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A well-placed nuclear explosion could actually save humanity from a big asteroid hurtling toward Earth, just like in the movies, a new study suggests.
Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility in New Mexico, used a supercomputer to model nukes` anti-asteroid effectiveness. They attacked a 1,650-foot-long (500-meter) space rock with a 1-megaton nuclear weapon about 50 times more powerful than the U.S. blast inflicted on Nagasaki, Japan, to help end World War II.
The results were encouraging.
"Ultimately this 1-megaton blast will disrupt all of the rocks in the rockpile of this asteroid, and if this were an Earth-crossing asteroid, would fully mitigate the hazard represented by the initial asteroid itself," Los Alamos scientist Bob Weaver said in a recent video released by the lab.
In the 3-D modeling study, run on 32,000 processors of the Cielo supercomputer, the blast went off at the asteroid`s surface. So the nuke likely wouldn`t have to be deposited deep into a threatening space rock, a dangerous job Bruce Willis and his astronaut crew tackled in the 1998 film "Armageddon." Weaver stressed that nuclear bombs would likely be deployed only as a last resort, if an impact loomed just months away. And other researchers caution that a nuclear blast might have negative side effects, such as sending a hail of many small space rocks toward Earth instead of a single big one.
Source link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46707591