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Killer asteroids could be tied to smaller cosmic objects with cables to stop a catastrophic impact

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Killer asteroids could be tied to smaller cosmic objects with cables to stop a catastrophic impact on Earth, study reveals

  • Scientist work tirelessly to design a plan in the event an asteroid heads for Earth
  • A team now proposes using a tethered diversion that utilizes long cables 
  • They would launch a spacecraft toward the asteroid, far before it hits Earth
  • Then tie it to a smaller asteroid nearby, which would pull the larger one away 

The event of a killer asteroid impacting Earth has been a fear for centuries, but scientists believe they have a plan to mitigate such a collision.

Using a tethered diversion, the team proposes utilizing long cables to connect the potentially hazardous object with a small asteroid nearby.

The center of mass would change when the two are tied together, resulting in the larger asteroid being flung to a safer orbit.

The asteroid Bennu was used as a test subject in computer simulations to calculate the dynamics of such a tether system for a variety of different initial conditions, concluding that it would be feasible for use as a planetary defense system.

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Using a tethered diversion, the team proposes utilizing long cables to connect the potentially hazardous object with a small asteroid nearby. The center of mass would change when the two are tied together, resulting in the larger asteroid being flung to a safer orbit

Using a tethered diversion, the team proposes utilizing long cables to connect the potentially hazardous object with a small asteroid nearby. The center of mass would change when the two are tied together, resulting in the larger asteroid being flung to a safer orbit

The tethered diversion was developed by researchers at University of Central Florida, who are looking to utilized long cables found in space elevators, propulsion systems or those that are used to tie satellites together.

The smaller asteroid would be used to disturb the orbit of the killer asteroid, as the small bodies have a spin rate that can range from seconds to hours.

The idea is to tether the two asteroids together, with the hopes of diverting the larger one’s path – which is heading towards Earth.

To test the theory, the team used asteroid Bennu for a computer simulation.

Using the asteroid Bennu (pictured) as a test subject, the team used computer simulations to calculate the dynamics of such a tether system for a variety of different initial conditions, concluding that it would be feasible for use as a planetary defense system

Using the asteroid Bennu (pictured) as a test subject, the team used computer simulations to calculate the dynamics of such a tether system for a variety of different initial conditions, concluding that it would be feasible for use as a planetary defense system

‘One reason is because it is classified as a PHA [potentially harmful asteroid], passing close to Earth about every 6 years, and it has one of the highest impact hazard ratings among PHAs,’ reads the study published in Springer.

‘Another reason is because it has low orbit inclination. Bennu is a B-type (primitive and carbon rich), about 492 m in diameter, and spins every 4.3 h.’

The team notes that it will make its next close approach to Earth in 2060 and hopes the tether diversion would work in case it decides to go in for the kill.

The idea would be to spot the inbound asteroid well in advance to plan out the strategy and find a smaller one nearby.

The event of a killer asteroid impacting Earth has been a fear for centuries, but scientists believe they have a plan to mitigate such a collision

The event of a killer asteroid impacting Earth has been a fear for centuries, but scientists believe they have a plan to mitigate such a collision

In the simulation, a spacecraft launched October 28th, 2035, allowing it time to travel to Bennu before it gets too close to Earth, which would attach the tether to the two objects.

‘The results show in both cases a clear increase in the orbit deviation for longer tethers,’ reads the study.

‘For tethers three times longer, the deviation values are of an order of 5 times higher than for the shorter tether chosen for the simulations.

‘Comparing different mass values for the smaller asteroid attached with a tether, it is evident that, for a faster deviation, larger masses would be required.’

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