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What Kills Earthlings Most When Asteroid Strikes? This Model Has Answer!

21 April 2017, 02:56 | Bernard Bryant

How Will You Die During an Asteroid Strike? Researchers Rank Impacts of Asteroid Strike Based on Destructive Power

What to do if an asteroid comes our way

Ever wonder how you will die when an Armageddon-size asteroid finally struck the Earth?

It's been played out on the big screen before, but should an asteroid actually strike Earth, what would happen?

For each asteroid in the simulation, the researchers estimated how many lives would be lost under each of these seven effects. (Though these two effects act in concert, wind blasts were far more devastating than shock waves, the study found.) The sizzling heat of an impact was responsible for almost 30 percent of deaths, and tsunamis took most of the rest. Land-based impacts were more unsafe than asteroids that landed in oceans, they said.

When an asteroid strikes Earth, which of its effects -scorching heat, flying debris, towering tsunamis - would claim the most lives? Affected populations could likely avoid harm by hiding in basements and other underground structures, Rumpf said.

Tonight, a particularly large asteroid is going to cruise by Earth at its closest point in 400 years, and while we humans are going to be observing the flyby at a safe distance, there's always a small twinge of doubt that whispers "what if...?" in the back of our minds. This is because, though unsafe to coast lines, the wave's energy through the ocean would dissipate as it traveled and be broken up on reaching the continental shelves.

Rumpf said the findings could help Earthlings plan for future asteroid strikes. "But the consequences can be unimaginable". Overall, tsunamis would account for 20% of lives lost, according to the study.

Heat was found to be the third most unsafe effect by a large margin; seismic shaking, cratering, and airborne debris, meanwhile, were found to have made a rather inconsequential impact. Cratering and airborne debris were similarly less concerning, both garnering fewer than 1 percent of deaths. The researchers noted that Earth is struck by a 190-feet asteroid every 1,500 years, while over 1,300 feet asteroid is likely to hit the planet every 100,000 years.

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Only asteroids that spanned at least 18 meters (nearly 60 feet) in diameter were lethal.

"This report is a reasonable step forward in trying to understand and come to grips with the hazards posed by asteroids and comet impactors", Jay Melosh, a geophysicist at Purdue University who was not involved in the new study, said in the same statement.

This chart shows reported fireball events for which geographic location data are provided.

Fortunately, asteroid impacts are now relatively rare, but they do occur, including the famous Tunguska event of 1908 and the near-miss over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013, which exploded in midair. A new study not only examines the various impacts of an asteroid strike, but also which ones would cause the greatest amount of death and destruction. During this, many people were injured by flying glass because they looked out the window to see what caused the flash, only to be hit by glass shards when the shockwave hit.

Truth be told, these two impacts would represent over 60% of lives lost, said Clemens Rumpf, think about the lead creator and a scientist at the University of Southampton in the U.K. Stun waves from a spike in barometrical weight would burst inside organs, while wind impacts would leave human bodies and smooth woods. Small towns facing the impact of an asteroid 30 meters across (about 98 feet) may fare best by evacuating.

"If only 10 people are affected, then maybe it's better to evacuate the area", says Rumpf. "But if 1,000,000 people are affected, it may be worthwhile to mount a deflection mission and push the asteroid out of the way".

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