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How Will You Die During an Asteroid Strike? Researchers Rank Impacts of Asteroid Strike Based on Destructive Power

Apr 20, 2017 05:50 AM EDT
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Asteroid Strike
Wind blast and pressure shock waves are the most deadly effects of asteroid strikes, accounting for more than 60 percent of lives lost.
(Photo : Getty Images)

Ever wonder how you will die when an Armageddon-size asteroid finally struck Earth? There are seven possible effects of asteroid strike, ranging from flying debris to seismic shaking.

While all of the asteroid-associated effects can potentially be deadly, a team of researchers analyzed each of these impacts and tried to rank them based on their destructive power and number of fatalities.

"The likelihood of an asteroid impact is really low, but the consequences can be unimaginable," said Clemens Rumpf, a senior research assistant at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and lead author of the study, in a press release. "This is the first study that looks at all seven impact effects generated by hazardous asteroids and estimates which are, in terms of human loss, most severe."

Their study, published in American Geophysical Union's Geophysical Research Letters, showed that wind blast and pressure shock waves are the most deadly effects of asteroid strikes, accounting for more than 60 percent of lives lost.

Following wind blast and shock waves are the heat generated by the asteroid that accounted for nearly 30 percent of the lives lost. Meanwhile, tsunamis accounted for 20 percent and seismic shaking for only 0.17 percent of the casualties. The least concerning effects of an asteroid strike are cratering and flying debris that only accounted for less than 1 percent of lives lost.

For the study, the researchers used models to barrage the Earth with 50,000 artificial asteroids ranging from 49 to 1,312 feet across. Based on these models, the researchers then estimated how many casualties each of the seven effects could have.

The researchers noted that powerful shockwaves can rupture the organs, while wind blasts can have enough torque to hurl humans and flatten forests, making them the deadliest and most destructive effects.

On the other hand, tsunamis can only affect coastal communities. Heat from the asteroid can also be avoided by hiding in basements of other underground structures.

The chances of Earth being struck by a lethal asteroid are very slim. An asteroid can only be considered lethal when it is at least 60 feet in diameter.

The researchers noted that Earth is struck by a 190-feet asteroid every 1,500 years, while over 1,300 feet asteroid is likely to hit the planet every 100,000 years.

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