What would happen if (when?) a 310-mile-wide asteroid collides with Earth? That’s the fun question behind the simulation in the video below. And the answer is terrifying. But it turns out you shouldn’t be concerned. For one, it’s not a scenario that’s going to happen anytime soon. Secondly, there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. All life on Earth would be vaporized within a day as clouds of fire and rock circumnavigated the globe. So don’t worry about it.
Like any good disaster film, the video shows the destruction of well-known landmarks like Big Ben and the Parthenon. And even though the simulated asteroid hits in the Pacific Ocean, complete destruction spreads rapidly. The oceans boil from the heat, the Himalayan snow evaporates instantly, and the Earth’s crust peels back. The Earth can and does withstand smaller asteroid impacts. But the threat of a catastrophically-sized object in our orbit is always there.
Just recently, scientists discovered a “planet killer” asteroid hiding in the glare of the sun. While the probability of this asteroid colliding with earth is minimal, its discovery does remind us there are plenty of objects out there in space we just don’t know about yet. And we guess it’s better to have preparation about what might happen if an asteroid strikes the earth than not.
The simulation is part of a longer clip (below) from the show Miracle Planet, a documentary detailing just how improbable life on Earth really is. If you’d prefer narration and information from scientists rather than a Pink Floyd jam, the full sequence is below.
Amazingly, scientists believe that an event like this has already happened multiple times on Earth. It starts a process that takes thousands of years but generates the oceans, atmosphere, and potential for life all over again each time.
The simulation aired on Discovery Channel in 2005 but the video has gone viral recently, probably because of NASA’s DART mission. NASA sent a spaceship to knock an asteroid off course, so perhaps this can be avoided in Earth’s future. The DART mission shifted Dimorphos, though that asteroid is a much smaller 530 feet. But it’s still a good proof of concept and here’s hoping no one on Earth ever has to find out how real this simulation is.
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.