Asteroid Heading For Earth Could Wipe Out Humans in 2880

Aug 16, 2014 08:34 AM EDT | Matt Mercuro

The human race could be wiped out by a massive asteroid that is heading towards Earth at speeds of approximately 38,000 miles an hour.

The 1950 DA asteroid has a decent chance of hitting Earth on March 16, 2880, according to a press release issued by the University of Tennessee.

Scientists originally believed the asteroid had a one-in-300 chance of striking Earth. Now the odds have been revised to one-in-4,000.

If the asteroid hits Earth, it will collide with the force of around 44,800 megatonnes of TN. In comparison, it would be the equivalent of every nuclear weapon in the world detonating at the same time, six times over, according to the release.

Scientists believe the impact would cause tsunamis and earthquakes that would result in climate change that would destroy all human life.

The asteroid is rotating so fast that at its equator it experiences negative gravity. If an astronaut were to try standing on the surface, they would be thrown off into space, according to the study.

"Previous research has shown that asteroids are loose piles of rubble held together by gravity and friction," postdoctoral researcher Ben Rozitis said, according to the release. "However, the UT team found that 1950 DA is spinning so quickly that it defies these forces."

Rozitis added that he and his colleagues found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the breakup limit for its density. This means if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together it would fly apart, meaning interparticle cohesive forces must be holding it together.

There has been renewed interest in finding out how to deal with a potential asteroid impact after the meteor collision in Russia last February, according to Rozitis.

The collision in Chelyabinsk released over 30 times the explosive energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and injured 1,500 people.

"Understanding what holds these asteroids together can inform strategies to guard against future impacts," Rozitis said.

Researchers are now trying to figure out ways they can break the asteroid apart.

Possible techniques that could break the asteroid apart includes using a kinetic impactor, which would send out a large object on collision course with the asteroid, according to the release.

The researchers' findings were published this week in the journal Nature.

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