Scientists have discovered that there is a 1 in 300 chance that a huge asteroid, called 1950 DA, will collide with Earth in the year 2880. If the asteroid does hit Earth, is expected to collide with the planet at a speed of 33,800, which scientists say would create a explosive force equal to around 44,800 megatons of TNT. The impact would probably destroy human life on the planet as we know it.
However, researchers at the University of Texas are looking into ways to possible destroy or divert the asteroid before it hits. Luckily for them, they have a lot of time, as the giant rock is not expected to hit Earth until the year 2880.
It was recently discovered that some asteroids, like the massive 1950 DA, are not held together by gravity. The asteroid 1950 DA is actually spinning too quickly to be held together by gravity, meaning that it “defies gravity.”
“We found that 1950 DA is rotating faster than the breakup limit for its density,” said Ben Rozitis, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee. “So if just gravity were holding this rubble pile together, as is generally assumed, it would fly apart. Therefore, interparticle cohesive forces must be holding it together.”
Asteroid 1950 DA, which has a diameter of one kilometer, is currently rotating once every two hours and six minutes as it travels through space as the amazingly fast speed of nine miles per second. It is held together by cohesive forces, called van der Waal forces.
By learning more about these cohesive forces and how they keep asteroids like 1950 DA together, scientists think that they may be able to stop the huge asteroid from ever hitting the planet.
“Following the February 2013 asteroid impact in Chelyabinsk, Russia, there is renewed interest in figuring out how to deal with the potential hazard of an asteroid impact,” explained Rozitis.
“Understanding what holds these asteroids together can inform strategies to guard against future impacts.”
A study of the asteroid 1950 DA was published in the journal Nature.