Physicists are forever looking out for occurrences and processes that exist in outer space, specially so when the latter could have an impact on us, dwellers of the planet Earth. Crudely speaking, we are at the mercy of having heavenly bodies colliding with us, without us being able to protect ourselves. Scientists are always battling with this possibility, attempting to find out ways to avert potential disasters like asteroids hitting the planet. They might have found hints as to how to prevent a forthcoming asteroid impact: the 1950 DA asteroid that threatens to hit the Earth in some centuries might be made to explode in space so that it never reaches our planet. Question is, how?
What if our planet were to be hit by an asteroid? There’s nothing much we can do about it anyway, or so are we inclined to think. Do we, humans, have the ability to prevent the collision of an enormous asteroid with the Earth? Do we hold the key to averting such a disaster? Or, do we helplessly face the possibility of being wiped out like the dinosaurs, according to the most common theory of dinosaur extinction? Well, scientists might have the answer to this.
New research has led scientists to consider disrupting the various forces binding huge asteroids together so that they break in outer space, without us feeling the slightest effect of the explosion. This could be done by lightly altering the surfaces of the asteroids. Actually causing it to explode violently could result in disastrous collisions. But, lightly causing it to explode by just modifying the surface would do the job effectivtly.
These theories have been formulated when scientists considered the one-kilometer-in-diameter asteroid 1950 DA, which has been forecast to having a one in 4000 chance of colliding with the Earth in 2880. If the 1950 DA asteroid were to actually hit us as it is now moving at around nine miles per second with respect to the Earth, the impact would be similar to the force of 44, 800 megatonnes of TNT. It would hit the planet at 38 000 miles per hour, causing tsunamis and modifications in the planet’s climate, resulting in huge losses of lives. We still have some 800 years to go before that happens, if it is to happen. Until then, hopefully, we will have an answer as to how to avoid this imminent calamity.
What is peculiar about the 1950 DA is that its parts adhere to each other via Van der Waals forces – a new discovery pertaining to asteroids. It is spinning so fast that gravity can’t do much to break it apart. According to the researchers, if it were held together by gravity instead of the cohesive forces, it would have broken apart because of the speedy spinning. The spinning is at such high speed that one would be hurled away violently if one were to try to land on its surface. Understanding these aspects of asteroids can assist us in dealing with the potential hazards related to them.
The discovery of the presence of the Van de Waals forces within the make-up of the 1950 DA could thus be the key to prevent the disaster if they were made to be disrupted.