Written by Staff Writer
16 Aug, 2014 | 12:13 pm
A huge asteroid spinning at an “impossible” rate is hurtling toward Earth, on track to wipe out human life – but not until 16 March, 2880.
Asteroid 1950 DA has a one-in-300 chance of hitting the globe on the appointed day. Although that may sound like slim odds, it is the most likely asteroid to collide with our planet.
Researchers at the University of Tennessee are not taking any chances, studying the asteroid for indications of how best to throw it off its course.
According to their research, published in the science journal Nature, the asteroid has a diameter of one kilometre and is travelling at nine miles a second relative to the Earth.
It is also rotating so fast – once every 2 hours and six minutes – that it “defies gravity”. Rotation at that speed should cause the space rock to fly apart, but cohesive forces called van der Waals are holding it together. These forces have never before been detected on an asteroid.
Were it to make contact with the planet, it would hit at 38,000 miles per hour, exerting the same force as around 44,800 megatonnes of TNT.
An impact would cause an enormous explosion and tsunamis, changing the climate of the globe and destroying human life.
The researchers are confident that there is enough time to avert the disaster. They have discovered that blowing up 1950 DA could actually do more harm than good, causing several massive impacts.
Instead, they suggest making small changes to its surface to disrupt the forces that keep it together, causing it to break apart.
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