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The results of the 2021 asteroid impact simulation highlight threats posed by asteroids

Recently, scientists participated in an international exercise aimed at simulating the effects of an asteroid hitting Earth. The exercise simulated a 460-foot-wide asteroid that would impact Central Europe. The specific region was a 185-mile-wide area bordering Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

While the simulation may sound a bit like a video game, it is intended to provide scientists and researchers with information on how to plan what to do if a real asteroid is about to impact Earth. The simulation is hosted by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and was conducted virtually at the seventh IAA Planetary Defense Conference. Researcher Andy Rivkin, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said that practice and training for different simulations is an essential part of the preparation.

One of the differentiators between this year’s simulation and the simulation carried out previously is that the asteroid in the simulation of the current year was a complete surprise, with no indication that it was on a collision path with Earth until it was discovered. The simulated asteroid was dubbed 2021 PDC and was only found six months before it impacted the planet.

Initially, the chances of an impact were set at one in 2500, but after the first day of the simulation, participants increased the chances of impact to one in 100. On the second day, the chances of an impact with the planet were 100 per percent, and the site of the impact has been identified. Simulation participants considered an asteroid interception impossible due to the short period of time, so the simulation was focused on disaster response and the importance of identifying similar asteroids in advance.

Once the impact was guaranteed, the simulation started to predict the possible damage that could be inflicted. On the third day of the simulation, the scientists created a refined estimate for the size of the asteroid at 460 feet. The researchers predicted that Ground Zero for impact would be within a range of 14 miles, but was later reduced further. The impact was expected to inflict damage that extended 93 miles in all directions.

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