Asteroid Launcher lets you simulate catastrophic collisions on a global scale

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 198   +94
Staff
In brief: "Planet killer" asteroids are an over-abused science fiction trope inspiring films, books and other entertainment products. Asteroid Launcher is a new web tool that can give you a rough idea about the level of destruction giant space rocks can bring to our tiny, fragile blue marble of a planet.

Thanks to films like Deep Impact, the not-so-funny Don't Look Up and countless other entertainment experiences, modern audiences are very much aware of the (theoretical) threat an asteroid impact could present for Earth. With Asteroid Launcher, theory can become a bit more practical by giving interesting tidbits of data about the extent of such an impact.

Programmed by Neal Agarwal, Asteroid Launcher simply does what it says. The website lets you simulate an asteroid impact everywhere on Earth and provides information about the resulting crater, the level of energy released in "Gigatons of TNT," the fireball dimension and more.

Maybe the most interesting (and morbid) data provided by Asteroid Launcher is the one about the actual effects of the impact on population and plants, with estimations of deaths by vaporization (within the initial, apocalyptic fireball unleashed in the first seconds), victims suffering brutally painful burns, clothes and trees catching fire, the ear-rupturing shockwave, wind blast, cataclysmic earthquakes and much, much more.

The disaster level depends on the asteroid composition, diameter, speed and impact angle, and this is where Asteroid Launcher seems to be lacking the most feature-wise. Wannabe gods of destruction can choose between comets, gold, iron, stone, and carbon asteroids, a 1-100 km/s speed, and a diameter up to 1.5 kilometers.

For example, dropped a 1.5 km-wide comet in the center of the US would create a 31 km-wide crater and instantly vaporize an estimated 327 people.

The energy released would be equivalent to 1,228 Gigatons of TNT, ie more energy than the last eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. The fireball alone would kill 1.3 million people in a few instants, while many more millions would suffer horrible burns. A 249-decibel shockwave would damage lungs and rupture eardrums for hundreds of kilometers, buildings would collapse and an 8.5 magnitude earthquake would kill more than 2,500 additional people.

In short: Nebraska and part of the Midwestern would become a wasteland, but the country as a whole would survive to see another dawn. Right now, Asteroid Launcher is in fact unable to simulate a real "planet killer" asteroid like the ones Hollywood loves so much, or even a more "modest" impact like Chicxulub's – the 11-12 km wide asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

To completely wipe out life on Earth, scientists estimate an asteroid (or a comet, or even a planetoid) would have to be about 96 km wide. An unthinkable perspective that goes way beyond the scope of Asteroid Launcher's simulation – and maybe it's for the best.

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VitalyT

Posts: 6,480   +7,349
Thanks to films like Deep Impact, the not-so-funny Don't Look Up and countless other entertainment experiences
You should start with 1998 movie Armageddon ;)
 

PEnnn

Posts: 1,011   +1,361
"..the not-so-funny Don't Look Up"

Actually it is funny and to the point for many people.

Exceptions being the anti--vaxxer, hoax-believing, Orange-Haired Felon followers.
 

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 198   +94
Staff
"..the not-so-funny Don't Look Up"

Actually it is funny and to the point for many people.

Exceptions being the anti--vaxxer, hoax-believing, Orange-Haired Felon followers.
I made it short. I actually found it to be funny... to an extent. By the end of the movie, I was actually terrified.
 

scavengerspc

Posts: 2,914   +3,225
TechSpot Elite
You can call me Jon Snow, but I won't change my mind. Michael Bay doesn't do movies: he just films explosions here and there and then there are some shots with actors talking... something. Which I can never understand. The End :-D
You forgot accumulating a half a BILLION dollars net worth. Someone likes his work, me included.

Back when I was a kid, we would have died for balls out action in movies.
Now it's something to complain about.

I'm all for a competent, but minimal backstory. But if the story is that important, why not just watch soap operas? Or chick flicks? ;)
 

Alfonso Maruccia

Posts: 198   +94
Staff
You forgot accumulating a half a BILLION dollars net worth. Someone likes his work, me included.

Back when I was a kid, we would have died for balls out action in movies.
Now it's something to complain about.

I'm all for a competent, but minimal backstory. But if the story is that important, why not just watch soap operas? Or chick flicks?
We have VERY different ideas about films, then. And as I'm just a humble viewer and not a billionaire, net worth of this and that doesn't interest me in the slightest :p
 

kira setsu

Posts: 449   +434
You forgot accumulating a half a BILLION dollars net worth. Someone likes his work, me included.

Back when I was a kid, we would have died for balls out action in movies.
Now it's something to complain about.

I'm all for a competent, but minimal backstory. But if the story is that important, why not just watch soap operas? Or chick flicks? ;)
I always laugh when people turn their noses up at action movies, which always end up raking in the cash, its why they're always the blockbuster films of theaters.

It's one of the reasons I hunt down movies from other countries, they make wild, bonkers films and are proud of them, unlike here where people laugh at something like transformers then drop a billion on a new movie with em and act surprised.

also, Armageddon is pretty much a classic.
 

Bullwinkle M

Posts: 863   +776
"For example, dropped a 1.5 km-wide comet in the center of the US would create a 31 km-wide crater and instantly vaporize an estimated 327 people."
------------------------------------------------

Wanna try again ?
 

Rq3EWAq

Posts: 169   +172
You should start with 1998 movie Armageddon ;)
Armageddon movie was really dumb, I rated it 1/10 on IMDB. I don't know how anyone can still refer to this movie for any reason. All copies of it should be destroyed like NASA moon landing footage 😂 (unrelated reference)
 
The original math was developed by my brother-in-law, Jay Melosh, an interplanetary geophysicist and leader in the field of collision research. His work was the backbone on which work on the origin of the moon, the dinosaur extinction, and Deep Impact were built. He died last year.
 

mountains

Posts: 80   +93
The original math was developed by my brother-in-law, Jay Melosh, an interplanetary geophysicist and leader in the field of collision research. His work was the backbone on which work on the origin of the moon, the dinosaur extinction, and Deep Impact were built. He died last year.

Really? That is cool! Thanks for sharing that!