Updated ‘catastrophe calculator’ estimates asteroid impacts

Thursday, November 4, 2010

LONDON - Wondering what would happen if a 10km-wide asteroid came out of the sky and slammed down on your city? Well, now you can find the answer, thanks to the updated version of the impact effects calculator.

Scientists at Purdue University and Imperial College London first produced it in 2004. Users can now dial in details about the hypothetical impactor, like its diameter and density.he web program then estimates the scale of the ensuing disaster, such as the size of the crater left behind.

It will also tell you how far away you need to be to avoid being buried by all the material thrown out by the blast, or set on fire.

The original calculator was a ‘big hit’ when it was released, not just within the research community but with a curious public, also.

Devised by Purdue’s Jay Melosh and colleagues, it is underpinned by scientifically accurate equations.

The updated program, known as ‘Impact: Earth!’ has incorporated some additional impact effects, such as the tsunami wave height from an ocean collision.

But the key difference those familiar with the old tool will notice is the much more visual and user-friendly interface.

“We’ve had to update things as knowledge has improved,” the BBC quoted Imperial’s Gareth Collins, as saying.

“One of the major new additions is the estimate for tsunami wave height at a given distance away from an ocean impact.

“This had been a popular request, but we didn’t put it in the original calculator because there simply wasn’t consensus back then on what the hazard was.

“There’s since been some good research and we now have a better understanding of the issue,” he said.

On average, an object about the size of car will enter the Earth’s atmosphere once a year, producing a spectacular fireball in the sky.

“The site is intended for a broad global audience because an impact is an inevitable aspect of life on this planet and literally everyone on Earth should be interested,” said Melosh.

“There have been big impacts in the past, and we expect big impacts in the future. This site gives the lowdown on what happens when such an impact occurs,” he added. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

will not be displayed