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The Earth Impact Effects Program is an asteroid impact calculator that allows you to calculate the damage that would happen to the Earth by various asteroid strikes. The program was created by Robert Marcus, H. Jay Melosh, and Gareth Collins with the assistance of the University of Arizona. The tool allows you to estimate the regional/global environmental consequences of an impact on Earth. The program estimates the ejecta distribution, ground shaking, atmospheric blast wave, and thermal effects of an impact in addition to the size of the crater produced.
The program incorporates solid science and includes ”a description of our algorithm, with citations to the scientific sources used,” said Robert Marcus, a UA undergraduate in the UA/NASA Space Grant Program. The tool could be useful for scientists, eliminating the time needed to plug all of the relevant values into a long equation. It also simplifies the process for reporters and laypeople who do not know the equations necessary. On the other hand, it is a cool tool the next time you see an asteroid in the news.
Back when the asteroid Apophis was in the news and everyone was wondering what kind of damage it would cause if it impacted, you could have plugged in its variables or use best guesses. Apophis would hit the Earth with 7.30 x 102 megatons of force creating a crater that would be 4.15 km in diameter and 454 m deep. It would cause an earthquake that registers 6.5 on the Richter scale, damaging homes close to the impact zone. Damage would be limited to the region of the impact, so if you were more than 100 km away, you would survive, but would be covered in a thin layer of ejecta(1 mm of dust).
Based on the parameters offered by the asteroid impact calculator, I entered the theorized size and type of the asteroid that caused the K-T extinction event. Even being 1000 km from the impact, your clothes would have caught fire within 4 seconds. It would have produced a fireball that appeared to be 181 times larger than the Sun and triggered an earthquake the registers an 11.5 on the Richter scale. Global changes to the climate would ensue and it would have changed the length of a day by 46 milliseconds and changed the Earth’s axial tilt by a few hundredths of a degree.
The asteroid impact calculator is meant to be an easy to use tool to help the general public better understand impacts. It accomplishes that and is fun to use, too.
Fun stuff. You’ve got to check it out. Click here to access the asteroid impact calculator.
We have written many articles about asteroid impacts here on Universe Today. Here’s an article about how we might prepare for an asteroid impact. And here’s an article about a new asteroid impact on Jupiter.
We have recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast about how asteroids make bad neighbors. Check it out.