Sunday November 06, 2016

NASA, FEMA Hold Asteroid Emergency Planning Exercise

Contrary to popular belief, an asteroid that hits the Earth may not necessarily be an extinction-level event, so things aren’t as simple as blowing all your retirement savings and just sitting on the beach. The parties who would be responsible for cleaning up such a giant mess are trying to figure out just how they would evacuate everyone and prevent hysteria.

The exercise simulated a possible impact four years from now -- a fictitious asteroid imagined to have been discovered this fall with a 2 percent probability of impact with Earth on Sept. 20, 2020. The simulated asteroid was initially estimated to be between 300 and 800 feet (100 and 250 meters) in size, with a possibility of making impact anywhere along a long swath of Earth, including a narrow band of area that crossed the entire United States. In the fictitious scenario, observers continued to track the asteroid for three months using ground-based telescope observations, and the probability of impact climbed to 65 percent. Then the next observations had to wait until four months later, due to the asteroid's position relative to the sun. Once observations could resume in May of 2017, the impact probability jumped to 100 percent. By November of 2017, it was simulated that the predicted impact would occur somewhere in a narrow band across Southern California or just off the coast in the Pacific Ocean.