NEOs and the danger they pose to our planet.

Any NEO greater than a half-mile in diameter can become a deadly threat, and the likelihood is very high that a killer asteroid will eventually find itself on a collision course with Earth. When that day comes, we will need to have a plan. With the help of Los Alamos’ Cielo supercomputer – a 1.35 petaflop/s machine built by Cray – Los Alamos astrophysicist Robert Weaver is working on developing one option: using a nuclear explosive to stop a killer asteroid in its tracks.

In this episode of PSDtv ANL scientists use the Cielo supercomputer to model effects of nuclear energy source on Earth-threatening asteroid.

The newest supercomputer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Cielo, is currently working on classified nuclear weapons physics problems. However, it is sometimes used to do fascinating unclassified science when a computer model is so large that it can't be run on a smaller platform.

One of the unclassified models that ran recently on Cielo -- a 1.35 petaflop/s machine built by Cray -- was a model by Robert Weaver of Theoretical Design Applications Physics that looked at how 1 megaton nuclear energy source might effect the granular asteriod Itokawa as a way to prevent a potential asteriod impact with Earth.

Los Alamos National Laboratory