Launch Asteroids at Earth with This Fun Simulator

Ever watch James Bond films and feel like being a villain would be more fun? The perks of having your own henchmen, lair, and kitty are pretty tempting. Now you can at least make believe by launching imaginary asteroids at Earth. An interactive website with an asteroid simulator lets you do just that. Just choose the size, speed, and impact angle and decide if the projectile is made up of gold, iron, stone, or carbon. You can even launch a comet, which is mostly ice and dust. So if those scary size comparison videos and doomsday asteroid simulations aren’t hands-on enough, or you just have a god complex, now you can get even more involved. Learning is fun, but most of these scenarios are pretty bleak. You’ll get a list of how many people would die from the various fireballs, earthquakes, and shock waves. 

A map of the fireball radius of an asteroid hitting Florida

We learned about this simulator thanks to Boing Boing using the example of the author’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado. Even though asteroids are more likely to hit water than land, it is somehow more fun (or horrifying, depending on your definition of fun) to hurl them at population centers and rack up your kill count.

When you create a fireball, it tells you how far away people would have to be for their clothes not to burst into flames. But there’s no mention of tsunamis caused by the impact. That would definitely be a huge problem if an asteroid hit the ocean. The simulator also doesn’t factor in elevation. For example, when chucking a small comet at Mount Everest, it says the projectile would disintegrate 1,861 feet above the Earth. But the peak is over 29,000 feet tall, so it would definitely wreak some havoc. 

Artists rendering of an asteroid hitting New York City, which the destruction radius of the tri-state area

This also assumes that NASA doesn’t launch a DART spacecraft to bonk your asteroid off-course and save the day. It’s comforting to know they are able to even if none of the killer asteroids on NASA’s radar are coming for Earth anytime soon. 

Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.

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