Cosmochemist Natalie Starkey warned that NASA's plan to destroy the planet-killing asteroid could backfire drastically. The scientist said that blowing up an approaching asteroid could be very dangerous for the Earth.
In terms of planetary defense, NASA has a number of systems to protect the Earth from large asteroid collisions. One of them includes the use of kinetic impactors. According to NASA, this method involves attaching a kinetic impact device to the tip of a nuclear weapon.
When the weapon approaches the incoming asteroid, the kinetic impactor will explode on its surface to create a deep crater. Nuclear weapons will then explode inside the crater. Theoretically, a subsurface explosion caused by a nuclear device would send a shock wave inside the asteroid, causing it to burst completely.
For Starkey, whose field of expertise is a combination of space science and geochemistry, kinetic impact may not always be one hundred percent effective. First, NASA must consider the overall composition of the asteroid and how it will react to explosions below the surface.
"NASA shows that a simple kinetic impactor is 'the most mature approach' to deflect [near-Earth object], as long as it consists of one small body, one, "said Starkey according to Express." However, if we intentionally, or inadvertently destroy an object during this process, the results for Earth can be more difficult to predict. "
Ideally, a series of explosions from kinetic impactors and nuclear devices should be enough to break large asteroids into small fragments. It must be small enough to not burn in the Earth's atmosphere.
However, there is also the possibility that the explosion will cause the asteroid to burst into large chunks of cosmic debris. The original momentum of the asteroid, as well as the force caused by the explosion, can push this large chunk toward Earth.
If this happens, various regions of the planet will experience various impact events. Although these impact events will not be as strong as the asteroid events that will be caused by the whole, they will still cause significant damage to populated areas such as cities.
"Depending on the composition of space objects, they may be fragmented into tiny pieces of dust that can rain on the Earth, or they may break into only a few large parts, which if heading towards Earth's impact, can worsen the situation," Starkey said.