Impact

By Phil Plait | August 1, 2006 11:54 pm

Simply put, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. Ever.

It’s an impressive animation of what would happen if an asteroid — maybe 100 500 miles across or so — impacts the Earth. The visuals are stunning, and someone set it to excellent music for the action. I saw it on a TV program not too long ago, maybe a month, maybe on the National Geographic Channel. Does anyone know the source? And for that matter, what music it is? I want to find it!

Anyway, its depiction of a massive impact is unflinching and brutal. I’ll stress right here that the odds of anything this size hitting us even in the next million years are slim to none. We know of every asteroid this size in the solar system out to terrific distances, and none is slated to ruin our day (or millennium).

But an impact like this would wipe out everything. Everything. As far as I can tell, the depiction there is pretty accurate. Notice how the impact appears to be in slow motion– in reality, the speed is something like 10-20 miles per second. It’s just that the rock is so big, a hundred miles across, things appear to move slowly. The expanding ring of death is moving at the speed of sound, 700 miles an hour. You can see continents lifting up as the shock wave moves through them, vaporizing water, rock, metal. The oceans boil, the crust melts, and, well. There you go.

The only real error I saw, I think, is when the shock wave encircling the Earth finally closes up when it reaches the opposite side of the planet from the impact point. The shock would eject a plume from the other side, like squeezing a watermelon seed between two fingers. We see evidence of this on other bodies; ringed features opposite giant impact craters, where the shock wave from the impact converged on the other side of the world.

Cripes. My nightmares are things like this. I’m glad there are folks looking for these bullets, and plans to do something about it. Maybe some day we’ll take this threat seriously enough to really fund it.

Tip o’ the Whipple Shield to the folks over on the Bad Astronomy/Universe Today bulletin board who were discussing this. And oh– maybe there is a way to stop these things that NASA never thought of…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science, Time Sink

Comments (104)

  1. gregory

    Wow, I saw this video before, but I thought it wasn’t very accurate. Would the plume of ejecta really fall parabolically? I would’ve thought it would attain escape velocity and fly off the Earth. And how could there be lava in the ejecta “bowl”? I would’ve thought that it would have gone far enough to cease being a liquid to being either a gas or solid. Wow, there is so much to know.

  2. kutsuwamushi

    If I’m remembering correctly, this is from a documentary series called “Miracle Planet”. The Science Channel showed it not too long ago.

    This clip is from the first episode about the very early history of the Earth; it’s supposed to be a simulation of what would happen if one of the collisions that happened back then happened today. Then they talk about how early life could have survived such an impact in the Earth’s crust.

    I thought it was rather sensational compared to the rest of the show, mainly because of the “IF IT HAPPENED TODAY!!!” angle. But still really, really pretty.

  3. Pete

    I just can’t belive that as a likely scenario.

    Bruce Willis would of taken that thing out way before impact. Pfft!

  4. Marlayna

    Yes. Scary.

    Now if only videos would play properly on my computer *mumble mumble*…

    Loved the pong variation too :P

    I wonder, though, are asteroids really this hot (I mean before they hit the Earth)? In the video the asteroid seems to be filled with lava as it’s approaching.

  5. MaDeR

    “In the video the asteroid seems to be filled with lava as it’s approaching.”
    Maybe tidal forces heats this asteroid up.

  6. Woah!! That is just creepy beyond all belief.

    I guess it’d be back to square one if this happened to any populated planet, eh?

  7. GAZZA

    Nah. Just make sure you put on the SPF5 million sun block; you’ll be fine. Sure, there might be a little cosmetic damage to the lemon meringue, but other than that? Pfft.

  8. Katie

    What do you know about an asteroid called apophis (I think)? I heard a talk by Jill Tartar from SETI and she mentioned that in 2027 or 2029 there is a large asteriod that will at least come very close to earth.

    A podcast of Jill’s talk can be found here if anyone’s interested (http://www.scifestlive.org.nz/podcasts/podcasts.xml)

  9. Valhar2000

    Well, I was miffed by the lava on the asteroid, the flash of light when the asteroid hit (although I can imagine how that could happen) and mostly by the peace and calm that was experienced on the surface of the earth not yet affected by the wall of fire.

    The impact should generate pretty strong vibrations in the crust and mantle, and these would travel at the speed of sound in rock, which is much higher than the speed of sound in air. Therefore, on the other side of the earth, there should be a massive earthquake doing damage even before matter ejected from the impact reached that part of the earth.

    However, I am nowhere near being knowledgeable in these matters, so this is just speculation.

  10. Jennifer

    Awesome video. The music is from the movie “Lola rennt” (Lola Runs), the song’s called “Casino”.

  11. Evolving Squid
  12. G. Tingey

    Wrong.

    It would be VERY bad, but an impact this bad has already occurred after life arose on Earth.

    It is now thought (and being further investigated) that the Permian/Triassic mass extinction was caused by a giant astrobleme ~150-200km across – and a relict scar has been found beneath Antarctica.

    Almost as bad, would be one that was quite a lot smaller, and therefore more difficult to spot – say 20-40km across, striking the Atlantic at approx 30W40N, right on the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

    Nasty!

  13. Alexander Whiteside

    I think that the status of that crater is still disputed, mind. That’s a fantastic video, literally awesome.

  14. Grand Lunar

    I can imagine similar impacts like this having created the maria seen on the moon.

    Truly amazing.

  15. J.R.

    According to the shadow, it came directly from the Sun.

    How likely is that?

  16. buczas

    Isn’t 100 miles too small for such a large impact? I’m not an astronomer (even amateur one), but from that video (especially from the size of the explosion) that the asteroid is at least around 1000 km across to me. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but how could such a small asteroid (100 miles compared to 7,926 miles of Earth’s diameter) make a hit hard enough to ” eject a plume from the other side” as you, dr Plait, say it should have.

  17. Keerax

    So the BA is telling me to watch out for a perfectly spherical, 100 mile across asteroid? ;)

    I say Sephiroth has been playing with the Black Materia again. >.>

  18. Tom K

    The thing about a signifigant impact event is that it’s inevitable – someday, something sizable is going to hit the Earth. Could be tomorrow, could be in a hundred thousand years, but it’s inevitable. Not necessarily something 100 miles in diameter, but something big enough to cause a major event. A 1 mile rock impacting would be catastrophic at a regional level and there are surely hundreds if not thousands of them out there, undetected and unknown. It’s just a matter of time.

  19. Chip

    I posted this a while ago on the bulletin board. It is pretty spooky. One of the questions I asked was would the asteroid be molten with apparent lava flows as it headed toward Earth? It appears to have molten areas. Asteriods in photos I have seen appear to be cold.

  20. Even more scary on a big screen!
    The music sounds like the band Dead Can Dance.

  21. gene

    The soundtrack music is available on Amazon. The English title of the German movie is “Run Lola Run.” I just ordered it.

  22. Roy Batty

    Well for a start, the object in that clip is more like a few 1000 miles across not a 100 (Of course 100 would be pretty disastrous for the whole of life on Earth too!). This can be seen by comparing the relative diameters when it hits (or even before with it’s shadow. Also, as I mentioned before in a thread where this was posted:
    http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php?t=43271
    Wouldn’t the tidal forces created by such an immense object make the Earth (all around) far from peaceful looking a while before it hit?

    Not knocking the video, I think its cool too. Just think people need to made more aware what even 10Km diameter rock could do to this pale blue dot!

    Btw BA, from that link the extra info gives this about the music:

    Japanese video of what a meteorite collision would look like. I added a soundtrack rather than have the Japenese, as in the original. The song is “Casino” from the soundtrack to Run Lola Run.

  23. I was thinking the glowing lava on the asteroid was indeed from tidal effects. Hard to say though.

  24. Les

    Yep, that’s a fun one to watch just before going to bed. Gives me the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

  25. Daniel Nash

    Here’s a page listing the current impact risks with the latest observations: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/

    Apophis is at the top of the list, but the probability of impact in the near future is listed as 2.5e-05 (that’s one in 40,000). Plus, its diameter is estimated at 320 m, so it wouldn’t cause nearly this level of destruction, though it would be bad regionally.

  26. Jennifer: You’re the best! I found a clip on Amazon, and the music is indeed “Casino” from “Run Lola Run”. I’m looking around to see if I can dig it up now.

  27. I tried getting a sense of the size from the video, but it’s hard. 1000 miles seems too big, but maybe I’ll take another look.

  28. Looking at the shadow and the size of the asteroid, I think 100 miles is too small as a guess for its size, but 1000 seems too big. I’m thinking it’s more like 1/20th as wide as the Earth, or about 400 miles, comparing it to the curvature of the Earth’s limb in the shots from space right before impact. I’m just guessing though!

  29. buczas

    And that would be the 1000 km i mentioned before :D Maybe we could track the author of the clip and simply ask the dimensions?

  30. Roy Batty

    Hey, I’ve just been watching it several times again too, & was just about to post, lets agree on about 500. There was one bit just before it hit, with the Earthe horizon in background that made it seem a lot bigger but just before that & just after, I I’d go with 1/20 now :)
    Btw the Site & forum seem to be having problems in the last hour.

  31. trhl777

    These things are psuedo-science. Make believe science for public consumption.

  32. BA while you are at it, dig up a copy of the movie too, it’s really interesting. It’s about a girl trying to stop her boyfriend from committing a bank robbery to pay of some debt. We se the story repeated three times and follow her through the three different scenarios, were one small detail changes the whole outcome of the situation.

    RUN LOLA RUN.

  33. “These things are psuedo-science. Make believe science for public consumption. ”

    I’d like to think fantastical science like what has been shown in this video clip inspire inquiry into actual scientific study. How many scientists nowadays site the original Star Trek as inspiration? ;)

    Anyhow, assuming NASA can’t develop their super pong paddle in time how could one survive such an event?

  34. I dunno. I found the cheering at the very end to be a bit disconcerting (until I saw the Pong version).

    Boop!

  35. hale_bopp

    Run, Lola, Run rocks!

    I agree that 1000 miles seems too big and will go with the few hundred miles for the diameter (100 seems a little small with the comparisons we do get).

    Here’s a thought. About 55 seconds in, you see the asterioid about to hit and can clearly see the thin layer of Earth’s atmopshere. How thick is that? I know that space is considered to start about 60 miles up, but I imagine the actual visible part you see in images like that is much smaller. Anyone know the thickness of what we see?

    You can see photo of this thin layer of atmosphere in this article.

    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0008/04o2life/

    Rob

  36. David

    I only have one real problem with this video, and that is when they show the buildings in various cities. An impact of that magnitude would cause earthquakes well beyond anything ever felt before. Hundreds maybe even thousands on the richter scale, there would not be a single building standing ANYWHERE on the planets let alone tall towers like big ben.

  37. The Galaxy Trio

    Wait… if it’s a gazillion to one, why did it scare you, Phil?

  38. Phobos

    “These things are psuedo-science. Make believe science for public consumption. ”

    No, things like astrology, homeopathy, phrenology, and creation science are pseudoscience. The video is only fictional in that there is a extremely low chance of that happening anytime soon. But presumably, the intent was to show an accurate depiction of what would happen if such an impact did occur (and asteroid impacts are a reality).

  39. trhl777, go see Meteor Crater in Arizona, then explain to me exactly how this is pseudoscience.

  40. I saw this video on a New Scientist blog a while back (it has the version with the Japanese voiceover – not quite as terrifying as the version with the Run Lola Run music):
    http://www.newscientist.com/blog/technology/2006/06/want-to-destroy-world.html

    According to the posters on that blog, the diameter of the asteroid is actually 500 km.

  41. P. Edward Murray

    trhl777,

    So you say that Dinosaurs didn’t see something like this just before they lost their lives?

    Why do you call this psuedo science…I think you need to go back to school.

    Better yet, if you do not own a telescope join your local astronomy club at a meeting. Sometimes they sponsor events called Star Watches or Star Parties where the public can come to parks and view through club member’s ‘scope….

    You really need to look at the Moon and then come back and tell us that this video is not real!:)

  42. Irishman

    I wouldn’t call it pseudoscience. They may have inaccuracies in the depiction (which we are discussing and analyzing for), but that doesn’t make it pseudoscience.

    I suppose a distinction might be made for something like Armageddon, where the science is spread thin and ignored where convenient. The intent there is mass market popularity over scientific accuracy. Is that pseudoscience? Or just sloppy science? Or a popular culture depiction of something that could actually happen, but with the popular misconceptions or movie-making stereotypes embedded? Again, is that pseudoscience?

  43. No worries. They’ve already found the answer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4V93tm466U
    ;-)

  44. PK

    Wow! What a way to take out Manila…

  45. Evolving Squid

    trhl777, go see Meteor Crater in Arizona, then explain to me exactly how this is pseudoscience.

    or come up to Canada and see the Manicouagan reservoir, occupying the Manicouagan crater. It’s a 70ish km diameter annular lake, situated in a crater that was probably 100+ km across when it was new. It is estimated that the impactor was ~5 km in diameter. This would have been a real prize-winning fireworks display if you were on the planet 214ish million years ago.

    It kind of makes the Arizona crater look like a bathtub :)

  46. StormKat

    Watch the video while listening to “Next to Nothing” by Fatboy Slim…

  47. Kampfy

    For those who do not know what the narrated version is saying here is a rough translation of the Japanese.

    What happens when meteorite collide with each other? We tried to find the answers: Simulation Experiment. We presumed that the collision happened with the earth in order for lucid distance and location. The diameter of the meteorite is slightly bigger than the breadth of Honshu Japan. The collision point is located at the 3,000km south from Japan in the ocean. The velocity of the meteorite is 70,000km/h. But the meteorite is bigger than we can imagine, so that it appears much slower. In the impact at the same time as colliding. The earth’s crust of 10km in thickness where ground in the earth is composed is wholly peeled off. This is called,”Earth’s crust tidal wave”. There is 1km width of the rock, and it flies to the sky it by the impact. The impact surges to the Japanese Islands and,as a result, the Japanese Islands are crushed. The splinter of the crushed rock easily exceeds the height of 1000Km. After exceeding the atmosphere it reaches space. Afterwards, the splinter of the rock falls again in surface of the earth. The edge of Crater completed by the collision of the meteorite is 7000m in height. It looks like a huge mountain range. The diameter of Crater has 4000Km. Crater is big to swallow a part from Guam to a Chinese continent. But,it was only an introductory chapter of the tragedy that would start in the future…..

    The leading part with the accident is seen in Crater when seeing from space immediately after the collision of the meteorite. Seeming as shine to scorching color, and huge mass. The mass of the rock of which this turned into the gas and the name are said, “Rock Vapor”. The amount of the rock that becomes a gas is about 100000000000000kt. “Rock Vapor” extends in all directions on the earth after it swells up like the dome. “Rock Vapor” generated by the meteorite’s having been dropped to the sea located in the south of Japan will arrive at Himalayas in three hours. In “Rock Vapor”, the velocity of the wind is 300 meters. It becomes the hot wind of a terrific high temperature of 4000℃ in temperature and burns Himalayas. In the world covered with “Rock Vapor”, even a thick snow that piles in the coldest place named Himalayas is instantaneously melted. There is no time to make the river and the snow is evaporated instantaneously. “Rock Vapor” will reach Amazon that lies to the other side of the collision of the meteorite in a day. Tropical forests of Amazon cause the autogenous ignition for the hot wind by “Rock Vapor” and the region is burnt up. Tropical forests of Amazon turn into sea of flames in less than no time. Surface of the earth from the collision on the first. It is covered with “Rock Vapor” and it turns into a scorching star. “Rock Vapor” wraps the earth for one year or more, and burns everything up at the terrific high temperature. It is the same as making the sun innumerable near the earth. On the other hand, the accident happens also in the sea. The sea began to bubble violently. The sea boils by the heat of “Rock Vapor”. Tremendous heat of the “Rock Vapor” reduces the sea level at the speed of 5cm a minute. The naked sea bed is relentlessly exposed to the intense heat and melted down like lava. The sea of 4000m in average depth has disappeared one month after the collision of the meteorite. At this point, the earth becomes a star where the living thing cannot live. Thus, the earth turned into the star of the death….

  48. Well, it didn’t turn into star just because Earth didn’t start to support thermonuclear reaction after an impact…

    And with all due respect to Greek architecture, acropolis would have never stood a chance.

  49. ToSeek

    “slightly bigger than the breadth of Honshu Japan” would mean that the asteroid is around 250-300 km in diameter.

  50. folcrom

    If only we could do that in reality.
    With the following changes of course.

    1. Make the target Mars, not the Earth.
    2. Make the Asteroid an Ice moon, say Saturn’s Enceledus.
    3. Start the Ice moon breaking up well before impact.
    4. Make the impact collisional velocities as minimal as possible.

    Instant Water, instant volatile gases (ie atmosphere) etc
    I wonder how the result would turn out.

    Folcrom.

  51. MYOB

    I think that depending on the objects mass the actual impact damage could be quite different. We’re talking about an object made up of packed dirt, seriously packed dirt, not a completely solid object. Then there’s the fact the earth is like a large egg with a really thick shell made up of heavily packed dirt. Of course this applies mainly to the Earth’s crust which is approximately 30 miles on average. The mantle is made of much more solid rock of various materials I am not qualified to detail. In fact my knowledge of geology and the structure of the earth are based on my highschool memories at the moment and are not complete.

    But I would think that the dynamics of such an impact must take these factors and more into account when detailing what might happen. I think that the impacting object would no doubt react like a bullet hitting the surface of a solid wall. It will flatten and as it does it will break apart leaving only the inner core of the object remaining. The impact would drive the object deep into the earth’s crust and once it impacted the outer mantle would send all that kinetic energy racing through the mantle and the core, through to the other side which would cause a massive eruption of earth debris on the direct opposite side. The earth’s rotation might deflect some of the impact and the projected location where the other side would erupt.
    The atmosphere would be disrupted to such an extent that those caught in the wake of the impact would begin to suffocate. Followed by massice seismic activity that would probably be enough to bring every building above two stories down to the ground. Even underground facilities would experience massive structural damage depending on their proximity to the impact. The heat of the impact would create the massive ocean of lava that we see at the end developing. This intense heat would increase atmospheric temperatures around the globe for as much as thermodynamics can calculate but the spread of the heat will not be that great at first due to the absence of atmosphere in the surrounding area around the impact. This atmosphere was pushed off, probably a great deal of it would be shot into space and the rest super heated causing massive expansion. Once the impact had lessened the atmospheric pressure would restore the atmosphere around the impact area but the ceiling would be much, much lower due to the loss of atmosphere. The wave of destruction would probably not act like a wave since the debris will still project away from the impact zone in a straight line while the material at the bottom of the blast would not be able to break the pull of gravity and would return creating massive dust coverage that would block out all light and create a major cooling period.
    This can go on and on, but I do appreciate the fact that they showed how the oceans would evaporate. Not all since depending on where it lands the water deposites at specific locations perpendicular to the impact area would still be able to contain enough to present itself useful to any survivors and there will be survivors depending on how much oxygen remains and other environmental damage. These survivors would be around the areas where the water was located since both the impact area and the opposite side of the earth would be completely destroyed almost upon impact. Leaving on the areas diectly in between with differing degrees of survival increasing as you move away from the impact area and the projected debris area on the other side of the earth. Major damage from falling debris and contaminated air would ensure a short survival period unless deep underground and the shock wave could easily destroy even the most heavily and deeply built survival bunkers.

    I am not expert enough to detail everything but this scenario was documented back in the late 90′s and the study posed results based on varying size of impact objects. But for something 500 miles across the Earth could very well just break up completely upn impact with large chunks being directed into outer space with it’s atmosphere completely lost and enough seismic activity ensuring that nothing survived. If it struck out at sea the water would cushion the impact but it would still send several mile high tidal waves crashing in all directions. Virtually every inch of the U.S. would be completely covered by only by the wave itself. There would be little water in the wake.
    It just goes on and on.
    But let me just say that although I respect Japanes enginuity, they do tend to be a bit overzealous in their end time forecasting. The atomic bomb drops created multiple generations of Japanese who seem to have a fetish for planetwide catastrophe ideas and they are always gloomy and finale, based moreso on their artistic merits moreso than on their scientific.

    No disrepect intended.

    MYOB’
    .

  52. Rob

    yah… what he said

  53. TheBlackCat

    What BA said about the happenings on the other side of the planet is interesting. There is actually an anti-tank weapon based on that principles called HESH (high explosive squash head). The warhead impacts the outer armor of the tank, squashing its deformable plastic explosive head against the outer armor. The head then detonates, causing the energy to be transmitted through the armor in the form of a shockwave. This causes bits of the inside of the tank under the impact site to flake off and fly through the interior of the tank at high speed. I can easily see a similar thing would happen on a massive scale in this scenario.

  54. Jeff

    The shadow of the object as it passed across the Earth’s surface did not look right. As in an eclipse, there should have been a central umbra and a surrounding penumbra.

  55. Frightening! That’s why I think there’s no need for Doomsday weapons like the Death Star. Just throw a big asteroid into a planet, and it’s done for. You don’t even need high tech weapons. Who needs superlasers? Just use a big rock. They did that on B5 and, I think, on This Island Earth (the MST3K on that is fantastic).

    I wonder what kind of weapon would be require to divert or destroy such an asteroid. Would all the nuclear aresenal available on Earth be of some use?

  56. I have just published a report of the talk given in London by Lembit Oepik, the British parlamentarian that convinced the UK government in 1999-2000 to care about asteroids colliding against Earth

    http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2006/07/29/how-to-run-a-successful-political-campaign/

    regards
    maurizio

  57. nebularain

    That lookes more like a moon than an asteroid.
    I got a kick out of seeing continents demolished – and then seeing the Greek temple ruins still standing!
    Cool video, though.

  58. Kullat Nunu

    (Looks like my previous post was eaten by the spam killer…)

    There’s no fear that an asteroid 500 km wide would hit us — there’s only three asteroids that large or larger orbit safely in the main asteroid belt. The Kuiper Belt has many larger objects, but they won’t bother us either.

    If the object that hits the Earth in the animation is one of those which struck Earth in its infancy, magically transferred to current times, lava on the surface could be justified. One of the giant asteroids, Vesta, has basaltic surface which means it has had volcanic activity in its history. Metallic nickel-iron asteroids are believed to be fragments from cores of similar, but shattered asteroids.

    I counted three things that bothered me — first, the impact crater didn’t show any ring structure. Largest impacts create concentric rings around the proper crater. Also, as the BA said, the antipodal region should be shaken much more violently (although no rings form there, just some jumbled terrain).

    At the end of the animation Earth is shown hot and dry. Impact of that size would melt Earth’s surface completely to depths of several kilometers — I’m not sure if continents would survive recognizable. Also, no clouds are visible, which doesn’t feel right. Even if the Earth lost its current atmosphere in the process, a new would form from the process from gasses released from the magma. But no more nice oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere — new one would consist of carbon dioxide with a heavy dose of sulphur dioxide. The latter would form thick cover of clouds which would shroud the planet perpetually… sounds familiar?

  59. Kullat Nunu

    “It would be VERY bad, but an impact this bad has already occurred after life arose on Earth.”

    Another point of the movie was to show that life could have survived deep in the bedrock many kilometers deep even if very large asteroids struck Earth after the first lifeforms appeard.

    “It is now thought (and being further investigated) that the Permian/Triassic mass extinction was caused by a giant astrobleme ~150-200km across – and a relict scar has been found beneath Antarctica.”

    Until the structure has been thoroughly studied, I wouldn’t take that claim very seriously. There are several, much more convincing extinction factors (massive volcanic event in Siberia with subsequent catastrophic release of methane ice reserves from oceanic floors, exposed oceanic shelves et cetera).

  60. Bahur

    This is great! Mankind deserves this kind of end.
    I am ready to go for it…we are a greedy eveil virus that deserves to DIE!

  61. TheBlackCat

    There is no reason to assume the Permian Triassic extinction event was only caused by one factor. It may very well have been caused by two or even more factors. This is called the “murder on the orient express” hypothesis.

  62. Fil
  63. Steve Cooperman

    Wow, nice graphics!

    If an object 500 km in diameter of typical asteroidal density hit the Earth at 20 km/s, it would release about 4 x 10^28 Joules of energy. Using a basic earthquake magnitude formula, that would be the equivalent of an 11.2 magnitude quake. Given that we’ve never seen quakes above about 9.5M — probably because there are no super-hard rocks on the Earth — I can believe the devastation. But as others have mentioned, there should be some seismic focusing towards the opposite side of the Earth (the antipode), just as there was for the Caloris Basin on Mercury and Mare Orientale on the Moon (although the Moon has a much smaller core and the effect was much less).

  64. icemith

    Interesting to see mention of an asteroid impact of large proportions in the Antarctic area, way back in time. Could this have been the impetus for the break-up of Gonwanaland – with the spreading apart of Australia, Africa, South America and India? Or was that event not tied to that particular asteroid impact as previously mentioned?

    This Continental Drift, I think, was supposed to have occured about 55 million years ago. With a not as large asteroid as in the movie clip, and the co-incident demise of the Dinosaurs, and evidence of a large impact crater, am I making too much of the whole scene?

    Ivan.

  65. MYOB

    I thought the shadow was off too. I was waiting for it to narrow in on the point directly under the object but it never did.

    I also think the wave of destruction seemed a bit off. I got the impression that the impact would not generate large debris but simply toss it all up into the atmosphere as burnt earth. It would literally rain dirt for hours and leave light dust in the upper atmosphere which was light enough to break the pull of gravity and maintain orbit. There would be enough of this to ensure that unless the dirt eventually fell to earth it would remain up there forever cause there was little chance we could devise a means of causing it to fall.

    MYOB’
    .

  66. Kullat Nunu

    “Interesting to see mention of an asteroid impact of large proportions in the Antarctic area, way back in time. Could this have been the impetus for the break-up of Gonwanaland – with the spreading apart of Australia, Africa, South America and India? Or was that event not tied to that particular asteroid impact as previously mentioned?”

    Such possibility was speculated in the press release which described the discovery of the Antarctic crater. In my not-so-humble opinion, that was way too far-fetched. Continents can break up themselves without any extrasolar help.

  67. Kullat Nunu

    …I mean extraterrestrial. :)

  68. Brant D.

    …Cool.

    One question: Right at the point of impact, the video shows some kind of ring spreading very quickly away from the impact point. I find it hard to imagine an atmospheric shockwave would spread that rapidly. Is that realistic, and if so, what exactly is it?

  69. I believe that’s rather rocks and dirt flying in a low orbit with a huge velocity, because

    1) atmospheric waves tend to die out fast;
    2) atmosphere would be blown away by the impact.

    By the way, I think blast waves usually go way above speed of sound even with smaller explosions, e.g. nuclear bombs.

    I’m not a specialist, so don’t quote me on that.

  70. Wouldn’t some of the discrepancies, eg., no concentric rings, lack of antipodal plume, etc., be due to simplification in the model? The math and computation required for this are substantial, to say the least. Simplification for ease of production and dramatic effect would be justifiable.

  71. Oh. One more thing: wasn’t that the Temple of Zeus that survived (sic) the conflagration? That was probably artistic license insofar as it juxtaposes the power of the gods with such an event.

    Also: the “survival” of the continents along with the temple and Big Ben, St. Paul’s, etc., lends relevance to the event because it renders (albeit inaccurately) the landscape recognizable and less alien.

  72. sorry for the third post, but my 5-year old daughter said, “Oooh, fish sticks!” When the sea evaporated

  73. Peter

    I believe the bit about the shadow not getting smaller upon impact, as stated by MYOB, is due to the size of the asteroid. In reality, if you look at it closely, the shadow gets larger, which makes more sense. Remember, you see only a small (relative to rest of the asteroid) portion of this asteroid at the moment of impact. The further an object is away from the Earth and closer to the sun, the SMALLER the shadow. As said object aproaches terra-not so-firma, said shadow aproaches the actual size of said object.

    Now as for the comment from J.R. re: “According to the shadow, it came directly from the Sun.

    How likely is that? ”

    If you watch the clip carefully, from 25 seconds to about 50-55 seconds into it, you’ll notice that the shadow is definately moving; even when the earth ‘appears’ to be rotating in the same direction as the earth but faster. Check from 41 seconds on. I do not see how that can be constued as appearing to come directly from the sun. I do admit though, that at the point of impact, it appears to be falling like a kids ball being dropped straight down as opposed to coming on an angle.

    However, in defense of that discrepancy. I agree with Complex_Field’s comment… “Simplification for ease of production and dramatic effect would be justifiable.”

  74. I posted a comment on the BAUT forum, which was not replied to with two scenarios for a possible sci-fi plot

    1) Events unfold as in the animation, but by this time there is a working international moon base staffed by men and women, working towards selfsufficiency from the ice found on the moon (If we allow what those reading indicated to be ice) Would fall out from this impact on the moon, thus blatting any moon base?

    2) Somehow instead of colliding the asteroid becomes captured to be a second moon. (Is that possible) How would it effect us?

  75. KStebleton

    The Pong version was referred to earlier, but no link was given.

    THE PONG VERSION: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4V93tm466U

    It’s silly, and thankfully, only 1:09 in length.

  76. Don’t know about planet killers, but I certainly seem to be a thread kill at the moment.

  77. Stinky

    Look at the craters on the planetesimal, it has itself been heavily bombarded. Whether the the planetesimal has been sent towards earth by a heavy collision or it is a literal representation of a juxtaposed Hadean-era body, the heat it contains is a reasonable representation of an entirely fictitious event.

    The shadow moving across the Earth takes into account Earth’s own rotation and movement. The timescales for all events are obviously inaccurate for production reasons.

    The impactor is not like a bullet; even though the velocity and energy release are beyond imagination, the impacting object is tiny compared to the Earth’s mass. The Earth’s mantle and core are incredibly dense rock and metal, not packed dirt. There would be large seizmic activity, perhaps 11-11.5 on the Richter scale.

    A flash of energy is reasonable, as the energy released would be incredible. There would be no plume out the other end, the whole earth would budge as one and the momentum of light material would be less than that of the rock. Although there would be sympathetic effects Earth’s gravity is very strong.

    The ejected cloud is the vapourized rock of the object and the Earth’s mantle, rock so hot that it is plasma, and as gravity pulls this heavy substance back to Earth it flows to “find its level” just as water does. I particularly like way that the last part of blue is snuffed out, in a sick sorta way.

    MYOB, there would be no survival zone, the whole crust would be molten. The ocean would not cushion anything. Besides being instantly vapourized, at these scales it is insignificant and would be as useful as jumping from skyscraper and landing in a puddle.

    What amazes me most of all is that Earth has suffered larger catastrophies than this and spent far longer in this hellish state than multicellular life has existed. It is also cool to think that the cozy spot where you are now sitting has at various times been a molten hell, at the bottom of the sea and under a few KM of ice.

  78. chas

    sounds like klaus shultz/tangerine dream music, which i haven’t heard since 1980, so i could be wrong

  79. phony mofo

    how to download the movie clip

  80. jism

    I originally thought I was listening to part of Peter Gabriel’s “Last Temptation Of Jesus Christ”, or “Passion” album. I still couldn’t find who made “Casino”.

  81. eeedeeot

    (for those debating the shadow issues:)
    The shadow projected by a distant light source onto a surface becomes SMALLER as the object approaches the surface. When the object touches the surface, the shadow is the same size as the object. However for this video, the shadow size would not change much as the rock approached since the Sun is so far away relative to distance of the rock to the Earth. The Sun’s rays are essentially parallel near the Earth.

    Some confusion may come from images people have seen of solar eclipse shadows where often the expanding penumbra shadow of the Moon on the Earth is left off the diagram and only the ‘pointy’ umbra central shadow (of eclipse totality) is shown. The ‘pointy’ central shadow is due to the fact that the Sun is not a ‘point source’ of light, and is, in fact, much larger than the moon. So the darkest part of the shadow is where the Sun is comlpetely blocked. The lighter shadow around the central shadow is where the Sun is partially blocked. Also, the object has got to be far enough away from the Earth to see this. As the object approaches, the umbra and penumbra nearly merge and the penumbra ends up as just a fuzzy edge to the shadow.

    In this video, this dual-tone (fuzzy edge) can be seen as the shadow passes over the buildings in the city.

  82. epastro

    There are so many many things inaccurate in that animation that I dont know where to start.
    How about the fact that 99% of the asteroids out there are not spherical?
    And the “lava” on the asteroids surface as it comes clos eto the earth?
    Theres a very very simple way to get a feel for the accuiracy ofthis.
    Thee have been PLENTY of asteroids that have come as close to the Earth as the Moon
    (200,000 miles) and some even closer. They never have “lava” on their surfaces.
    One could of course also estimate the forces involved using Newtons laws of physics and simple
    undergrad physics. Just make some sweeping assumptions
    about the asteroids mass relative to the Earth first….

    Despite all-its an amusing animation.
    I wouldnt call it terrifying though.

  83. Steve

    Isn’t there a theory that such an event had happened before with an object during the early stages of the Earth’s development, an impact with another planet at least the size of Mars occurred, and the impact generated both the hot debris that formed the Moon and the angular momentum of the Earth-Moon system?

  84. Kaboom

    It happened before and it will happen again, eventually.
    How many close calls have we had in recent years, where Meteors were seen at the last minute passing between us and the sun?

    How many meteor showers do we have each year?

    Check out

    http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/

  85. Rick

    Okay, here are suggested answers to some of the comments:

    1. THE PEACE AND CALM BEFORE OBLITERATION
    I think this catastrophe would propagate at hypersonic speeds, much faster than the speed of sound in rock, air, etc. So would you be standing at a bus stop one second, and blasted during the next? I dunno.

    2. WOULD ANY LIFE SURVIVE?
    That depends on how long the Earth’s surface stayed above boiling temp. Maybe some bacteria would emerge from deep in the rocks under the ocean, and it would all start over again.

    3. WHY IS THE ASTEROID RED HOT BEFORE IT HITS THE EARTH?
    Maybe it did a close flyby of the sun before hitting Earth, during which it was heated by the sun and by tidal forces.

    4. WHICH MOVIE WAS BETTER, ARMAGEDDON OR DEEP IMPACT?
    Deep Impact, by far. The morons who made Armageddon still think that spacecraft zoom around like airplanes, with rockets flaming out the rear.

    5. WOULD IT BE A MISTAKE TO SHATTER AN ASTEROID BEFORE IT HITS EARTH?
    Most experts say it would be a mistake, but they’re wrong. An asteroid that arrived in pieces would deliver the same total amount of kinetic energy, but spread out over a wider area. Each piece would penetrate less deeply into the Earth’s crust. Given a choice of being shot with a load of birdshot and a .25 bullet, I’ll take the birdshot any day.

    6. WOULD GOD ALLOW SOMETHING LIKE THIS TO HAPPEN?
    He already has. But not to us. Yet. He expects us to do something about it ourselves. See next paragraph.

    7. IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO TO PREVENT THIS?
    Sure there is. Support the space program with your tax dollars. NASA has already begun a program to locate potential infalling asteroids, and has done a good job of checking out thousands of them. Its next step is to find as many of the smaller ones as possible. Next we need a true space-faring capability, which we don’t have yet. That’s the bad news, but the good news is that advances in robotics are making space-capability cheaper and cheaper all the time.

    8. IS THIS THE SCARIEST VIDEO I’VE EVER SEEN?
    It sure is.

  86. Rick

    I forgot one thing:

    WOULD THE ASTEROID BE SPHERICAL, OR WOULD IT BE LUMPY?
    An asteroid this size is too big to have an irregular shape. Its own gravity would cause it to collapse into a spherical shape. But there’s another issue: Wouldn’t the impact on the Earth’s atmosphere cause the asteroid to flatten like a pancake before it hit bedrock? I dunno.

  87. Keldr

    I had seen that one before, with an electronic (?) translation script below it. I finally found the text again, and below is a copy of it (somewhat difficult to understand). If anyone has a clearer translation, please post it…thanks.

    The story of the Earth of 4.6 billion years.

    Meteorite Collision simulation.

    “When the meteorite collides with the earth”

    “Explanation”

    What happens when meteorite collide with each other? We tried to find the answers: Simulation Experiment. We presumed that the collision happened with the earth in order for lucid distance and location. The diameter of the meteorite is slightly bigger than the breadth of Honshu Japan. The collision point is located at the 3,000km south from Japan in the ocean. The velocity of the meteorite is 70,000km/h. But the meteorite is bigger than we can imagine, so that it appears much slower. In the impact at the same time as colliding. The earth’s crust of 10km in thickness where ground in the earth is composed is wholly peeled off. This is called,”Earth’s crust tidal wave”. There is 1km width of the rock, and it flies to the sky it by the impact. The impact surges to the Japanese Islands and,as a result, the Japanese Islands are crushed. The splinter of the crushed rock easily exceeds the height of 1000Km. After exceeding the atmosphere it reaches space. Afterwards, the splinter of the rock falls again in surface of the earth. The edge of Crater completed by the collision of the meteorite is 7000m in height. It looks like a huge mountain range. The diameter of Crater has 4000Km. Crater is big to swallow a part from Guam to a Chinese continent. But,it was only an introductory chapter of the tragedy that would start in the future…..

    The leading part with the accident is seen in Crater when seeing from space immediately after the collision of the meteorite. Seeming as shine to scorching color, and huge mass. The mass of the rock of which this turned into the gas and the name are said, “Rock Vapor”. The amount of the rock that becomes a gas is about 100000000000000kt. “Rock Vapor” extends in all directions on the earth after it swells up like the dome. “Rock Vapor” generated by the meteorite’s having been dropped to the sea located in the south of Japan will arrive at Himalayas in three hours. In “Rock Vapor”, the velocity of the wind is 300 meters. It becomes the hot wind of a terrific high temperature of 4000℃ in temperature and burns Himalayas. In the world covered with “Rock Vapor”, even a thick snow that piles in the coldest place named Himalayas is instantaneously melted. There is no time to make the river and the snow is evaporated instantaneously. “Rock Vapor” will reach Amazon that lies to the other side of the collision of the meteorite in a day. Tropical forests of Amazon cause the autogenous ignition for the hot wind by “Rock Vapor” and the region is burnt up. Tropical forests of Amazon turn into sea of flames in less than no time. Surface of the earth from the collision on the first. It is covered with “Rock Vapor” and it turns into a scorching star. “Rock Vapor” wraps the earth for one year or more, and burns everything up at the terrific high temperature. It is the same as making the sun innumerable near the earth. On the other hand, the accident happens also in the sea. The sea began to bubble violently. The sea boils by the heat of “Rock Vapor”. Tremendous heat of the “Rock Vapor” reduces the sea level at the speed of 5cm a minute. The naked sea bed is relentlessly exposed to the intense heat and melted down like lava. The sea of 4000m in average depth has disappeared one month after the collision of the meteorite. At this point, the earth becomes a star where the living thing cannot live. Thus, the earth turned into the star of the death.

  88. jessica

    i am wondering how did life survive the tremendous heat caused by an asteroid’s collision.

  89. mike

    Imagine that. The sky would change color, it would get hotter and windier everywhere in the world probably a few days before the impact because of the magnetic field gradients between Earth and the asteroid and because of the friction with the atmosphere. Then, as it approached the surface, you’d be able to feel it’s gravitational force affecting you physically and the very ground beneath your feet. The whole Earth would feel the impact in real time

  90. Eric

    The music is by Pink Floyd. The song is called The Great Gig in the Sky. The vocalizations are considered by many, including myself, to be the best of all time.

  91. Gonçalo Aguiar

    That would be something like Ceres colliding with Earth…
    I don’t think we don’t have a word to say before it happens someday…

  92. Wrecks

    That is not an asteroid.. It seems more likely to be a remnant or relative of a star. For a change, NYC was not the impact site ;)

  93. Ellis

    I can’t believe it took so many years for someone to answer the Pink Floyd question.

    COME TO THE DARK SIDE (of the moon)

  94. Skitty

    Finally! Ellis just beat me to it. I couldn’t believe people don’t know Pink Floyd.

    a) its signature musicianship and lush melodic, symphonic overlays
    b) unbearable drama and emotion in the music

    it’s the last movement of the Dark Side of the Moon track.

    That’ s just sad. This is cultural history people.

  95. Grey

    Seriously? Five years and 96 comments before somebody says Pink Floyd? Has no one here besides me and (I’m just guessing, NOT accusing, nor snitching…) Eric, Ellis and Skitty ever smoked a bowl?!?

    Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles used to have a laser show on weekends, set to Pink Floyd. One would think that with such a strong connection between the astronomy community and the pothead community, it’d wouldn’t have taken five years for someone to know the name of the song.

  96. Floydette

    Glad the Pink Floyd truth has come out after all these years. But does anyone know the name of the singer? Back in the days when women’s contributions didn’t require acknowledgment, the Floyd apparently saw no reason to identify her (it pissed me off even then).

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