National Laboratory creates simulation of nuclear asteroid deflection similar to Armageddon or National Lab simulates nuclear asteroid deflection in Armageddon-style scenario

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab have presented a paper that advances the field of planetary defense against asteroid threats through nuclear deflection simulations. Led by Mary Burkey, the team’s research addresses the need for precise nuclear deflection in the event of an asteroid threat, as using a satellite as a missile is not always practical.

The paper, published in the Planetary Science Journal, discusses the complexity and computational expenses involved in fully simulating the energy deposition required for a nuclear deflection. It explains that the energy produced by a nuclear explosion is largely X-rays and emphasizes the importance of simulating how they propagate and interact with an asteroid’s surface.

The team’s simulations provide a more complete and inclusive understanding of the potential outcomes of a nuclear deflection mission. The study is among the first comprehensive efforts to explore the high-fluence regime where a disruption-style mitigation mission would operate. It looks at the microsecond-by-microsecond effects of nuking an asteroid, providing valuable data for large-scale studies of asteroid-nuking.

The simulations open the door for a vast array of potential studies that can be completed using large-scale hydrodynamic codes, addressing properties such as material distribution, density, rotation, irregular shapes, and shadows cast by boulders. These studies may help in understanding the effect of a mission’s outcome and whether it will break apart an asteroid, a long-standing question in the planetary defense community.

The team’s research also highlights the need for faster-running simulations that could be performed specific to a given threat, minimizing the response time. It suggests the potential use of machine learning to aid in quicker and more accurate simulations to help save humanity from potential catastrophic events.

The paper’s findings lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive understanding of nuclear mitigation and its effectiveness in planetary defense. As a fairly active area of research, the simulations represent a significant step forward in the field and provide valuable insights for future studies.

The team’s research serves as a guidepost for enhanced planning and preparedness in the event of an asteroid threat, with the potential to save humanity from widespread devastation. By addressing the challenges associated with nuclear deflection and providing a more accurate and detailed understanding of the potential outcomes, the study contributes significantly to the advancement of planetary defense against potential asteroid threats.


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